A Study on the Cultural Connotation of Chinese Dishes and Their Translation

Topics: Translation, Metaphrase, Literal translation Pages: 5 (1572 words) Published: October 30, 2012

A Study on the Cultural Connotation of Chinese Dishes and Their Translation

As the “Kingdom of Cuisine”, China is renowned for its unique dishes. Nowadays tasting Chinese dishes has become an important element for foreigners to know better about China. Although a lot of restaurants have their English versions of menus today, those translations are not so satisfying. It occurs too often that many foreigners feel confused while they are looking through the menus. Why is it so difficult to translate Chinese dishes into English and how is it translated into sound English versions to fit the fine Chinese dishes? To find the answers is the main purpose of this paper which focuses on the cultural connotation of Chinese dishes and their translation. In our study of translating Chinese dishes, we should first know well about what the criteria for translation are. In Guo Junxia’s (郭俊霞) article, I get the information as the following: the three characters, faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance formulated by Yan Fu in his Introductory Remarks are thought of and supported as the one and only maxim all translators must absorb (qtd. In Guo Junxia,258). So when we translate Chinese dishes into English, we should take these three criteria into consideration. When I search for the materials on this study, I find that many people have been engaged in this study and have brought forward many strategies on it. Literal translation is a strategy frequently used in translating Chinese dish names. When the target reader understands the information in the source text easily and clearly, the dish names maybe translated literally. However, the Chinese strive for elegance when they name the dishes, so a word-for-word translation may lead to misunderstanding, puzzlement or even embarrassment. The best way to avoid invalid translation is to paraphrase (namely, free translation) it. Transliteration is involved in the strategies as well, making the local characteristic of the dish and its connection with a certain person more prominent(孙晓雷). Many experts have referred to the strategies of translating Chinese dishes like above, and some gave more details or other different opinions. In Feng Qinghua (冯庆华) and Mu Lei’s (穆雷) book, they gave details on how to translate Chinese dishes by using the strategies of literal translation and free translation.

1. Literal translation: cooking method(s)+ major ingredient(s) 2. Literal translation + explanations
3. Free translation:
1. Major ingredient(s)+ with+ sauce
2. Sauce+ major ingredient(s)
4. Transliteration+ explanation(s)

They also said sometimes we can translate Chinese dishes by using the names with which Westerners are very familiar, making the translation more real and understandable (241). Although their strategies are very detailed, the examples they gave may make us frustrated. In their book, one dish is taken for example to explain one strategy, but then the same dish will be also mentioned in another strategy. Lu Hongmei (卢红梅) has put forward a similar opinion, but she added one point: how to translate the pharmaceutical dishes. When translate this kind of dishes, the translators should translate both the ingredients and cooking methods, as well as the explanations on its functions (128). Sometimes when the translators translate the Chinese dishes by using literal translation, the beauty of original version will get lost. What should we do to deal with this problem? As Li Zubing’s (黎祖兵) has states in his essay, when translate Chinese dishes, translators should integrate the “format” with “meaning” very well, but it is not always that easy. Nevertheless, the translator should always gain an idea that the content is invariably superior to the format. To translate the principal ingredients, subsidiary or auxiliary ingredients, ways of cutting and ways of cooking always rank as the priority in the list, just...
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