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Towards a Methodology for Teaching Culture Waleed A.

Othman Introduction Having recognized that culture-specific material in a text can be more troublesome for the translator than the linguistic difficulties, that translation is a cultural rather than a linguistic transfer, and that successful communication depends on shared associations of terms, scholars of translation have now shifted their attention towards intercultural translation problems. This is a well-justified trend as words and expressions are not usually uttered in vacuum, nor are they only part of language, but of the culture they are anchored in as well. Words and expressions, in other words, are meant for a certain audience in a certain place and time (i.e. culture). Words and expressions are put in a text to mean something that should be preserved when rendered into a different language. However, when such a meaning is peculiar to a certain language, hence culture, the implicit associations surrounding expressions prove painstaking for a translator unaware of such specificity. It is from this fact that our interest in this matter springs. In an attempt to verbalize some advice for student-translators when tackling such culture bumps, and to help them confidently face such obstacles and minimize (if not overcome) distortions of both message and content of text, the researcher has examined, as his study corpus, a part of an Arabic novel (namely, Naguib Mahfouz’s Qasr el-Shawq) and its translated version, The Palace of Desire (translated by William Maynard Hutchins, Lorne M. Kenny and Olive E. Kenny and published by the reputable Black Swan). The novel has been selected for its richness in culture-specific material peculiar to the Arab Egyptian setting. Its English version, translated by professional translators and published by a reputable house, makes it a good corpus for the purpose of the present study. The research procedure is thus based on examining the two versions of the novel to see how cultural material in the source text ST (the Arabic novel) is rendered into the target text TT version of the novel. The main focus is given to Realia. By “Realia” we mean “words (and collocations) of a national language which denote objects, concepts and phenomena characteristic of the geographical surroundings, culture, everyday realities or socio-historical specifics of a people, nation, country or tribe, and which thus convey national, local or historical color; such

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Let’s consider the following examples from the corpus: . 113:5) For another recipient who is ignorant of the cultural significance of the text. Is it wise then to erase the cultural difference and have such a vague literal translation as the one above? The answer is simply ‘no’. where necessary. to theoretical translation approaches such as cultural borrowing.Figurative Language Through the course of the study. since what is considered normal in the denotative sense of one language may turn out to be meaningless in other languages. Mythology and Religion Religion.Mythology and Religion .:‫( فقالت خديجة وهي تبسط راحة يمناها في وجهه مفرجة بين أصابعها الخمس‬2) 2 . For different speech communities. in order to come up with solutions. Let’s now return to the corpus and see the way the translators dealt with such material regarding religious and mythical data.words have no exact equivalents in other languages” (Vlakhov & Florin 1970. reciting. transposition. or any other language. For reasons of space. the meaning would never be clear by means of a literal translation of this example. These are: .‫ ومن شر حاسد إذا حسد‬. makes one of the domains of human behavior where language is an important component.‫( آن لك أن تفكر في استكمال دينك‬1) For a speaker of English. It is this localization of religion and myth that adds to the difficulty of the translator’s job. “And from the evil of the envious in his envy” (Qur’an. 139-40). Another example is: Only for a reader well aware of the cultural association of such a situation will the following rendering be of any meaning: Khadija spread her fingers apart and held her hand with he palm facing Yasin. reference will be made. After examining the . it would by no means be easy to recreate an equivalent response in his/her language while maintaining such a cultural load of the ST. among others. in Shuttleworth.Proper Nouns . exoticism. these are spoken of in a manner peculiar to each community. thus making them fields of considerable cultural significance. substitution. recommendations and teaching methodology that could be of help to the translation trainee. the researcher has limited his concern to three major problematic types of Realia (or culture-specific material). as well as myth. 1997.

28). if only to comply with the teachings of religion. As can be seen. e. which could give the target text a foreign appearance and make it more attractive to its audience (a method of cultural translation labeled as Exoticism by Hervey & Higgins. make a good portion of culture-specific materials in almost any piece of writing. i. translated thus: (6) It’s time for you to think about getting married. when faced with materiel from religion or myth. The following examples make things clear: … The Night of Destiny. (7) To ward off the evil eye. 13:11). particularly in literature and history. Proper Nouns (People & Places) Names.g. a literal translation is often coupled with a paraphrase. the translators tend to opt for a literal translation. or 3 .‫( لكن ال ل يغير ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم‬3) “God doesn’t change people until they change themselves” (Qur’an. . This helps maintain that foreign sense while still have a fluent and readable translation. 1992). 113:5).2) above.relevant examples. the ordinal number of both the Surah (chapter) and the verse. In short. at the end of Ramadan when prayers are sure to be answered… … ‫( … ليلة القدر‬4) . Khadija spread her fingers apart and held her hand with he palm facing Yasin. beliefs and representations that pre-exist it in the target language” (Venuti.When literal translation does not read fluently. “And from the evil of the envious in his envy” (Qur’an. reciting.‫ثروني‬ ّ‫دور‬ َ‫ملوني ث‬ ّ‫ز ور‬ َ‫( ث‬5) … the prophet’s words when he would feel a revelation coming and cry out for help: ”Wrap me up! Cover me with my cloak!” The same would apply for examples (1. as they appear in the Holy Qur’an.When dealing with Qur’anic verses. the researcher has noticed that the translators adopted the following methodology: a. and consequently “avoid reconstitut[ing} … the foreign text in accordance with the values. 1993 in Harker 1999.e. whether real or fictional. the translators coupled it with a paraphrase. are given in parentheses. the translated verse has been documented. b. Such names are usually those of people who made themselves.

In English.through translations of famous works and classics (Sinbad is a good example). Related to these figures are places and events. The name. would recall the quality of generosity for an Arab readership. In Arabic. Other proper nouns may have their origin in holy books or mythology. Examples include: Ezbekia entertainment district The needy around al-Husayn Mosque The summer resort of Ra’s al-Barr The star. a medieval anthology of poetry ‫( الحماسة‬13) ‫( عدلي أو ثروت‬14) ‫(رأس البر‬11) ‫( منيرة المهدية‬12) ‫( الزبكية‬9) ‫( فقراء الحسين‬10) The important politicians. What. Names like these have their associations in the ST culture only.the heroic black poet of ancient Arabia ‫( تمثال ابراهيم باشا أبي اصبع‬17) ‫( بمبة كشر‬15) ‫( ملحمة عنتر‬16) 4 . Most noticeable of those are leaders and artists (painters. For a translator who is after both triggering a response in the TT reader equivalent to that of the ST reader and after maintaining the communicative act realized by a certain expression. Adli Yeken Pasha and Abdel khaliq Sarwat Pasha Miss Mamba Kashar. sometimes in various cultures. TV and movie stars and celebrities). on the other hand. this is not easy. It is also worth remembering that such names of cultural connotations are to be found in proverbs and idiomatic expressions. Hittin. To consider yet another example. the seductive songstress the folk epic about Antar. memorable by writers of fiction and historians. when someone’s attempts end up in failure and loss. Munira al-Mahdiya Al-Hamasa.have been made. etc. then. it is said. Qais and Laila. Consider the names ‘ Antara. take ‘Robin Hood’. it would prove void. ،‫( عاد بخفي حنين‬8) echoing a famous tale in the culture of the Arabs. Hatim. this time from English. ‘Hatim’. of which works of literature are rich sources. is the ideal way to deal with proper nouns as the ones aforementioned? Would a dictionary be the authority that would help the translator unpack the meaning of such nouns? So many instances of proper nouns referring both to people and places have been cited in the corpus of this study.

the statue of the national leader Ibrahim Pasha with his finger in the air As can be noticed from the examples above. but transferred verbatim. Following are some 5 . 1981. metaphors.g. into English. Adli and Sarwat.71). images. where they don’t. for example. among others. replaced by target culture elements. the translators seem to say that message and culture are equally important and should be reproduced in the TT. Figurative Expressions Literary works. Even when some names (as Bamba Kashar. for some reason or another. all proper nouns (whether of people or locations) have been transferred. Whatever this reason might be. provided that the communicative goal for the TT reader is not impaired. by not adapting the proper names (e. each of these can give the translator a hard time since they are usually based on culturespecific concepts. metonymys. Is this an easy thing to do? Figurative language is expressed by means of several vehicles. there are surely lexical items to express them. if not all. rather than by opting for a translated or an adapted rendering. Metaphors. be able to figure out their relevance to the overall situation. and Ibrahim Pasha) are used connotatively. This strategy is to be followed “when the denotation of the name is not known or obscure to the reader’ (Newmark. The translators have also managed. beliefs. hyperboles. it’s the translator’s role to find equivalents every time he is faced with a figurative occurrence. etc. the translators have also brought out their connotations so that the reader would.e. Where these images exist. by extra help from the adjacent context. no means of verbalizing them are found. In addition to transliterating such names. notions. most of which. are peculiar to the Arab culture. depict images associated with something current in a given culture while absent in others. Abraham for Ibrahim) but by following the Exoticism approach to preserve the “foreign” appearance of the text and to make it more yielding to its audience. rather than translated. abound in figurative expressions. By so doing. they have not been culturally transplanted – i. Megrab (1999) considers this technique of foreignization justifiable if faithfulness to the ST is to be achieved.. and coupled with the appropriate generic name in each case for purposes of educating the TT audience. including similes. The corpus of this study is laden with figurative expressions.

‫( رأيت شابة جميلة كالزهرة‬20) .‫( أصوات اهتز لها صدر أحمد عبد الجواد‬25) . Whether the image is depicted by means of a simile. She was as pretty as a gazelle.‫( ولو تحركت مئذنة الحسين‬22) .examples together with their translations as given by the translators of the novel at hand: Similes . where a pretty young woman is likened to a gazelle. others are universal.‫( من علمني حرفا صرت له عبدا‬23) . some are peculiar to the culture of the Arabs.‫( أذنا من طين وأذنا من عجين‬26) I act as though one of my ears was made of clay and the other of dough.‫( فؤاد في واد وهو في واد‬28) Each of the cited examples above depict some sort of image. 6 . I beheld a young woman as beautiful as a flower. You.‫( أنت قبيحة كالجاموسة‬18) You’re as ugly as a water buffalo.‫( لم يجعل ال لمرء من قلبين في جوفه‬27) . bitch. where comparison is made between an ugly woman and a buffalo. For instances of such universally-comprehended images. God didn’t place two hearts in a man’s breast (Qur’an. a metaphor or otherwise.‫( أمر مؤسف أن يتكلم قلب فل يجد من يستجيب له‬24) It’s devastating when a heart speaks out and finds no one who will respond. Al-Sayyid Ahmad was deeply moved … Metaphor . Hyperbole Even if the minaret of al-Hussayn Mosque started shaking. It is this fact of universality or peculiarity that seems to be of significance to the translator. example (19). see example (18). O’ God have mercy! I don’t envy you! ‍ ‫( عيني عليك بارد‬31) ‫ة‬ ‍ ‫( يا بنت اللبؤ‬29) ‫ة‬ ‍ ‫( اللهم طولك يا روح‬30) .‫( … كلتاهما كالمحمل‬21) … ‫( كالغزال كانت‬19) . … each of them as massively beautiful as the ceremonial camel when it sets off from Mecca with the pilgrims. I become the slave of anyone who teaches me a single syllable Metonymy . what counts is its making sense to a recipient even when the same image is differently lexicalized in different cultures. 33:4) There was a mountain separating him from Fuad. and example (20) where the young woman is compared to a flower.

1986 (in Snell-Hornby. the translators. is utilized in a hyperbole to express the meaning of “something impossible to happen”. or a “ functional equivalent”. having analyzed the images and come to realize that they are easily understood by an English speaker. 1987) argues that a translator needs to be bilingual and bicultural. The case being so. therefore avoided rendering such instances literally in favor of a TT metaphor (e. Analysis of the image proves more essential when the image is only clear for the speakers of a certain language in a certain culture. a term used in Arabic to denote the quality of beauty. 249) emphasizes this task of decoding the image when dealing with metaphors in particular.It is not difficult in these cases to get to the point of similarity between the compared and the comparee as the quality is explicitly given in each simile. The translators. we find the answer in examples (21.g. How. What applies to similes is also true of other figures of speech. 1954 and Straight. then. that a buffalo is ugly.28: metaphors). 1977 (cited in Leighton. It is this connotation that the translators cared to convey. When an image is specific to the ST a literal translation would make no sense to a TT recipient. 220) are both for the same argument. 29-32). We would also recommend analyzing the other figurative expressions if one is to get to what the writer aims at. we believe. should such instances be treated? Looking yet again at the examples above. 29-32). a gazelle is pretty and a flower is beautiful. Nida. The same is true of examples (25. 25. to use Nida's term (Nida 1964. 30-32) Recommendations Vermeer. 1991.g. But is this achievable? How can we make our student translators bicultural? This is very much easier said than done. 29) or a paraphrase (e. two ladies are being compared to alMihmal (‫)المحمل‬. 25. (27. opted for a literal rendering rather than a “situational equivalent” ( Vinay & Darbelnet (1995. Larson (1984. In example (21). contending that a translator needs to be culturally knowledgeable. See also examples (24:metonymy). It is also universally accepted. 171). Consider example (22). What solutions should we seek then? 7 . 342). where al-Husayn Mosque. frequently mentioned before in the novel.

The following list of recommendations.If we can’t teach culture to our students. we hope. two very helpful sources of cultural material have been published. should prove pedagogically beneficial to a student of translation when tackling cultural material. provided that the message is not distorted. namely. These are rich sources and a final authority for a lot of cultural data.nceltr.edu.  Recently.continuumbooks. Literal translation is the method to use in such a case.//www. For information about these visit NCELTR Publications at http.  Context (linguistic and situational) is our first consultant when choosing between a literal translation or otherwise.mq.com  Before embarking on a translation process.  We needn’t always domesticize every aspect of the ST culture into the TT culture. at www. a translator is urged to read about the author of the text. and the Oxford Guide to British and American Culture. but also when other cultures are involved. The Encyclopedia Britannica and the Encyclopedia Americana would help not only with a term from the English culture. we can surely teach them how to deal with it. a couple of invaluable encyclopedias are there to help the student when dealing with his/her own culture. where and when and for whom the text was written.  Students of translation should be encouraged to study texts already translated by professional translators as a means to seeing how problematic cultural issues are dealt with.  Encyclopedias make another resort.  Authorities (educated readership) from the ST speech community could be consulted for assistance. 8 .au/publications and the Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.  Available on the market one can find books about so many cultures. In Arabic. These could also be studied prior to translating the text. preserving the foreign sense of the ST is permitted if the translator intends to educate the TT audience on the ST material or to make the text more attractive to them. The Longman Dictionary of Language and Culture.

ecology.religion and myth. (1991) Two Worlds. For this ambitious goal. When a culture-specific image is neither vital for the text nor contributory to the general understanding of the text. Jaime (1999) Contemporary Japanese Fiction & ‘Middlebrow’Translation Strategies: The Case of Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. and a number of conclusions have been reached. This method shouldn’t be frequently adopted. Conclusion The present study springs from an interest in institutionalizing specific methodological procedures to be followed when culture is concerned. 27-44 Hervey. The approach of this study could prove helpful for other studies in the cultural domain. beliefs. Among these are expressions that have to do with food. specific to the SL culture. in Jean Boase-Beier and Michael Holman (eds) The Practices of Literary Translation: Constraints and Creativity. clothing. however. Such an index could include anecdotes. customs. Sandor & Iann Higgins (1992) Thinking Translation: A Course in Translation Method: French to English. proper nouns and figurative language. One Art: Literary Translation in Russia and America. Lanham: University Press of America. Leighton. (1984) Meaning-Based Translation: A Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence. Light has been shed on three important categories of cultural material. London: Routledge. to mention but a few of the sources of mismatches between different cultures. R.A (1999) “Ideological Shifts in Cross-Cultural Translation”. recommendations for translators have been given.  In a work where Realia abounds. furniture. Larson. a commentary. definitive index could be very helpful. References Harker. 9 . adaptation is recommended. Finally. Lauren G. terms of address. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press. The instances cited in both versions of the corpus have been scrutinized. Megrab. the researcher has studied part of an Arabic Novel together with its translated version. The Translator 5(1).  Annotations could help the reader get to the real connotation. Researchers are urged to study other aspects of cultural material in this way. Mildred L. UK: St Jerome Publishing. etc. Manchester.

UK: St Jerome Publishing. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.J. Jean-Paul & Jean Darbelnet (1995) Comparative Stylistics of French and English: A Methodology for Translation (translated and edited by Juan C. Vinay. Shuttleworth. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.J. Hamel). Eugene A (1964) Towards a Science of Translating: With Speciaa Reference to Principles and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating. Brill. Mary (1988) Translation Studies: An Integrated Approach.‫ بيروت‬،‫المكتبة العلمية الجديدة‬ 10 . Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Peter (1981) Approaches to Translation. Nida. ،‫ قصر الشوق‬،‫ بين القصرين‬:‫ ( العمال الكاملة‬19) ‫نجيب محفوظ‬ ،‫الجزء الخامس‬ . Mark (1997) Dictionary of Translation Studies. Sager & M.Newmark. Snell-Hornby. Leiden: E. Manchester.

both for the students and teachers of translation. They now understand that any text is anchored in a culture and that the cultural competence of translators is equally important to the linguistic one. Murtadha J. The present paper springs from this very important fact. The researcher will suggest. Each tip will be supported with examples from literary works translated by professional translators. they shifted their attention towards intercultural translation problems.From: Waleed Othman To: Prof. 11 . and from the need to teach student translators how to tackle cultural material when translating. Bakir Chairman-Organizing Committee Fax: 5232899 ================================================== Translating Culture: Pedagogically Speaking Waleed Othman Abstract When scholars of translators recognized that translation is not a mere transfer of linguistic material. a number of tips on how to render cultural material. but of culture as well.

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Adli Yeken Pasha and Abdel khaliq Sarwat Pasha (p. (p. 24) She was as pretty as a gazelle. 51) (511 ‫( الحماسة )ص‬13) (502 ‫( عدلي أو ثروت )ص‬14) (475 ‫(رأس البر )ص‬11) (478 ‫( منيرة المهدية )ص‬12) (469 ‫( الزبكية )ص‬9) (470 ‫( فقراء الحسين )ص‬10) The important politicians.‫( ولو تحركت مئذنة الحسين‬22) 13 . if only to comply with the teachings of religion.‫( لكن ال ل يغير ما بقوم حتى يغيروا ما بأنفسهم‬3) “God doesn’t change people until they change themselves” (Qur’an. 15) (476 ‫( … ليلة القدر … )ص‬4) (478 ‫ )ص‬.‫( … كلتاهما كالمحمل‬21) (495 ‫ )ص‬.‫( آن لك أن تفكر في استكمال دينك‬1) (493 ‫ )ص‬. Munira al-Mahdiya (p.‫ثروني‬ ّ‫دور‬ َ‫ملوني ث‬ ّ‫ز ور‬ َ‫( ث‬5) … the prophet’s words when he would feel a revelation coming and cry out for help: ”Wrap me up! Cover me with my cloak!” (p.the heroic black poet of ancient Arabia (p. 53) You’re as ugly as a water buffalo.:‫ ( فقالت خديجة وهي تبسط راحة يمناها في وجهه مفرجة بين أصابعها الخمس‬2) (469 ‫)ص‬. 34) Ezbekia entertainment district (p. (p.‫( رأيت شابة جميلة كالزهرة‬20) I beheld a young woman as beautiful as a flower. (p. 41) Miss Bamba Kashar. (p. reciting. 51) the statue of the national leader Ibrahim Pasha with his finger in the air (p. (p.‫( أنت قبيحة كالجاموسة‬18) (522 ‫ )ص‬. 18) (6) It’s time for you to think about getting married.45) (7) To ward off the evil eye.Examples cited (506 ‫ )ص‬. a medieval anthology of poetry (p. 62) … each of them as massively beautiful as the ceremonial camel when it sets off from Mecca with the pilgrims. 78) (539 ‫)ص‬. 113:5).17) Al-Hamasa. (p. 13:11). “And from the evil of the envious in his envy” (Qur’an. 42) (503 ‫( بمبة كشر )ص‬15) ( 511 ‫( ملحمة عنتر )ص‬16) the folk epic about Antar. the seductive songstress (p. Khadija spread her fingers apart and held her hand with he palm facing Yasin. at the end of Ramadan when prayers are sure to be answered… (p. (p. 8) The summer resort of Ra’s al-Barr (p. 7) The needy around al-Husayn Mosque (p. 7) … The Night of Destiny. 60) (519 ‫( كالغزال كانت … )ص‬19) (511 ‫( تمثال ابراهيم باشا أبي اصبع )ص‬17) (484 ‫ )ص‬.14) The star.‫ ومن شر حاسد إذا حسد‬.

52) I don’t envy you! (p. bitch. (p.72) There was a mountain separating him from Fuad.‫( لم يجعل ال لمرء من قلبين في جوفه‬27) 14 .Even if the minaret of al-Hussayn Mosque started shaking. 35) (518 ‫ )ص‬.35) God didn’t place two hearts in a man’s breast (Qur’an.58) It’s devastating when a heart speaks out and finds no one who will respond.‫( أمر مؤسف أن يتكلم قلب فل يجد من يستجيب له‬24) (537 ‫ )ص‬. (p. (p.‫( من علمني حرفا صرت له عبدا‬23) I become the slave of anyone who teaches me a single syllable (p. (p. 33:4) (p. 62) You.‫( أذنا من طين وأذنا من عجين‬26) (522 ‫ )ص‬.‫( فؤاد في واد وهو في واد‬28) (522 ‫ة )ص‬ ‍ ‫( يا بنت اللبؤ‬29) (495 ‫ )ص‬. 36) (512 ‫( اللهم طولك يا روح ‍ )ص‬30) (496 ‫ة )ص‬ ‍ ‫( عيني عليك بارد‬31) (536 ‫ )ص‬. 62) O’ God have mercy! (p. 62) Al-Sayyid Ahmad was deeply moved …(p.‫( أصوات اهتز لها صدر أحمد عبد الجواد‬25) (532 ‫ )ص‬.77) I act as though one of my ears was made of clay and the other of dough. (p.