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Translating cultures

by María Gabriela Ancarola, 5th October, 2007

The translator as a “culture carrier”


Whenever a translator works on the transposition of a text from one language into another – or, better still, when a translator translates – he is above all involved in a cross-cultural mediation process, which underlies the linguistic mediation process.

The aim of a translator will be, first and foremost, to transmit to the reader of the text he is producing -the metatext – the culture within which the original had been created, namely, the culture of the author of the original text, which, in turn, draws from many other cultures.

Assuming that a neutral translation does not exist – indeed it is impossible for two different translators to translate the same text in exactly the same way – it is natural to conclude that each translator will somehow inject his version with at least some features of his own culture. These features will then become part of the final product.

A translator – in reality a bridge between the culture in which the original was produced and the metatext, or translated version – is a carrier of a very specific culture which will be reflected, to a greater or lesser extent, in the newly produced text.

The translation process does not stop here, though. A translator’s task also entails giving life to the new text within the frame of the receptive culture. Adapting and moulding it by always keeping in mind the needs of his “ideal reader”, he will produce a text that naturally flows within the receptive sphere.

Taking into account these three steps of the process, a translator can be considered as a culture carrier that helps crossing that bridge, a bridge sometimes invisible, but always real, a bridge that connects, joins and, relates two different cultures. A good translator will be able to carry out his task only if he is able to add elements from his own culture.

María Gabriela Ancarola
Freelance translator
English – Spanish – Italian
Thanks to a dearest friend, Nino Gulli, for many valuable suggestions

© María Gabriela Ancarola

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