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Cultural Images Transferenc Essay Sample

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Cultural Images Transferenc Essay Sample


Translation has always been acting as a bridge between one culture and another in cross-cultural communications, and it takes transferences of culture as its initial responsibility. Cultural image is the combination of a nation or a people’s wisdom and historical culture, and translators are always expected to transform the unique cultural images of the original language as correctly and completely as possible except to convey the general meaning. However, due to the big gap between Chinese and Western culture, the transference of cultural images has become a major challenge faced by translators. To handle such a complicated problem, this paper not only discusses the definitions and connotations of cultural images, then explores the causes of cultural disparities between Chinese and English in cultural images, and tries to figure out how to transform cultural images properly under the guidance of Skopos theory, which cries out that translation strategies should be adopted to serve different translation purposes in a certain situation.

Besides the things mentioned above, the paper suggests that to achieve the purpose of promoting the dissemination of the essence of Chinese culture, translators should choose the strategies of foreignziation mainly to remain the Chinese characteristics of the source language culture, yet, meanwhile to achieve the purpose of cross-cultural communication and readability of the translation, translators are suggested to adhere to target language culture as destination use the method of domestication in a flexible way and select other various translating methods as well.

Key Words: cultural images; transformation; Foreignization; Domestication

1. Introduction

Translation is a kind of cross-cultural communicative activity, with the transference of culture as its initial essence. Cultural image is a specific cultural symbol of a nation or a country with rich and profound cultural connotation. However, because of the great differences between Chinese and Western culture, it is really a tough job to transfer cultural images all right. To deal with this problem, many scholars and translators have been working hard and try to find out a solution that can transform cultural images efficaciously. Some of them study the similarities and dissimilarities of cultural images between Chinese and English from linguistics or culture point, and put forward several translation methods, such as literal translation, free translation, and so forth. Others, like Peng Guizhi studies the necessity of reserving the cultural image from the stand point of cross-cultural communication.

And Bao Huinan probes deeply into translation methods of Chinese culture in Chinese-English translation through a comparative analysis on culture, mentality, conceptions and conventions between Chinese and Western countries. In linguistics filed, Zhang Hong makes a systematic investigation into the cultural images between the languages of English and Chinese at the levels of word, metaphor, sentence and text, and so on. Although there are many studies on cultural images have been conducted and plentiful of translation strategies and methods have been put forward, yet many problems in the transference of cultural images still left unsettled.

And sometimes we even feel quit confused when we come across so many so-called translation strategies without knowing which one to take. So why is that? The author thinks it is because we lack of a guiding theory, which can help us to figure out which technique we should adopt. Skopos theory proposed by German scholar Hans Vermeer confirms that translation is a purposeful activity of human beings. During the process of translation, translators adopt different translation strategies in accordance with different translation purposes and target readers’ requirement. Within the framework of this theory, the criterion to judge translation quality is changed from “equivalence” into “adequacy” of translated version, which provides an approach for the transference of cultural image.

According to Skopos theory, the author is intended to probe into the translation purposes and methods employed in cultural images transferences, then, some translation strategies and methods are proposed to preserve the cultural image of source language in Chinese-English translation. The paper finally concludes that in the transference of cultural images in C-E translation, foreignization should be adopted as the main strategy and domestication as the supplementary. That is to say, to transfer Chinese cultural images, foreignization strategy should be selected to maintain the cultural characteristics of the source language; as for some cultural images which are not easy to be understood by foreign readers, translators should promote the cross-cultural communication with the shops of acceptance of readers.

2. An Outlook at Cultural Images

2.1 Cultural Images

Generally speaking, cultural image is a nation’s, a people’s fixed unique cultural semiotics; including both the superficial form is which so-called “physical image” and the deep cultural content called “connotation”. Cultural images root deeply in national soil; they epitomize people’s wisdom and historical culture, closely concerned with legends of different nations, people’s worships and original totems. During the long history and civilization of humans, these cultural images appeared frequently in language, literary and artistic works, and transmitted from one generation to another. As time past, those cultural images have developed into a certain kind of symbols, cultural-loaded symbols, owning relatively stable cultural connotations in a culture or in a nation. In general, people who come from the same cultural community can understand one another when they mention those cultural images, which may arouse sympathetic response among people.

But people from different cultural community may not understand each other, because different cultural community may have different cultural images that endowed with disparate associative meanings. Arguably, the clash of images between Chinese and English languages creates a great difficulty in translation of the cultural images. And sometimes it is inevitable to cause some problems during the process of cultural image transmission, such as misreading, loss and distortion of cultural images. Therefore, it is virtually essential to find suitable ways to transmit cultural images, which if overcome successfully can result in a sound cross-cultural communication.

2.2 Forms of Cultural Images

Just as mentioned above, cultural images encompass two parts, the physical image and the connotation. As the physical existences part, physical images have a variety of forms. Here the paper presents all kinds of cultural images bellow:

1) Cultural Images in Plants

In Chinese traditional culture, we have “竹子”(bamboo)characteristic of integrity; “寸草春晖”refers to deep love from parents which cannot be repaid; also we have “寒梅”in the form of plant, which denotes a profound and aesthetic sense in Chinese cultural images, symbolizing nobility and loftiness etc. In English culture, “daffodil” is the representative of spring and pleasure. Poets and writers often use daffodil to picture spring and pleasant mood brought by it; “olive tree” indicates peace; “rose” represents love; and so on.

2) Cultural Images in Animals

There are many cultural images associated with animals in different culture, which constantly reflected in language. For example, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”(双鸟在林不如一鸟在手)“as sly as a fox”(像狐狸一样狡猾). Some animals possess equivalent associative meanings, others are opposite in distinct connotations. Given the same pronunciation of “福”, “蝙蝠”(bat)has the meaning of “ good fortune, health, happiness” in Chinese traditional culture. However, in west, bats become an ugly, vicious and blood-sucking animal, and most of the expressions that concerned with bat implicate negative attitude, such as “crazy as a bat”(精神失常; 发痴)“as blind as bat”. In English, “bear”, is always regarded to be cruel. But it is regarded as “useless”, “foolish” in Chinese patterns of thinking. So you may heard sayings like “看你那熊样” or “你真熊” in Chinese.

3) Cultural Images in Numbers

Scientifically, number has noting to do with people’s destiny or fortune; it just functions as a way of counting. However, there are lots of superstitions attached to number. In west, “seven” is a significant number, usually regarded as a bringer of good luck. And something unlucky is connected with “three”. For example, it is believed that three candles alight at the same time would be sure to ring bad luck; one, two, or four, are permissible. In China, people have developed a favorite affection towards “八”(eight)because it is homophonic with “发” (enrichment) in Chinese characters, which represents “make a fortune”, and also Chinese people especially like to choose “六” (six) as their lucky number for it means “good luck”, and we have “六六大顺” “六合彩” in performance.

4) Cultural Images in Colors

“红” (Red) means more than any other color both in Chinese and in English. In China it is regarded as “happy and auspicious event”, for instance, in traditional wedding ceremony, bride usually wears red dress, and the windows and doors of their house are excepted to decorate with a big red character of “囍”. Blue means “depressed, aristocratic, even dirty” in English, such as, “in a blue mood”(情绪低落), “blue blood”(贵族血统), “a blue film”(黄色电影),and so on. Green has a meaning of “lacking of experience or being rich”, so in English we have, “green hand”(新手), “green power”(经济实力雄厚).

5) Cultural Images in Characters

To adorn our speech or writing, people frequently employ some characters from the history, legends, literature, religion, etc, and these characters can be real or not, general or specific. That is because in the long history of a nation, those figures have gradually developed into a kind of cultural symbols, adopting profound and thought-provoking associations. Once mentioned among the in-groups, they are instantly understood. Take for example, “西施”(Xi Shi)associates with beauty for Chinese people; We have “济公”(Jigong)in China and Robin Hood in West, and both of them enjoy the popularities of commonplace, robbed the rich and helped the poor; “梁山泊与祝英台” are the brilliant representative of eternal love in Chinese, while Romeo and Juliet in English

6) Cultural Images in Names of Places

A great deal of significant historical events happened in a certain places both in Chinese and English history during the course of civilization, as time went those places become some kind of images having national color and culture allusions, such the reputed Waterloo(滑铁卢) in English and ChiBi (赤壁) in Chinese. Some other names of places have closely relationship with the national economy, politics, or culture, or even the landscape. When “江南”(Jiangnan the delta of the Yangzi River)presented, most Chinese people may remind of the beautiful gardens and the charming girls.

3. A Comparison of Cultural Images between the Languages of Chinese and English

Although human beings live on an identical planet, and feel the same turns of seasons, different cultural communities, or we say, different language communities have developed distinctive attitudes towards cultural images, which some of them perhaps share the same associative meanings, while some may not. In this part, we make a deliberation on cultural image from four aspects. (1) Cultural images with the same reference meaning, but with different associative meaning. “Peacock”(“孔雀”)is a large bird which has a long tail feathers that can spread out, showing their pretty blue and green colors and patterns. People in China regard it is an auspicious sign when a peacock spreads out its feathers and peacock can be a mascot for them that brings good fortune. And in Yunnan Province, Dai people often dance “peacock dance” to express their best wishes. But in western culture, people see an arrogant air in their paces, for they usually stride across you holding head high, swinging cockscomb头冠. What’s more, they think the peacock is quite keen to show off its beauty by spreading out feathers, which demonstrates his vanity as well as his arrogance.

As a result, when it comes to a person in English, “peacock” always conveys a derogatory sense. In Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, peacock is interpreted like that:one making a proud or arrogant display of himself. And we have phrase “as proud as peacock” (2) Cultural images with the same reference meaning, but with partly the same associative meanings. “玫瑰” and “rose”, refer to a beautiful follower that has a pleasant smell, stand for “love” no matter in Chinese or in western culture. For example, we have a love song named “你是我的玫瑰花”by the reputed singer Pang Long, which spread out all over China in 2005 through Internet media and the well-known poet “A Red Red Rose”, in which Burns compares his lover as a red, red rose in English. However, it’s funny, in western culture rose has another associative meanings, “under the rose”(玫瑰丛下) is a case in point,here rose means a secretive, immoral conduction.

What about China, well we are likely to compare thorny rose to those beautiful girls who are difficult to approach and a little bit arrogant. You may still remember the famous song “两只蝴蝶” also by Pang Long, which used “带刺的玫瑰” to denote those special girls. (3) Cultural images with the same reference meaning, have colorful associative meaning in one language, but have no special associative meaning in another language(鳄鱼) “Crocodile” and “鳄鱼”,for Chinese, is just a large ferocious reptile with a long mouth and many sharp teeth that lives in lakes and rivers in hot parts. There is no special connotation connected with it. In the west, however, legend has it that while tearing its prey the crocodile pretend to shed tears to lure more animals with the real intention of attacking them.

So in English, the crocodile tears means to pretend to feel sad, sad, or upset when you do not really feel that way(假人假意, 假慈悲; 猫哭耗子, 假慈悲). “梅”, “兰”, “菊”, “竹”(Plum blossoms, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum) are regarded as “four gentlemen” among all the flowers in China, and they have been widely used in literature works by intellectuals, giving the nature of “lofty and unyielding character”, “a man of noble”, “aloof from politics and material pursuit”, “loyalty and devotion”, and so on. Their noble characteristics and profound cultural meanings show in poems, arts and idioms etc, such as “竹死不变节,落花有余香”, “梅花想自苦寒来”, “采菊东篱下,悠然见南山”, “咬定咬定青山不放松,立根原在破岩中,千磨万击还坚劲,任尔东南西北风”.

However, in English they are no more meaningful than any other plants except for cultural images. (4) Culture images with different reference meaning but with the same or similar associative meanings. Each culture may have its distinctive cultural image which can’t be found in another culture, but to some extent they share the same associative meanings. For instance, “paint the lily” and “画足天蛇” both indicate to spoil something by trying to improve it when it is already good enough, though “lily” and “蛇” are respective objects and typical for each people. And “a black sheep” and “害群之马” is another case,which all suggest a disgrace to the family or communication.

4. Causes of Culture Images Disparities between Chinese and English

Newmark defines culture as the way of life, and he manifests it is peculiar to a community which uses a peculiar language as its means of expression (Zhou 437). Language is the mirror of culture and through this wonderful mirror assortments of cultures are able to reflect. As a form of culture, cultural images also reflect themselves though that media. Each people have his own unique cultural image contribute to different physical environments, history and culture, different ways of thinking and language systems. In this part, we take about those differences respectively.

4.1 Differences in Physical Environment

Physical environment differences have led to different cultural images. Well we know Britain is an island country, surrounded by waters. It has a favorable maritime climate-winters are mild and summers are cool. So for them, summer is a very lovely and pleasant season that can evoke affective emotions among young peoples. Here we quote “Shall I compare thee to the summer’s day” from William Shakespeare’s renowned Sonnet18 for illustrate. By contrast, Chinese Mainland is mainly influenced by the continental climate, and “夏天”(summer) can be the least season that Chinese like compare to other seasons, for it is too hot to endure. You have a hard time to tackle with your work outdoors, sweating under the burning sun. The direction where the wind blows also affects culture. In China, “东风” comes with spring time and brings moisture and warmth as well. That is why in history there were so many poets and writers preferred to employ “东风” to express their pleasant mood or their hopes of life, such as these two lines: “东风夜放花千树”, “春风又绿江南岸”.

It is quite different, however, when it comes to “西风”, for it blows in the freezing winter, associated with something shabby or sorrow. In Du Fu’s , a distinguished ancient poet in China, well-known 茅屋为秋风所破歌, “西风” can be a vicious wind that tore the writer’s house into pieces. But that was totally different in the West, when the west wind comes it brings mild and temperate climate. In the history of English literature, we can find a great number of poems thought highly of the west wind, and the brilliant one should be given to Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind. We can sense the power and the hope lies in “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” – It destroys all the things but it wakes up the sleeping earth and brings not only new lives but new hopes. Through those examples given above you are able to see the Physical environments have led to disparate culture images between Chinese and English languages.

4.2 Differences in Historical Culture

Each nation has his own historical culture which is distinct from another nation, and that can be applied to China and the west countries as well. In the long rivers of history, people have developed their own history culture. In Chinese history, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism are the three main religions that influence China almost in every aspect from the old times until now. From the perspective of Confucianism, Heaven is seen as one of “the three geniuses of universe” –“Heaven, earth and man” and it governs all the creatures living on the earth. In westerners view, however, “God” controls the whole tings in the world, for Christianity is their main religion and they believe in it. We can see the difference between God and “天”,which respectively reflect the influence of Buddhism and Christianity, in the translation of one of the most famous Chinese sayings, “谋事在人,成事在天”. (a)Man proposes, Heaven dispose. (Yang 459)

(b)Man proposes, God disposes. (Hawks 263)

As Bao Huinan points in his work, Christian culture not only impacts economy, politics, science, philosophy, literature, arts, etc. in the West but also roots itself in people’s psychological consciousness and determines their ways of thin king and behaviors (Bao Huinan 258). Many words in the Bible, have many profound associative meanings which can hardly appear in Chinese. Let take apple to illustrate. Apple can be a specific kind of fruit that favored by people all over the world. But apple possesses a seductive sense behind it, because according to the Bible story, apple is the forbidden fruit that Sadan used to seduce Adam and Even.

4.3 Differences in ways of thinking

Ways of thinking and viewpoints of observation have led to different cultural images. The Chinese thought pattern is the typical synthetic thought pattern and it lacks of reasoning, more depending on personal experience. By contrast, the English thought pattern is an analytic one. Tending to neglect perceptual knowledge, they put an emphasis on logical reasoning. Another factor that also affects cultural images is the collective and individualistic patterns. Generally speaking, Chinese belong to collectivism, who subordinates their personal goals to some collectives; while the English belong to individualism, who define themselves primarily as independent individuals and make their primary commitment to themselves.

As a result of disparate thought patterns, people from different cultures adopt different viewpoints of observation. So when people come across a same cultural image they may have their own unique attitudes toward it. We have mention in the third part of the paper, “Peacock”(“孔雀”)has a totally distinctive meanings in English and Chinese peoples. In the eyes of English-speaking nations is8 envisaged as an arrogant bird, which likes to show off itself by spreading its long, pretty blue and green color tail feathers, whereas Chinese people see an auspicious sign in it and see a good luck in this phenomenon, due to different viewpoints of observation.

4.4 Differences in Chinese and English language systems

English language belongs to the Indo-European family language, while Chinese language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan family, and each of them has its respective phonetic system. To pursue happiness and fortunes is human beings’ unfailing pursuit, in order to flee from evil and strive to walk in fair fortune’s ways; homophones are frequently used in both languages. However, it’s rather difficult to find a same homophone that share the similar association in terms of speech sound and meaning in English and Chinese languages, for they bear differences in phonetics.

Take “cuckoo”(杜鹃) for example, “cuckoo” pronounces like “cuckold”, so cuckoo often easily makes people think of those person whose wife has deceived him and misconducts herself with someone else. In Chinese, we say “带绿帽子”. But, cuckoo’s “咕咕” voice can not invoke the identical association among Chinese people. In Chinese , 蝠(bat), 鹿(deer), 鱼(fish) sound like “福”, “禄”, “余”, so they were endowed with meanings like happiness, fortunes, and profusion. The pronunciation of “willow” (柳) in Chinese is similar with the character of “留”, which means “to stay” or “want somebody. to stay”. This similar pronunciation endows the image of “柳” with sensibilities of missing someone or the sadness of departure, and in poetry this image of “柳” is often used.

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