(Multi)-Cultural context : interpretation and translation adrift

Yifeng SUN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that since in general, it is inadvisable for translation to disregard the possible unintelligibility of the text, a web of significance or signification must be reproduced irrespective of seemingly insurmountable translation difficulties. Interpretation is related to the issues of cultural translation and (un)translatability in cultural terms, necessitating a clutch of interpretative modes prior to the effective formulation of appropriate translation strategies. Temporal and cultural gaps tend to create difficulties in interpretation, and cultural pluralism may lead to multiple, hence different, interpretations. Principally because of translation, we have progressed into the age of multiculturalism, and it is not just that the necessity of acculturation seems to be diminishing, but there is a real desire to spurn it. Foreignization is a political issue. Accordingly, the tensions of ideological incommensurability need to be dissipated in order to facilitate cross-cultural understanding and communication. A degree of ideological pluralism permits cultural diversity distinctively marked by tolerance of difference and attempts to reduce an underlying distrust of the foreign. Multiculturalism, however, by no means denotes the demise of ideology. In spite of its ostensible theoretical naivety, intentionalism has some serious implications for the translator, who may ignore at his/her own peril, for instance, the complex ideological consciousness that informs not only the source text but also the resulting target text. If we say that both the author and the reader are responsible for context or its construction, then the translator must play the double role of reader and author in the sense of (re)constructing context. While we interpret with many aims, the act of interpretation is culturally and ideologically conditioned, and the ensuing complicated remapping is such that translation is always somewhat adrift.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-259
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2007


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