Translating cultural differences

Yifeng SUN

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

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article argues that untranslatability is part of the cultural incompatibility between the two languages involved in translation. Translation is borne out of a need to understand what is different in a foreign cognitive environment and it is cultural alienation that leads to breakdowns in communication. It is a paradox that translation must, at one and the same time, introduce and appropriate difference. Cultural incomprehensibility is a stumbling block, but translation theory also lacks a cogent theory of culture as part of communication. A multicultural appreciation of human diversity is indeed important, yet we should also be sensitive to cultural differences. Therefore we should not overestimate target‐audience's familiarity with the unique source‐language culture. Cultural appropriation is essential in facilitating assimilation which, in turn, bridges the communication gap between the source and target text. Translation confronts cultural differences by employing feasible and coherent strategies to accommodate the culture of the source text. Cultural awareness, identity, and subsequent appropriation are needed to help target‐language readers infer associations and relationship in translations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalPerspectives: Studies in Translatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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