Cultural transfer and legal translation (I)

The term “cultural transfer” is reserved for two opposing realities:

  1. It can identify a translation as a cross-cultural communication powered by the search of matching terms from a cultural perspective, involving both languages and cultures in the process, and so we can talk about “domestication”. In this case, the term used in the translation makes the readers feel as if they were reading the original text.
  2. It can identify a process by which a term of one culture is introduced into the other one without taking into account whether it’s natural in the latter language. The culture to be translated can be transplanted to the target culture, and thus it gets the name of foreignization. The ultimate effect is that a term less known or common is used in the translation.

Nowadays foreignization seems like a new trend due to its resurgence in the last thirty years, it is centuries old, and was not lost, but rather fall out of the limelight in the 20th century. The truth is both process a crucial in legal translation. Domestication is a key to accommodate and suit the legal system of the culture and language to which we are translating, and thus achieve a translated text that does not feel translated but native to the legal system.  But foreignization is an important resource in many jurisdictions and situation. An example for the latter would be Hong Kong and its jurisdiction, where foreignization is a key element in legal translation.

Understanding of the best suitable process for each situation is something that is most valued at DTS. That’s why our translator can deliver the most accurate and suitable translation every time.


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