Exploring the Typology of Challenges and Strategies in Translating Culture-Bound Items for Professional Purposes

  •  Maha Aldhahi    
  •  María Fernández-Parra    
  •  Lloyd Davies    


The translation of culture-bound expressions such as idioms, proverbs and similes can be a challenge even for professional translators who are expected to have an excellent command of the languages they work with, at least theoretically. Challenges arise when either the image or the meaning of the source language expression does not exist in the target language. For instance, the Arabic simile كمسمار جحا translates literally as “like Juha’s nail” (image). However, a more suitable translation into English would in fact be along the lines of “no more than a vacuous excuse” (meaning). Therefore, in this paper, the author aims to establish, by conducting a survey of Arab professionals, the extent to which these expressions pose a challenge when translating between English and Arabic. In this survey, translators are also asked to translate selected culture-bound expressions and comment on them. The initial results will show that the translation of culture-bound expressions can indeed cause significant challenges for professional translators and that these challenges can be grouped into five categories on the basis of image and meaning. Suggestions regarding procedures will be made to overcome these cultural challenges by category. Overall, the results will suggest that there is a pressing need to increase the cultural component in translator training programmes.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1923-869X
  • ISSN(Online): 1923-8703
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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