In intercultural communication, people from different cultural background will produce different understandings on the same phenomenon if they are not familiar with the cultural differences, which can create communication disorders. Translation is a kind of activities of communication, including cross-linguistic, cross-cultural and cross-social. That means translation is not only the switching process of different languages, but also the switching process of different cultures. Idiom as the essence of language inheriting long history and rich national culture contains abundant of cultural features and backgrounds which possesses vivid images and metaphors, distinct national and local features. Therefore, Idioms reflect the cultural differences in language than other language ingredient. So idiom translation is not just from the perspective of language, but from cultural differences. Only crossing the language perspective and rising cultural fields can we adapt correct principles and techniques of translation.
Key words: cultural differences idiom translation translation principles
“Culture” is one of the hottest terms people talk about whereas its sense and meaning are also the least definite. Language exists everywhere in the world. People could not live without it. Language and culture are the products of human society. Language is a peculiar tool to express meanings and exchange ideas for human beings. Culture is the total of material and spiritual wealth of society development. Therefore, both of them are inseparable.
In essence, translation can never be done successfully without full consideration of culture due to the intrinsic connection between language and culture. Culture influences translation greatly. The communications among different cultures are the challenge of translation. Actually, the transfer of languages is not just the direct information transfer, but also the close relationship between information transfer and culture of language system. Many problems in translation are caused by culture differences and non-language differences. Thus, we can say translation is a cross-cultural act, and its purpose is to exchange ideas and cultures. Translation promotes understanding among different countries and nations. (Sun Yifeng, 2004: 8). Since translation concerns with the transference of two different cultures respectively belonging to two different languages, it is natural to consider the relationship between language and culture.
Both Chinese and English possess a great number of idioms, which are widely used in various ways in our daily life. Since they are full of metaphors and cultural backgrounds. So, when come to mention the idioms translation, we should discuss it from the perspective of culture. Someone who wants to translate idioms correctly, he must study Chinese and western cultures, especially the differences of them. So we can reduce obstacles during idioms translation.
Each culture is unique to its country and nation, but cultures from different countries are not isolated, they are co-relationship with each other. Cultures have no grades, and they are equal. Nowadays, western culture is popular in our country, even some people advocate western culture superior to Chinese culture. Also, in the field of translation, many scholars lay stress on western culture translation, but Chinese culture is faced an unbalanced circumstance. So the author chose Chinese-English idioms translation to underline the importance of Chinese culture.
3 Culture and Language
3.1 Definition of Culture
3.2 Definition of Language
3.3 The Relationship between Culture and Language
3.4 Culture and Translation
4 Differences of Chinese and Western Cultures as Reflected in Idioms
4.1 Definition of Idiom
4.2 Culture Differences between Chinese and Western
4.2.1 Religious Beliefs
4.2.2 Geographic Aspects
4.2.5 Living Customs
5 Principles on Chinese-English Idiom Translation
5.1 Literal Translation
5.2 Free Translation
Chapter One Culture and Language
Culture has been attracted by many scholars of translation for a long time. So all about them are believe that to be a good translator is not only a great master of the two languages, but also an excellent master of the two cultures. That is the essence of translation. Therefore, before discussing translation, we must have an overall understanding of culture.
1.1Definition of Culture
Scholars have done research on culture for a long period of time. It is roughly calculated that there are about 250 definitions of culture.
Edward T. Hall points out in his Beyond Culture that “culture is communication and communication is culture”. This short definition gives us a bright concept that is if we want to communicate effectively, we have to understand what culture is. Hall says “culture is everything and everywhere. And more important, at least for our purpose, culture governs and defines the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed, or interpreted.” Culture is omnipresent, multidimensional, complex, and all-pervasive, and many definitions have been suggested for culture.
Larry A Samovar gives the definition of culture: the deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, actions, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and artifacts acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving. (Samovar, 2003:36) The definition uses some concrete words which are easily understood by people to illustrate this abstract word. So we simply draw a clear picture in our minds. Culture in fact exists all around. What we do is all closely related to culture. For example, historical site is a typical representative of culture. Historical site records a specific history which bears a comprehensive sense. Through historical site, we can get to know the customs, religion, arts and so on of that time. Culture can therefore include everything from rites of passage to concepts of the soul.
However, the definition of culture also covers language factor. Peter Newmark puts forwards the definition: “I define culture as the way of life and his manifestation that is peculiar to a community that uses a peculiar language as its means of expression.” This definition put emphasis on the important role of language. Indeed, language is an inseparable part of culture, but not the only.
1.2 Definition of Language
Usually, we define language from the point of linguistic. So what is language? Language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for human communication.
Each language contains two systems, a system of sounds and a system of meaning. And, there is no logic relationship between form and content. The same concept in different language will be pronounced differently, e.g. “床” in Chinese “chuang”, but in English “bed”. What’s more, language is possessed only by human beings, other communication systems as possessed by animals or many other life forms are not languages. The main and primary function of language is to communicate. People say things to express their communicational needs.
The significance of language in our lives is incomparable. It is not just restrained to being a means of communicating one’s thoughts and ideas, but also has become a tool for forging friendships, cultural ties as well as economic relationships. Throughout history, many scholars have reflected on the importance of language in our lives. Benjamin Whorf has noted that language shapes our thoughts and emotions and determines our perception of reality, whereas John Stuart Mill has referred language to be the light of the mind. For linguist Edward Sapir, language is not just a vehicle for carrying out expressions of thoughts, perceptions, sentiments, and values characteristic of a community, but is a representation of a fundamental expression of social identity. He also believes that language helps in maintaining the feelings of cultural kinship. So, language from a deeper viewpoint inherits culture.
3.3 The Relationship between Culture and Language
From the definition of culture and language, we can see that language is part of culture and language is also a means of expressing culture.
Language is part of culture. Culture is a wider system that completely includes language as a subsystem. Language cannot exist and will lose its meaning and significance without culture as culture provides soil for it to grow and develop. Any kind of language exists in certain cultural background and is conditioned by that culture. Language is also indispensable to the functioning of a culture and transmitting of a culture to succeeding generations. The American translation theorist Eugene A. Nida, when stating the significance of language to culture, put more forcefully, nothing is of greater strategic importance than the language through which its beliefs are expressed and transmitted and which most interaction of its members takes place. (Nida, 2003:78)
Language is the carrier of culture and the mirror of culture. Culture motivates the development of language. When a culture experiences radical change, the vocabulary also undergoes corresponding alterations. The features of a culture can be reflected in its language. Language and culture are intimately connected with each other. Just like two sides of one coin, neither of them can ever be quite independent of the other. Susan Bassnett underlines the importance of this double consideration when translating by stating that language is “ the heart within the body of culture” (Bassnett, 2001: 13)
Language is the stimulus of culture. Culture is the motive force of language. In return, a flourished language can promote each other. Being an intrinsic part of culture, language carries culture, mirrors culture, spreads culture and helps develop culture.
1.4 Culture and Translation