Translation For Ease Of Communication – Analysis


The role of the translator is not really distinct from that of the communicator in any typical intercultural communication/verbal exchange encounter. In both cases, the translator and the communicator are called upon to deliver what is intended in the written or spoken language code. That being said, the task on which they are both required to focus is the same or similar, as it assumes that each possesses a high level of competence in two linguistic and cultural systems in order to accomplish the very task they are called upon to perform. 

Therefore, this paper aims to highlight the family resemblance or interconnectedness between the process of translation and that of the intercultural communication encounter ; and to emphasize the merits and benefits of treating translation as an act of intercultural or interlingual communication since the constraints faced by the translator are quite similar to those faced by the communicator. (1)

Translation to ensure communication

The essential role of translation is to ensure communication between people who speak different languages and are shaped by a different culture. (2) The greater these cultural differences are, the more serious and difficult the problems that arise for the translator. The role of translation must act as a mediating activity between languages and cultures, which requires from the translator not only a good command of both languages, but also a communicative competence – knowledge of the cultural implicit behind the words, which calls for the use of this or that grammatical form. Underestimating this socio-cultural component could seriously compromise understanding and the question is : does translation reflect cultural differences or does it try to hide them? (3) 

Considered an art by some and a science by others, (4) translation is a discipline long debated and studied by theorists, translators, teachers, historians among others. A very complex process, it gives rise to many controversies, to the point that translation specialists cannot agree on a single definition (hence the multiplicity of approaches) and that there are as many definitions of translation than translations.

Translation as a discipline and translators as professionals have played an important role in the history of mankind at several levels (invention of the alphabet, dissemination of knowledge, propagation and export of religions, writing dictionaries etc.) (Delisle, 1995, p. 14). (15) Translators were, and still are, intermediaries between different cultures, facilitators of communication between different peoples, conveyors of messages and knowledge, etc. (6)

In addition, they had influence on a good number of people through the centuries, and in very different contexts including in the context of colonialism, where translation is used by the colonizer as an instrument allowing him to strengthen his power and establish his domination (Baker, 2005, p. 199). (7) Translation has contributed to the development of knowledge in various disciplines and in different fields. It has always served man and is still essential to him today.

To better understand translation, it is essential to know its past, its origins, the first people who practiced it, the different circumstances and contexts in which translation took place, as well as the theories emanating from this practice. This is why the study of the history of translation turns out to be necessary or even crucial for everyone involved in this field. It allows you to get to know eminent translators who were among the first to practice the profession of translator, and having been the first to generate theories of translation, the first to think about translation, the first to risk their lives and die for translation. 

These translators like Cicero, philosopher, orator, politician and Roman translator (born in 107 BC – assassinated in 43 BC); the famous translator of Baghdad Hunayn Ibn Isaaq (809-873), who was a physician and philosopher; the great translator Jérôme de Stridon named Saint Jerome (born in 347 and died in 420), author of the Vulgate, Latin translation of the bible; and Etienne Dolet, author, editor and translator of Plato and Cicero (1509-1546), burned to death with his books in Paris and many others. 

Knowing the backgrounds of such translators shows how difficult this profession was at the very beginning. Several practitioners have lost their lives because of a translation they have made, due to an omission, a misinterpretation or a false meaning or just a knowledge in contradiction with the current belief in a given culture or religion. The hard work on the part of the first translators led to the current status of the translator, however even if times have changed and this profession seems to be getting easier today, the translator will always be led to think carefully before translating anything because of the responsibility that weighs heavily on his shoulders.

Translation and inter-cultural communication

More generally, translation is the conversion of a sign (linguistic or not) into another. It is a conscious gymnastics of the mind that consists in naming (interpreting) a reality by the constituents of another reality, and this, even if they seem to be identical in nature. What are we doing, for example, when we explain a word of a language by other words of this same language, if not an act of translation ? What are we also doing when we linguistically describe a reality that is not a priori (description of a landscape, a fresco, the state of health of a patient, etc.)?

That is to say that besides translation proper, which has the task of transposing linguistic signs to a different language, there are two other forms of translation where interpretation operates, either within the same linguistic reality, or from one system of signs to another which is distinct from it. If we follow Roman Jakobson, we will call the first activity “interlingual translation“, and the other two respectively : “intralingual translation” and “intersemiotic translation“: (8) 

“Grounded on archival files, the general development of Jakobson’s tripartite division of translation (intralingual, interlingual, and intersemiotic) and its current situation in the academic world is recovered to reveal its influence on linguistics, semiotics, and translation studies worldwide, and to point out the significance of criticizing the triadic division in terms of the broad sense of translation as a term and the classifications of signs. Gideon Toury (1986), Umberto Eco (2001), Peeter Torop (2002), Dinda Gorlée (2010), Zhonglian Huang (2015), Hongwei Jia (2016b and 2016c), and others criticized this division and constructed their own systems, but these have their own problems and limitations. Therefore, it is necessary to construct, with reference to Lotman’s idea on semiosphere, a new division system (intra-semiospheric, intersemiospheric and supra-semiospheric) for translation semiotics.”

Translation, as an activity of human thought, ensures a certain link between different modes of communication, a kind of dialogical link between two languages, two means of expression, two imaginations, even two cultures… often dissimilar. (9)

In this respect, language translation approaches linked to interculturalism have become increasingly important in research fields concerned with the phenomena of contact, comparison of cultures and understanding of so-called foreign languages.

Many dimensions of translation have already been the subject of various studies, some of them very useful. The activities of translation from one language to another, from one culture to another, raise several problems that need to be elucidated and circumscribed.

Translation is not exclusively the passage from one language to another, but the bringing together of two cultures, or even of several cultures. (10)  A rapprochement that obviously does not exclude the notion of a gap caused by the linguistic and cultural interferences inherent to the translating praxis. The search for equivalents and correspondents is certainly a means of guaranteeing a transfer of some kind from one language to another, but to take account of these two facts alone would lead to the annihilation of any interlinguistic – and therefore intercultural – dimension that could bring new meanings.

Dialectal and cultural variations, the phenomenon of remotivation (para and pseudo-remotivation), the frequent contaminations of meaning in this field, the different connotations induced by the socio-cultural divergences between linguistic communities, are to be taken into account for the success (or not) of the translation. Thus, thanks to translation, the migration of ideas (and cultures) becomes easier. Through it, the cultural load of the source language is superimposed on that of the target language. And this is where the importance of the “in-play” of any translation action lies, it seems.

Participating in the putting in contact of at least two languages, the translation operates, if not in the empire of plurilingualism, at least in the kingdom of bilingualism. That this bilingualism, or this plurilingualism, reaches a certain perfection in the subject of the translating experience is a credo on which everyone will agree, but the aporias should not be minimized either! We must meditate on the effects, if only because they awaken, in a sling, a buried myth, that of Babel.

Translation and knowledge transmission

Communication is an integral part of translation and knowledge transmission, two important elements of contemporary development. Translation understood as a process of communication expresses its predominant transformational aspect. When integrating knowledge and methodological tools across disciplines, the communication process needs to translate different disciplinary languages, cultures and epistemological paradigms. Hence, the translation of knowledge and, in turn, its global communication.

As the field of communication continues to develop, more research is needed to explore the influence of communication on knowledge translation and on the limits of the concept of “knowledge transfer” in the field of communication. Just as communicators should be trained to communicate their messages / responses, knowledge translators should also develop their adaptive and translating knowledge and information skills. Theories and models of communication as well as the translation of knowledge are able to underpin such practices when each domain can respectively benefit from the critical relation to the other.

Communicative competence is not only understood within the limits of traditional expectations, but within the more diverse limits of its highly complex nature. Specifically, communication is an integral part of translation and knowledge transmission-two important elements of contemporary development. Translation as a process of communication expresses its predominant transformational aspect. (11) When integrating knowledge and methodological tools across disciplines, the communication process needs to translate different disciplinary languages, cultures and epistemological paradigms. Hence, the translation of knowledge and, in turn, its global communication.

As everyone knows, there are thousands of languages in the world (about 7136 spoken but only 140 of them have a written system). (12) It seems therefore, according to the myth of the Tower of Babel, that everyone is locked in his own language as in an isolation cell and that no communication is possible between 2 languages. Indeed, for the same concept (or signified), there is a multitude of forms (words) designating the concept (=signifying). Thus for example, the concept that we name by the word “maison” in French is designated by the word “house” in English, by “haus” in German, “dom” in Russian, “casa” in Spanish, etc…

This is due to the fact that the relation between concept and form is arbitrary : there is no objective reason that can justify this relation (otherwise, there would be only one language). Hence the importance of the tool of translation, which allows us to establish a communication, to enter into contact with a person who does not speak the same language as ours.

This is not to say that every translation would translate the same idea very faithfully and exactly : there are languages where there is no future tense, some where there is no subject, or others where there is no passive form. And even when there is no apparent difference(s), the vision conveyed of things can be different, so the French sentence “Il traverse la cuisine en courant“, translated into English as “He runs across the kitchen“, is not a calque that would be applied from one language to another: Indeed, where French sees the intention of the subject (he wants to cross) as well as the means (represented by the gerund “en courant“), English focuses on the action (“He runs“) as well as the effect (“across the kitchen“: he runs and this has the effect that he crosses the kitchen). In addition, some terms existing in one language do not exist in another language or are translated in an approximate way because no precise term exists in the latter: in this way, the American term “empowerment” (noun) does not find any translation in the French language, the verb (to) “empower” being translated by “to give power to” but the American term designates more a process as well as its result, an idea which is very attenuated once the term is translated into French. (13)

Translation and multilingualism

Today, there are some 7136 languages in the world: it is impossible to master 7136 languages, or even a hundred, as 10 human lives would not be enough to do so. But systematically learning only one language, which would be English, represents a danger, if the other languages lose visibility by being learned less and if the all-English approach standardizes the planet on the linguistic and cultural level. The challenge now is to protect all the languages and cultures of the world, like living organisms, by promoting multilingualism.

But multilingualism also means the need to translate. (14) After language itself, translation is indeed the first universal tool of communication. From time immemorial and in various civilizational contexts, translation has allowed Man to better understand the Other while allowing his language to exist. 

In the history of mankind, the translator and the interpreter have always played a highly diplomatic and strategic role, as well as a role in transmitting knowledge. (15) Translation has fundamentally marked the history of human exchanges, whether in the constitution of states, in religious mutations, in the worldwide diffusion of culture or in the safeguarding of lesser-used languages.

On the political level, for example, translation played an important role in the ninth century during the division of Charlemagne’s empire: his two grandsons, Louis the German and Charles the Bald, decided to make an agreement to claim their share of the inheritance from their brother Lothaire. In 842, they had the Oaths of Strasbourg written in the two languages of their respective peoples: Tudesque for the people of Louis the German, and the Romance language for that of Charles the Bald. As we can see, addressing and writing in the language of the other was already understood as a strong political act that could contribute to a peace process. (16)

On a more cultural level, glosses have made it possible to decipher and decode many languages forgotten at various times. Translation was already necessary among the Egyptians and Mesopotamians 3000 years before Christ. And this is what allowed Jean-François Champollion to decipher the famous Rosetta Stone in the 19th century : engraved in three languages, this stone opened the doors to the understanding of the most beautiful Egyptian buildings, by revealing in the heart of its hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek grooves the new functions of a certain Ptolemy called to reign over Upper and Lower Egypt in 196 BC.

Translation has thus considerably contributed to the establishment and diffusion of the historical, cultural and scientific heritage of humanity.

It is for these reasons and these challenges that the European Observatory of Plurilingualism watches over and works in favor of the representativeness of languages in society and official bodies, of the mastery of two, or even three or more languages, and of systematic use of translation. Because when you stop translating and then speaking a language, it dies, and it is then a bit of the history of Humanity that disappears with it forever.

Plurilingualism and its corollary translation are the transdisciplinary communication tools of yesterday, today and tomorrow, which best respect the languages and cultures of the world. (17)

Translation and the need for communication

The translation process begins with the need for communication on the part of the company or person who needs the translation. The translator is not the one who needs the communication, it is the other people who need it. In other words, the translator carries out work that stems from social needs. In this sense, the translator’s role in society is to build a bridge between people who speak different languages (Vecchio, ” La traduction : son rôle dans la société (Translation : Its Role in Society)”). (18) 

However, to translate a text, it is not enough to simply replace the words of the source language with the words of the target language. The translator has the ability to enhance our understanding of issues, cultures, etc., by acting as an intermediary (Shirinzadeh and Mahadi, 168). (19) As such, the translator’s role in society is not only to reform what is mentioned in the source language text into the target language text, but also to work as an agent between two cultures trying to cross the barriers to communication. 

It goes without saying that translators are experts who produce texts to facilitate communication between people. Their skills should not be limited to their knowledge of the foreign language. It is not only language knowledge that is the determining factor in the translation process ; there are other factors as well. There is no doubt that the translator must know the target language, but he or she must also be able to deal with the problems that occur in that language. The translator’s responsibility is to understand the source text and the rest is about producing the target text. 

Mihaela-Cerasela Enache (20) notes that a good translator needs to know both the language of a community and have an understanding that goes beyond words; an understanding that comes from interactions with the cultures, religions, etc. of the community. (21) The translator must truly know the community, because according to Denis Juhel, two languages are never similar enough to represent exactly the same social reality.(22) 

Translation is one of the important areas in the construction of cultures. Therefore, translators have the responsibility to reconstruct the source language text in the target culture in a way that respects the beliefs and culture of the target language (Shirinzadeh and Mahadi, 168). (23) Following this idea, Toury states that translation is an activity that inevitably involves at least two languages and two cultural traditions, i.e., at least two systems of norms. (24) Moreover, it is important to emphasize the effects of translators’ ideologies and their essential role in maintaining or changing meaning, according to their own cultural values. 

Indeed, translators play an essential role in receiving and producing the message, which raises the problem of how cultural meaning should be presented in different cultures to ensure mutual understanding for two different worlds (Shirinzadeh and Mahadi, 168). (25) As Virginie Viallon suggests, translators are mediators between languages and cultures. Their vital task is to assist in cross-cultural understanding and communication. Nevertheless, translators can only accomplish this task if they understand “not only the language, but the foreign culture, to be adapted, transposed and explained beyond words” (Viallon, 1). (26) In other words, the translator must immerse himself in the culture through its social, political, historical and ideological reality because each language reflects a different worldview.

Although readers should receive a translation that conveys as much as possible the message of the original text, it is obvious that cultures and dialect are also very different from each other so that sometimes adaptations must be made to convey the message of the source text and to accommodate the understanding of readers who come from a different culture and use a different language (Drobot, 75). (27) Thus, translation is not only a linguistic process, it also takes into account cultural and educational differences that may shape the opinions and attitudes of the target readers, which gives translators a considerable role in society.

Translation and global market communication

When you enter the global market, communication with your customers must be on top. Hoping to reach an international audience without investing time and effort in translation can be frustrating and even disastrous. To open your business internationally, it is not enough to have your marketing materials and website translated. You also need to take a step back to take a holistic view.

Current market data shows that the biggest international players are looking to keep a brand identity that is both strong and simple. They aim for a translation compatible with each market. The “Share a Coke“ campaign is the perfect example of a concise and positive message that has drawn crowds around the world.

Here are some areas where translation has a role to play :

1. Translation on social networks

Social media has quickly become one of the most important activities in marketing. Being there helps promote your actions and business activities. Social networks are constantly evolving and as a business you must react to the evolution of these platforms as much as to the trends. This is why hiring specialists for the translation and localization  of your content on the networks is essential for successful marketing.

2. Translation of documents

In fact, this applies just as much to brochures, inserts, articles, flyers and any print, online or direct marketing material used by your business. Professional document translation helps bring precision and legitimacy to a brand that opens up internationally.

3. Website translation

According to a study by the Common Sense Advisory, around 72% of consumers prefer to be spoken to in their mother tongue. Product pages should be translated, as should terms of service, policies, pricing, company information, calls to action and forms. All relevant content, including search engine material, should be translated carefully by a professional native translator familiar with the source language. He must also fully understand the nature of your products and services.

4. Customer service

Highly valued by customers and visitors, online customer service should be available in an appropriate format such as chat windows, forms or online representatives. This will inspire even more confidence in your customers when they interact with your business, which will strengthen your brand image and build customer loyalty.

5. Translation of internal processes

Training videos, manuals, and all material resources for employees should be translated by native speakers who specialize in the source language, as well as in the industry specific to your company’s products and services.

6. Legal documents

Licensing, purchasing, franchising, contracts, terms and conditions and many other legal “events” in the life of a business involve a number of documents which must be accessible in the language of each party concerned. A company with integrity and assiduous in its international legal relations will gain customers and strengthen its reputation.

7. Beyond translation: localization (29)

When it integrates translation into its business practices, your business must be open to change. Translating marketing materials and websites can involve localization transnational creation. Beyond translation, there is transnational creation which is a step that allows a stylistic adaptation of the content. This makes it more appealing to the target audience, while preserving the integrity of the message. Take the example of the Mr. Clean brand (“Mr. Clean”), called Mr. Proper in much of Eastern Europe. Or Lay’s crisps which, although they have different brand names around the world, have similar logos. These brands have developed in international markets by changing their presentation to adapt to different cultures. 

Advertisement translation

There is no doubt that advertising message and adverising culture are so prevasive in modern societies that they have become undeniably a way of life and a culture linked to consumerism. Advertising is everywhere in the streets, in the subway, on television, in the radio, in the internet etc. In This regard Cook (2001 : 1) writes quite convincingly: (30) 

“We cannot walk down the street, shop, watch television, go through our mail, log on to the Internet, read a newspaper or take a train without encountering it. Whether we are alone, with our friends or family, or in a crowd, advertising is always with us, if only on the label of something we are using.“

Because of its intrinsic difficulties, the advertising text has interested translators of all kinds very early on. Their interest dates back to the 1970s, well before linguists devotet themselves to advertising language and discourse in the following decade (Greven 1982 ; Tremblay 1982 ; Everaert-Desmet 1984).

This brings us back to the central questions of translation studies : meaning, equivalence, translation of the letter, translation of the spirit. During the 1990s, the answers to these questions diverged according to the theoretical framework considered. Several clarifications were published concerning the very notion of adaptation, questioning the functional approach promoted by Tatilon (1990). (31)  At the same time, studies on advertising discourse show the central place that rhetoric occupies in the general economy of the ad and the need for a semiotic approach that takes into account the relationship between text and image. 

The end of the 1990s was marked by the rise of culturalist approaches to translation and communication (Snell-Hornby 1995 ; Quillard 1999 ; Au 1999). With regard to advertising, several studies are devoted to the cultural problematic to explain the increasingly complex communication difficulties experienced by multinational companies throughout the world (Mooij 1998). Katan (1999) proposes a sort of manual for translators, who are presented as “negotiators” and “mediators” between cultures, but he does not deal specifically with advertising. 

It was not until the early 2000s that the first comprehensive study devoted exclusively to advertising translation appeared. Guidère (2000) (32) relies on a homogeneous corpus of multilingual advertisements which allows him to address the main difficulties raised by the “translation” of French advertisements into English, Arabic and Spanish. Through a series of concrete case studies, he proposes an exhaustive description of the different levels of analysis, explaining, each time, the translation choices and decisions made by the translator.

According to Karen Louise Smith: (33)

“Translating advertisements is no easy task for they are `a microcosm of almost all the prosodic, pragmatic, syntactic, textual, semiotic and even ludic difficulties to be encountered in translating’ (Smith and Klein-Braley 1997 : 175). Virtually all the devices within advertising which give adverts their persuasive power are notoriously difficult to translate, often stretching translators to their limit. The translators’ task is made all the more difficult by a number of factors which lie outside their control.“

Professionally, the focus of translators has shifted from the “source” to the “target”, with an emphasis on language praxis rather than on textual form and content. What counts in the advertising message is not so much what it says, but what it aims to do (promote, appreciate, buy the product). This change of perspective was the main methodological innovation during the 1990s, when we saw the development of a form of advertising translation of a targeting nature, i.e. one that tries to take into account the socio-economic constraints of the genre, particularly concerning the reception of verbal signs and iconic signs. Thus, through the examples of this period, we can see a new stage in the practice of advertising translation taking shape : it is the taking into account of the image in the adaptation process carried out by the translators (Guidère 2000 : 217-245). (34)

In multilingual advertising communication, the interpreter-translator must carry out a three-phase analysis that represents the three main logical and chronological phases in the development of a translation :

  • The first phase is the analysis of the concepts present in the source message. It concerns the ideas developed and the central notions that structure the object to be translated. In this phase, the mind’s understanding of the movements of the text is deconstructed with reference to the translator’s previous knowledge. The words used in the original text do not necessarily correspond to the objects known to the translator in his mother tongue, but they do allow by analogy the triggering of the translation process. The conjunction of textual and mental meanings allows the deciphering and interpretation of the text, but it must be done consciously and conscientiously ; 
  • The second phase is the analysis of the percepts (Deleuze 1981) triggered by the source text. It concerns the effect of the words present in the message to be translated on the faculties of the translating subject and, beyond, on the final receivers of the text. This effect is a movement that goes from the words to the brain by way of various nervous and memory centers. The mechanism of comprehension has a perceptive dimension in which the semantic elements of the message interact with the senses memorized by the translator to result in a particular impression that the translator must decide to render or ignore in his translation, and ;
  • The third phase is the intention phase, i.e. the choice of an orientation to give to the final message. It concerns the shaping of the combination of “concepts” and “percepts” resulting from the two previous phases according to a particular aim, whether it be personal, collective or institutional. The activity of equivalence, strictly speaking, is the key moment of this intentional phase because it corresponds precisely to the assignment of a teleological meaning, general or particular, observable at the macro- or micro-textual levels. Thus envisaged, translation appears ultimately as a multilingual communication of analytical and dynamic essence.

Communication and operational translation

The communication plan is the operational and structured translation of the communication actions related to a project. It constitutes the reference framework for all project communications.

To develop it, you can use a 7-step method, based on the principle of the continuous improvement process. It is an iterative process : the communication plan follows the rhythm of the project, adapting and evolving according to the project’s needs.

Step 1 : Consider the project context   

This first step allows you to make the transition between the project and the communication. It is about identifying the elements of the project context that are useful for the communication of the project.

Step 2 : Analyze the different target groups

The objective of this step is to list the target groups, i.e. the set of people or groups that you wish to reach with the project communication (to be selected from the list of stakeholders, see step 1).

Your target groups can be homogeneous (e.g. colleagues, mayors, firemen, tax authorities, etc.) or subdivided into several subgroups (e.g. digital natives, working people, staff members without computers, etc.). Segmenting your target groups allows you to have a more specific communication, adapted to the needs of each sub-group.

Step 3 : Determine communication objectives 

This step aims to determine the communication objectives, i.e. the results you want to achieve with the communication of your project.

Without clear objectives, communication remains vague and risks losing its meaning.

Think of matching your objectives with indicators (KPI) that will allow you to determine a posteriori if your results have been achieved.

 Step 4 : Define which messages for which target groups

In this step, you define the messages that will form the ‘thread’ of your story. The more your messages are adapted to the needs of your target groups, the more impact your communication will have.

Step 5 : Establish the action plan 

Now it’s time to merge the results of the previous brainstorming exercises. Don’t take everything over : choose what you think is most important, taking into account the context and feasibility.

While it is interesting to carry out the previous steps in a working group, this step is the responsibility of the project manager and/or communicator. 

A finalized communication plan consists of :

  • A communication schedule : a table listing all aspects of each planned communication action, and possibly, and ;
  • A visual communication plan : a general overview in the form of a timeline, showing all the communication actions in brief (one line for each target group or subgroup identified).

Step 6 : Follow up and adapt

A communication plan is a working tool that must evolve continuously. Over time, changes may be necessary, for example, if the project is behind schedule.

Submit the plan regularly to the project steering committee, discuss it with all interested parties and adapt it if necessary.

Step 7 : Evaluate and debrief

In this last step you evaluate to what extent you have achieved your communication goals.

Translation and otherness

If otherness is defined, philosophically, as the recognition of the existence of the other, it can only be crystallized through an unconditional acceptance of this other in its essential particularity. Translation, on the other hand, can be defined as a place of visualization and implementation of this difference. Translation is intended to be a free and responsible dialogue with the other, and this through the medium of language as a carrier and transmitter of thought. It is a matter of allowing the other’s thought to survive thanks to the journey that the exercise of translation allows.

 In his essay Al-adab wa-l-irtiyab, Abdelfattah Kilito (35) states that the text can only acquire a new appearance, and therefore a new face, when it is disoriented. The disorientation means here the coating of the text, the ideas of the text and the thought of the author, with a new linguistic and thus semantic costume. Thus, the out-of-town text disappears to reappear in a new light and enjoys not only its massive and curious reception by the other, but also and above all the admiration it receives from the users of its original language. 

Translation offers the original text the joy of escape and fulfillment, far from the rootedness and stagnation in its original language. Perceived as a kind of migration, translation makes the migrating text free and responsible for its aesthetic and receptive future. Thus translation allows itself to redefine the original meaning of the text, to touch its secrets, its mysteries and its intimacy. Any translation is thus a kind of reinterpretation of the text, a symbolic violence exercised on its will to be absolute.  It puts in crisis its semantic uniqueness while summoning it to justify itself as an enigmatic trace among traces and to support its reason for being. 

Translated, the works of Averroes and Maimonides, for example, have the happiness of being universalized thanks to the depth of their alteritarian lessons and the grandeur of their undertakings that support and justify their reasons for being. From this point of view, translation actively participates in the reduction of the existing gaps between cultures and civilizations. It makes the encounter with the other in his difference plausible or possible. The path is thus promising as long as translation is synonymous with welcome and hospitality. Indeed, translating the other remains the voluntary sign of welcoming him or her into one’s own home, in one’s own language. All otherness and universalism must, therefore, pass through the sensitivity of translation. This is the lesson adopted by Goethe, a lesson according to which translation is an instrument of construction of universality.

It is in fact in this perspective that fruitful exchanges must be conceived : to think the sense of otherness through that of translation, and to think of translation as a capital tool for universalim means bringing together cultures and allowing communication between human beings.   

Translation: a lofty communication process

Bell identifies translation as a process or activity ; as a product of that process or as a translated text ; and as an abstract concept that encompasses the process and the product (Bell, 1991, p.13). (36)  For Jean-René Ladmiral:

“Translation is a special case of linguistic convergence”. It is a “mediation interlinguistics allowing information to be transmitted between two language speakers different ” (Ladmiral, 1994, p. 11).  (37)

In addition, Ladmiral had well defined the nature of the equivalence sought in the translating activity. This equivalence must preserve the semantic content of the target text while transposing these stylistic, poetic and cultural (Ladmiral, 1994, p.18). (38)

The translator who transposes the foreigner’s message is in effect an intermediary or a junction point that brings the reader to the author or author of foreign material to the reader, a discrepancy one would say. In this exchange, a certain resistance can emerge. It manifests itself in the guise of the untranslatable nature of the foreign text and the refusal of the target language to welcome this foreigner. 

The translator is at the center of this dilemma whose psychological nature Antoine Berman determined:

On the psychic level, the translator is ambivalent. He wants to force both sides, force his tongue to ballast strangeness, forcing the other language to deport itself into its mother tongue “ (Ricoeur, 2004, p. 15). (39) 

 In addition, the appreciation of the foreigner is indisputable because 

“without the test of would we be sensitive to the strangeness of our own language abroad ? ” (Ibid., p. 52). (40)

For Jacqueline Authier:

a translation operation aims to provide a D2 text, the translation produced, replacing the D1 text as equivalent. Its work of reformulation can remain implicit to the point that we can ignore that D2 results from a translation ” (Authier, 1982, p. 37). (41)

Obstacles to translation and therefore communication

The difficulties that hamper language exchange are first and foremost the language barrier. At the linguistic level, translation requires, we never stop recalling the necessity of a thorough knowledge of the original language and the target language and even extra linguistic knowledge. In addition, the nature of the texts to be translated also requires a good perception of gender and text theme without which the translation would not conform to the accuracy of the source text. 

In this sense, the translator certainly has the advantage of thinking before reproducing its returns. In translation, as during language learning, “inhibitory subprograms (sous-programmes inhibiteurs) “ (42) are inserted into the nerve structures to block the generalization and stop linguistic errors. (43) Thus inhibitor programs are of great value to the speaker who unconsciously uses them to block linguistic errors.

The specificity of translation lies in the fact that it is simultaneously a reception and a reproduction activity. For Maurice Pergnier, translation does not consist in commuting linguistic systems into one another, but in going beyond divergences in language systems to communicate a singular saying that does not belong any longer to the original language but to the language that borrows it. The hindrance to translation is not, therefore, the search for equivalence in the convergence of languages, but in the possibility of finding formulations equivalent to the meanings of particular messages (Roberts and Pergnier, 1987, p. 392). (44) He even asserts the subjectivity of equivalence which is not subject, a priori, to an analysis:

“It is that the translation equivalence remains an essentially pragmatic phenomenon, not to say largely subjective, as it stands current knowledge : two statements are declared equivalent in a text (by the translator, reader, linguist, etc.) before any analysis of semantic reasons (or, more broadly, linguistic) which give them this equivalence ” (Ibid., p. 392) (45) 

Another flaw would be due to blind adherence to the specifics of the text of origin and an ill-considered reproduction of correspondences which do not observe the target language standards. Translation would thus be of very poor quality and without any substance compared to the original version. Blind word matches, syntagmas, fixednesses and syntactic forms only meet the specific needs of restitution and surely deteriorate the quality of the output. 

To achieve a work of quality, it would therefore be necessary to remedy the deficiencies in the grammatical specificities of the original language and ensure semantic equivalence between the two texts by conforming to the standards of the target language. Lexical gaps must also be remedied, accept the concepts of losses and gains, because there is no quantitative equality in translation but qualitative equality, and reproduce the stylistic figures and their aesthetic and allusive scope.

Another problem of a semantic and stylistic nature may arise when the meaning of words in the original text seem so obvious that the translator doesn’t feel the need to undertake a deep analysis to arrive at the underlying meaning. By pushing back the signifiers to go beyond the explicit and grasp the implicit, the translator runs the risk of straying so far as to render a version banal compared to that of the original text. It is therefore up to him to remain faithful to the original feeling of the text and to reproduce it scrupulously in the target language.

However, the skills of the translator cannot be flawless in the face of a source language deficiency or ambiguity which can distort the message. So a textual opacity or ambivalence due to singular cultural references or to a muddled stylistics can make a translation overwhelming. In the normal conditions, the translator must analyze the innuendos or allusions, read between the lines and decipher the meaning. The transition from reception to interpretation, then to reproduction and transmission is a process intimately attached to the intellect of the translator and his linguistic and cognitive abilities. 

He is likely to suffer from contextual discrepancies, syntactic, structural, grammatical irregularities, levels of interpretation and transmission if these capacities are lacking. To illustrate this, consider the expression price breaker (category buster in America) which would be literally restored as a breaker of prices in machine translation. (46) Indeed, knowledge of the world of commerce will judge the absurdity of the translation of this term, the meaning of which conceals a completely different concept. The association will rather be made with a specialized discount which is contextually appropriate.

The theory of equivalence (47) admits that “translation is not a work on language, on words, it is a work on the message, on the meaning. “ (Herbulot, 2004, p. 307). (48) If the translation was simply a replacement of a word by its corresponding language foreign, the computer could have replaced man in his task, but the computer is no more than an instrument with thoughtless functions. Only the human translator can deploy his skills and creativity in order to correctly form lexical and structural entities and deliver an irreproachable result.

Conclusion: To understand in order to assimilate and then communicate fully

To assimilate the meaning of a statement, it is necessary to be able to distinguish its meaning from its value. If we take the Saussurian notion of signification again, we consider it like the meaning of a sign in a given situation or the relationship between the signified and the meaning. However, value is what sets a sign against other signs or other terms and the relationship of words to each other. 

“Language is a system in which all the terms are united and where the value of one only results in the simultaneous presence of others “ (Saussure, 1967, 159). (49)

To illustrate, hedge funds are defined in relation to dynamic funds due to their common investment nature and their difference between high risk and offering a boosted long-term profitability. In english hedge funds do not have the same relationship to the system as in French, so they do not have the same value.

A good command of the language is necessary to assimilate a message. Since the language is subject to constraints, the translator is led to distinguish them from options. He must recognize that grammar is the domain of easements and that options are the realm of stylistics. First, he must recognize the internal stylistics which opposes the affective elements to the intellectual elements and the stylistics comparison which opposes one language to another. Basically, the translator is supposed to make a structural analysis that serves his understanding of semantics. To do so, he must identify the units to be translated. They are units of thought or units of translation according to Vinay and Darbelnet:

“The translation unit is the smallest segment of the utterance whose the cohesion of the signs is such that they do not have to be translated separately ” (Vinay and Darbelnet, 1977, p. 37). (50)

Coherence conceals cognitive foundations that the translator must possess in order to succeed in his task. It is subjective because it is up to the translator to lead the interpretative course which leads to the desired outcomes. Coherence therefore depends on the translator’s ability to interpret the text. To achieve consistency, it is therefore necessary to ensure whether it relates to the cognitive referents of the enunciator and not to those of the translator, in other terms that the translator’s cognitive referents correspond to those of the enunciator.

Indeed, the translator succeeds in his task if he manages to transpose in the translated version consistency compatible with that which exists in the original text. The compatibility of two texts thus depends on the transmission of these cognitive elements. Any distance from this compatibility can denaturalize the original meaning or even betray it.

Since it is the theory of skopos (goal or intention) that determines largely the adequacy of the translation, it is up to the translator to decide in which conditions the translation can be carried out. However, since the source text addresses a cultural context that is different from that of the target text, it is obvious that the two texts do not pursue the same communication goals. As a result, a divergence of the skopos can manifest itself and the functionality of the text would be variant. Intertextual consistency is achieved only when the skopos of the text target is the same as the source text. The functionality of the text would in this case be permanent.

Thus, according to Vermeer (2000, p. 237): (51)

“The skopos can also help to determine whether the source text needs to be “translated”, “paraphrased” or completely “reedited”. Such strategies lead to terminologically different varieties of translational action, each based on a defined skopos which is itself based on a specified commission. “ 

Remember that to properly translate word games, for example, and reproduce their effects, it is necessary to consider the statement in its microscopic and macroscopic dimensions. As for the style – the private part of the ritual of the writer according to Barthes -, it includes all the imprints morphological, syntactic and lexical which constitute the particular features of a text. While speech has a “horizontal structure”, style has a “vertical dimension”, that is to say that its meaning does not appear by linear juxtaposition of words but arises from a trait of the spirit of its author. 

In this regard, Barthes (1972, pp. 12-13) argues: (52) 

“The miracle of this transmutation makes style a kind of a supra literary operation, which takes man to the threshold of power and magic.”

In addition, it is impossible to dissociate a connotative style and a denotative style because the style in its connotative and denotative values ​​is an integral part of the message communicated. 

For Ladmiral (1994, p. 172): (53) 

“The connotation cannot be defined as a pure ‘extra soul’ stylistic, come to halo or crown a body of denotative meaning. It is an element information like any other, that the translating (meta) -communication is brought to place on the same plane as the denotation.“ 

It follows that in order to approach the meaning of puns, they must be immersed in the context of the text taking into account the effect they have on readers. The translator must therefore look for

 “the effect of meaning – which should not be confused with an effect of content, since it concerns the whole of the notional and the emotional “ (Henry, 2003, p. 110), (54)  

which must remove obstacles to the translatability of word games. Of course, in languages ​​of the same family, the parentage is obvious. French and English, for example, manifest similar terms, where the signifieds and the signifiers are the same in the two languages. Especially since languages ​​related to or from the same civilization have common cultural funds.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou at Twitter : @Ayurinu

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1.  Nazzal, Ayman. La traduction comme hyponyme d’une rencontre de communication interculturelle, Une approche déconstructive. Editions Notre Savoir, 2020.

2.  House, Juliane. Translation as Communication across Languages and Cultures. London : Routledge, 2015.

“In this interdisciplinary book, Juliane House breaks new ground by situating translation within Applied Linguistics. In thirteen chapters, she examines translation as a means of communication across different languages and cultures, provides a critical overview of different approaches to translation, of the link between culture and translation, and between views of context and text in translation.

Featuring an account of translation from a linguistic-cognitive perspective, House covers problematic issues such as the existence of universals of translation, cases of untranslatability and ways and means of assessing the quality of a translation. Recent methodological and research avenues such as the role of corpora in translation and the effects of globalization processes on translation are presented in a neutral, non-biased manner. The book concludes with a thorough, historical account of the role of translation in foreign language learning and teaching and a discussion of new challenges and problems of the professional practice of translation in our world today.

Written by a highly experienced teacher and researcher in the field, Translation as Communication across Languages and Cultures is an essential resource for students and researchers of Translation Studies, Applied Linguistics and Communication Studies. “

3. Maryla Laurent, Maryla (Ed.). Traduction et Rupture. La traduction comme moyen de communication interculturelle. Paris : Numilog (Hachette), 2014.

The “rupture” is an “interruption which brutally affects in its continuity the permanence of a phenomenon, of situations, of events, of ways of thinking registered in the duration. A brutal break between two situations, two states of affairs, one past, the other present”, the dictionaries inform us. It can be the sign of a temporary state of affairs, and we speak of a “crisis”, or that of a radical evolution. In either case, writing will be affected by it and, more often still, will have its participation in it, since at the moment of rupture is located what Walter Benjamin calls the “Bruchstück”, a kind of fragment, a passage capable of unfolding the tensions that are within it. The translated word, coming from elsewhere, is willingly inscribed as a vector of action.

This work deals with the breaks in the theoretical approach to translation and in the practice of translation, one of the earliest of which Michel Ballard traces back to Du Bellay : “His manifesto,” he writes, “marks a stage in the attitude of men of letters towards translation and a sort of break in thinking is then taking place.

The influence of translations in moments of rupture is also studied, both when a specific wording intervenes and when selections in the body of the text or in the choice of translated writings attempt to influence the course of history. Both “deceptive” manipulations and “targeting” interpretations are considered.

In the light of the interference that occurs at moments of particular intensity such as ruptures, these articles, which bring together twelve languages – German, English, Arabic, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Dutch, Polish, Russian, Czech – are concerned with whether the idea of a neutrality of the translated text is at least conceivable.

4. Nakayasu, Sawako. Say Translation Is Art. Brooklyn, New York City : Ugly Duckling Presse, 2020.

 “SAY TRANSLATION IS ART is a treatise on literary translation that exceeds the bounds of conventional definitions of such, advocating for a wider embrace of translation as both action and as art. In the ever-expansive margins of dominant literary culture, translation links up with performance, repetition, failure, process, collaboration, feminism, polyphony, conversation, deviance, punk, and improvisation. “

5.  Delisle, Jean & Judith Woodsworth, dir. Les Traducteurs dans l’histoire. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa/Éditions UNESCO, 1995.

6.  Chtatou, Mohamed. “Translation and its Cross-Cultural Relevance, “Eurasia Review Date May 15, 2021.

7.  Baker, Mona (ed). The Routledge Companion to Translation Studies (Revised Edition). London : Routledge, 2005.

8.  Jia, Hongwei. “Roman Jakobson’s Triadic Division of Translation Revisited” Chinese Semiotic Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2017, pp. 31-46.

9. Roig-Sanz, Diana, Meylaerts, Reine (Eds.). Literary Translation and Cultural Mediators in ‘Peripheral’ Cultures

Customs Officers or Smugglers ? London : Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

This book sets the grounds for a new approach exploring cultural mediators as key figures in literary and cultural history. It proposes an innovative conceptual and methodological understanding of the figure of the cultural mediator, defined as a cultural actor active across linguistic, cultural and geographical borders, occupying strategic positions within large networks and being the carrier of cultural transfer. Many studies on translation and cultural mediation privileged the major metropolis of Paris, London, and New York as centers of cultural production and translation. However, other cities and megacities that are not global centres of culture also feature vibrant translation scenes. This book abandons the focus on ‘innovative’ centres and ‘imitative’ peripheries and follows processes of cultural exchange as they develop. Thus, it analyses the role of cultural mediators as customs officers or smugglers (or both in different proportions) in so-called ‘peripheral’ cultures and offers insights into an under-analysed body of actors and institutions promoting intercultural transfer in often multilingual and less studied venues such as Trieste, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, Lima, Lahore, or Cape Town.

10.  Ibid.

 11. Poyatos, Fernando (ed.). Nonverbal Communication and Translation. New perspectives and challenges in literature, interpretation and the media. Amsterdam, The Netherlands : John Benjamins Publishing Company. 


13.  Bret, Patrice & Jeanne Peiffer (eds.). La traduction comme dispositif de communication dans l’Europe moderne. Paris : Editions Hermann, 2020.

14.  Grin, François. “Translation and language policy in the dynamics of multilingualism” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, vol. 2017, no. 243, 2017, pp. 155-181.

15.  Helmer, Eline. “Smoothening and Softening : The Interpreter as an Everyday Diplomat, “ Working Papers WP 2019-05 Centre for German and European Studies (CGES), 2O19.

16. Dussart, André. “Traduction et problèmes de communication, “Equivalences, Année 1983, 14-2-3, 1983 pp. 41-48.

17.  Guillaume, Astrid. “Translation as a key to plurilingualism, “Sorosoro dated January 24, 2011.

18.  Vecchio, Jean Luc. “La traduction : son rôle dans la société.” JLV Traductions, 9 Nov. 2015,

19.  Shirinzadeh, Seyed Alireza et Tengku Sepora Tengku Mahadi. “Translators as Cultural Mediators in Transmitting Cultural Differences.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 208, 20 Nov. 2015, pp. 167-174. EBSCOhost, doi : 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.11.193

20. Enache, Mihaela-Cerasela. “The Translator’s Role in the Knowledge Society.” Valahian Journal of Economic Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp.79-83. EBSCOhost,

21.  Ibid., p. 81.

22.  Juhel, Denis. Bilinguisme et traduction au Canada : rôle sociolinguistique du traducteur. Québec : Centre international de recherche sur le bilinguisme, 1982.

23.  Shirinzadeh, Seyed Alireza et Tengku Sepora Tengku Mahadi. “Translators as Cultural Mediators in Transmitting Cultural Differences.” Op. cit.

24.  Toury, Gideon. Descriptive Translation Studies—And Beyond. John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2012. EBSCOhost,

25.  Shirinzadeh, Seyed Alireza et Tengku Sepora Tengku Mahadi. “Translators as Cultural Mediators in Transmitting Cultural Differences.” Op. cit.

26.  Viallon, Virginie. “Communication interculturelle : le rôle du traducteur et de l’interprète.” 2008.

27.  Drobot, Irina-Ana. “Translation : Manipulation or Communication ?” Studii de Ştiintă şi Cultură, vol. 9, no. 4, Dec. 2013, pp. 69-75. EBSCOhost,

28.  Maylath, Bruce & Kirk St. Amant. Translation and Localization. A Guide for Technical and Professional Communicators. London : Routledge, 2019.

29.  Dunne, Keiran J. & Elena S. Dunne. Translation and Localization Project Management : The Art of the Possible. Amesterdam, the Netherlands : John Benjamins Publishing, 2011.

30.  Cook, Guy. The Discourse of Advertising. London : Routledge, 2001, p. 1.

31.  Tatilon, Claude. “Le texte publicitaire : traduction ou adaptation ? “ Meta, Volume 35, Issue 1, mars 1990, p. 243–246. Actes du colloque international « La traduction proligère ».

32.  Guidère, Matthieu. Publicité et traduction. Paris : L’Harmattan, 2000.

33.  Smith, Karen Louise. The Translation of Advertising Texts. A Study of English-Language Printed Advertisements and theirTranslations in Russian, Volume. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield, July 2002, p. 16.

34.  Guidère, Matthieu. Publicité et traduction. Op. cit.

35.  Kilito, Abdelfattah. Al-Adab wa al Irtiyab. San Fransisco, CA :, Maghreb Booktore.

36.  Bell, Roger. Translation and Translating : Theory and Practice. London : Routledge, 1991, p.13.

37.  Ladmiral, Jean-René. Traduire : théorèmes pour la traduction. Paris : Gallimard, 1994, (reproduit 2010), p. 11.

38.  Ibid., p. 18.

39.  Ricœur, Paul. Sur la traduction. Paris : Bayard, 2004, p. 15.

40.  Ibid., p. 52.

41.  Authier, Jacqueline. “La mise en scène de la communication dans des discours de vulgarisation scientifique, “ in Langue française n°53, [en ligne] 1982, pp. 34-47. P. 37.

42. Concept introduced by Claude Piron in Et si l’on prendait les handicaps linguistiques au sérieux ? Piron, Claude. Et si l’on prenait les handicaps linguistiques au sérieux ? [online],

43. The term farm in English becomes farmer if it is attached to the morpheme -er. But for fish the person is fisherman and not fisher.

44.  Roberts (P. Roda) et Pergnier (Maurice), « L’équivalence en traduction », in Meta : Journal des traducteurs, vol. 32, n°4, [en ligne] 1987, pp.392-402, 

45.  Ibid., p. 392.

46.  The term used in the commercial jargon in English is category killer or category buster.

47.  “The term equivalence is used for the sake of convenience – because most translators are used to it rather than because it has many theoretical status. “ (Baker, 1992, pp. 5-6). Cf. Baker, Mona. In Other Words : A coursebook on translation. London : Routledge, 1992.

48.  Herbulot, Florence. “La Théorie interprétative ou Théorie du sens : point de vue d’une praticienne, “ in Meta : journal des traducteurs, vol. 49, n° 2, [en ligne] 2004, pp. 307-315,

49.  Saussure, Ferdinand de. Cours de linguistique générale. Paris : Payot, 1967, reproduction 2008.

50.  Vinay, J.-P. & Darbelnet, J. Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais, Méthode de traduction. Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée 1977. Paris : Didier, reproduction 2006. 

51.  Vermeer, Hans J. “Skopos and Commission in Translational Action, “ in The Translation Studies Reader. Second edition, edited by Laurence Venuti. London : Routledge, 2000, pp. 227-238.

52. Skopos (German : Skopostheorie from modern Greek : σκοπός, finality) is one of the theories of translation. The theory of skopos presents translation in terms of its usefulness. It is therefore a theory that can be applied to any type of translation.

Developed by German linguists Hans Vermeer and Katharina Reiß who put forward the idea that translation and interpretation should in principle think about the function, the usefulness of the target text.

The theory of skopos assumes that every text has a purpose and a target audience of its own, and that a translation has the same elements. Translation is always done with the aim of generating a target text, in a particular context, a particular culture and for a particular audience. The aim of the original text is less important than that of the target text, which is opposed to theories which value equivalence. The original document therefore contains a set of information that the translator transforms into a set of information in the target language.

Cf. Vermeer, H. J. A skopos theory of translation : (some arguments for and against). Heidelberg : Wissenschaft, 1996. 

53.  Ladmiral, Jean-René. Traduire : théorèmes pour la traduction. Op. cit.

54.  Henry, Jacqueline. La traduction des jeux de mots. Paris : Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2003.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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