Vol. 53:2 (2007) ► pp.123–131
Translation and sociolinguistics
Can language translate society?
Language varies depending not only on the individual speaker but also on the specific situation in which speakers find themselves. This means that the language used in a given social environment may be perfectly translatable into a different language, but the society to which this other language belongs may not recognise the situation described by the first language.
This article presents some examples of cultural values which cannot be translated literally (or which, if translated literally, will convey a message not intended in the original language/culture) and reaches the conclusion that, as a result of all this, there cannot be a simple answer to whether language can translate society. In some cases, it will be perfectly possible; in others, the translator will have to adopt a technique which reflects the society he or she is translating for, rather than the society described in the original text.
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