When translating one language to another, many considerations must be taken into account. One of the most important considerations is how culture relates to a language and how it influences it. Without understanding the local or regional culture of a language, a translation may not be accurate or appropriate. With that said, here are just some of the main ways in how language and culture relate to each other.
Legal Systems Drastically Differ
So why is language important to culture? Well, culture plays an important role in how language differs, not only in different countries but also in different legal systems. Laws in different countries are shaped over time by different socio-cultural influences. This means that legal documents often contain wording that must be translated carefully so that these cultural nuances aren’t lost in the translation process.
It’s also important for cultural politics to be respected when translating languages. When many people think of local customs, they think of a certain method or accepted way of doing things within society. But customs can also play a major role in legal scenarios.
The direct translation of a phrase in one language to another might result in offensive wording that goes against the local customary norms. It’s for this reason that a translator must understand the cultural norms of different societies when translating documents.
Polite in One Culture, Rude in Another
In some languages, formality in the way things are worded is incredibly important, while in others, a more informal approach may be more appropriate. While legal documents are almost always of the formal type, sometimes a bit more formality may be needed based on the local culture.
For example, in many Asian cultures, it’s customary to use honorific prefixes and suffixes when referring to people. These titles are used before a person’s name as a way of identifying their age, gender, or other characteristics. However, the use of these honorifics in Western culture would normally be considered inappropriate.
So, because of cultural differences, a translator needs to understand how to translate these cultural differences correctly. Because legal documents must normally be translated precisely without any loss of details, honorifics (and other culture-based terms) must be translated to their most appropriate equivalents.
Some Languages Are More Complex
Another example of the relationship between language and culture is the way sentences or phrases are structured. Some languages, such as English, involve complex sentences where more than one subject may be discussed in a single sentence.
The use of parentheses in English as a way of referring to different subjects within a sentence is a perfect example of this. When translating these types of sentences into another simpler language, it may be difficult and can be confusing if it’s not worded correctly.
Also, some languages use more passive voice, while others use active voice. Using active voice in a society that values passive voice may come off as aggressive or rude. Even some languages within the same language group may differ in this way. A language group definition is a group of languages that are very similar to each other because of their history, grammar, and vocabulary.
However, the tone in which things are said, based on sentence structure, or syntax, can differ between languages that share the same language group. This is a type of language culture, where similar languages may have nuances or small differences that reflect the culture. So, when translating languages between two cultures, sentence structure is very important as it can change the entire tone of what is being said
In some cases, there may be more than one language within a document that needs to be translated. An example of this would be legal documents, where sometimes there will be different languages used based on different laws.
India is one country where legal documents may contain both English and Hindi because federal and state laws may use both of these languages. Because these languages, and laws, may have cultural influences, they must be translated accurately and with those contexts in mind.
This is the same for any formal contract where two parties are coming together to enter into a legal agreement. Because both parties may come from different cultural backgrounds, a multi-lingual contract is also multi-cultural because the languages used will often be rooted in certain aspects of their respective cultures.
Because both parties must read and understand the document, it must be translated by someone who is not only efficient at translating between the two languages, but who also understands both cultures and how that affects the wording of such a document.
When Sensitive Wording is Needed
There are also scenarios where language, culture, and politics are intertwined. The value of political correctness in some societies is a perfect example of this. Certain wording that describes a person or group in one culture may be considered politically incorrect in another. Something completely innocent in one culture may translate into something that's more inappropriate or outdated in another.
For example, when referring to a person who is physically incapacitated, words such as “crippled” or “handicapped” may serve as direct translations from another language to English. However, in most Western societies, these words are considered to be politically incorrect. “Disabled” is widely regarded as the more appropriate choice of wording in this scenario.
While cultures are constantly changing, so are the sensitivity levels of people towards certain wording within these cultures. So, when translating one language into another, particularly in legal proceedings, the translation must be not only accurate but it myst also consider how appropriate it is within each culture.
Accurate Translation Services
When looking for a translation service, it’s important that your translator understands the connection between language and culture. The Spanish Group offers certified translation services that are accurate, timely, and efficient. Feel free to visit our site, where we offer language translation services in over 90 languages for all your legal documents or academic needs.