“Translation as Intercultural Communication” by Prof. Juliane House


28 May 2015




Translation is a particular kind of intercultural communication aimed at intercultural understanding. Intercultural understanding is closely related to the most important concept in translation theory: functional equivalence. It can be achieved when a translation has a function in the target culture comparable to the function its original has in its cultural context.  Intercultural understanding in translation can be reached along two very different paths: overt and covert translation. The distinction between these two types of translation reflects different ways of re-contextualization: in overt translation the original’s context is co-activated alongside the new target context such that two different discourse worlds are juxtaposed in the medium of the target language. Direct cultural transfer occurs, with features of the original “shining through”. In contrast, covert translation is geared exclusively towards the new cultural context. A “cultural filter” is here used to adapt the translation to its new addressees’ communicative preferences, beliefs and values.The lecture describes these two ways of achieving intercultural understanding illustrating them with a number of examples. Finally, a recent phenomenon is discussed which may change the nature of translation as intercultural communication reducing it to an instrument of lingua-cultural colonization in an age of globalization and the dominance of English as a lingua franca.

Biography: Juliane House is President of the International Association for Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS). She received her first degree in English, Spanish, translation and international law from Heidelberg University, her B Ed, MA and PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Toronto, Canada and an honorary doctorate from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She is Professor emerita of Applied Linguistics at Hamburg University, and a senior member of the Sonderforschungsbereich “Mehrsprachigkeit” (Research Centre on Multilingualism), where she is principal investigator of projects on translation and multilingual business communication. She also directs a project on multilingualism and multiculturalism in German universities. Her research interests include contrastive pragmatics, discourse analysis, politeness theory, English as a lingua franca, intercultural communication, and translation. Among her latest books are Translation Quality Assessment: A Model Revisited (1997, Narr), Translation (2009, Oxford University Press) and Convergence and Divergence in Language Contact Situations (2009, Benjamins, with K.Braunmueller).


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