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«Translating Restaurants' Menus from English into Arabic: Problems and Strategies By Kefaya Adeeb Hafeth Saleh Supervisor Dr. Odeh Odeh Co-Supervisor ...»

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An- Najah National University

Faculty of Graduate Studies

Translating Restaurants' Menus from English

into Arabic: Problems and Strategies


Kefaya Adeeb Hafeth Saleh


Dr. Odeh Odeh


Dr. Sameer El –Isa

This Thesis is Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of

the Degree of Master of Applied Linguistics and Translation, Faculty

of Graduate Studies, An- Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine.



To my dear mother for her love, care, support and patience.

To my beloved friends for their help and confidence.

iv Acknowledgments My first word is to thank Allah for giving me patience to complete my thesis and for allowing this study to see light.

I am heartily thankful to my supervisors, Dr. Odeh Odeh and Dr. Sameer EL- Isa, for their advice, suggestions, support and encouragement all the way through to the end which enabled me to come up with this thesis.

I am also grateful to the examining members for their helpful suggestions. Sincere thanks also go to restaurant owners who provided me with the needed data for the study.

I am also grateful to Mr. Ma`an Hijawi and Mr. Khalid Salamah for allowing me to share experiences through personal interviews.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all of those who supported me during the study, especially my beloved brother's family in Jordan and my friends for their help, understanding and love.

v :

Translating Restaurants' Menus from English into Arabic: Problems and Strategies :


Declaration The work provided in this thesis, unless otherwise referenced, is the researcher’s own work, and has not been submitted elsewhere for any other degree or qualification.


Student's name:





vi List of Abbreviations Source Language.

SL Target Language.

TL Source Culture.

SC Target Culture.

TC Source Text.

ST Target Text.

TT Culture Specific Concept.

CSC Culture Specific Concepts.

CSCs Culture Bound Terms.

CBTs no date.






quoted Qtd

–  –  –

This study tends to identify the primary problems that face menus' translators depending on the assumption that translating menus and food terms from English into Arabic is a problematic issue. Moreover; it aims to evaluate the main strategies used in translating menus in order to judge their accuracy, faithfulness and appropriateness to the menu as a genre.

The study is based on textual analysis of the corpus that includes 19 of restaurant menus in four different Arab cities: Nablus and Ramallah in Palestine, Amman in Jordan and Sharm - El- Sheikh in Egypt. The English food terms are compared with their Arabic translations and alternative translations are being suggested where is necessary and suitable.

The findings reveal that the main problems of translating menus are related to brand names, proper names, culture-specific concepts and ambiguous and semantically related terms. It also shows that seven strategies are used in translating menus. However, the source –oriented strategies such as transliteration and borrowing are the most frequent. The examination of the strategies proves that each strategy has positive or negative interpretations depending on the context of use.

xiii Finally, the study concludes that the attentive reading of the source text and the good knowledge of linguistic and cultural aspects of menus on the part of translators will help to solve the problems of translating food terms and to produce satisfactory target texts which are free from errors and/or misleading and weak renderings. The recommendations built on these conclusions, the researcher hopes, will improve the process of translating menus by opening the doors for advanced research in this field from different dimensions.

–  –  –

Introduction to the Core and Domains of the Study

1. Domains and key notions of the study Food may be considered as a carrier and a symbol of culture.

Moreover, it is a tool through which a particular culture can invade different communities all over the world. For example, the American fastfood outlets are everywhere today and the names of American and other foreign food items such as "burgers" and "hotdogs" have found their way to the menus of local restaurants in Palestine and Jordan, among other places.

Many studies (e.g. Counihan and Esterik, 2008) emphasize the relationship between food, culture, globalization and translation. However, few studies, to the researcher's best knowledge, investigate the issue of translating menus and foreign names of food items from English into Arabic although the issue may raise interesting questions.

Since food is a part of a culture that may spread to other cultures through translation, this study deals with culture and globalization as the main two key notions in translating food terms and menus.

1.1. Food and culture Muhammad (1986: 3) defines culture as "all that a society inherits, learns and produces in the interaction with its environment." In other words, it is the experiences and habits which can be expressed in our history, social life, religion, traditions and customs. In this context, food is one area in which cultural identity may be expressed. Dr. Sahu (n.d.), in her article " Translation as Power ", considers food as the most significant carrier of national culture, particularly material culture (http://www.creativessaplings.com).

Shortidges (1998: 6) argue that food habits differ from one culture to another. As a result, the focus on cultural dimensions by different scholars has increased during recent years. Kittler et.al. (2007: 1) argue that food habits vary among different ethnic or regional groups. This makes food an important expression of culture and cultural identity. In this context, Anderson (2005: 1) raises the question: "Why do the British and French not only eat so differently but also tease each other so mercilessly about it, century after century? The British call the French ' frogs', to which the French respond that "The English have a hundred religions and only one sauce'."

Food is not only a symbol of identity of one community or one culture, but it can be also a source for strange stories. In this context, Schlosser (2001: 231) ridicules the claim of Den Fajita, the billionaire who brought McDonalds to Japan that food can change the physical features of people. Schlosser says that Mr. Fajita promised his people "if we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years, we will become taller, our skin will become white and our hair will be blond." However, Schlosser claims that "eating burgers and fries in Japan has not made people blonder but fatter."

1.2. Culture and language The two notions are related and complement even thought there many interpretations exist. Bassnett (1980: 13-14) sees that both language and culture are interdependent and neither can survive without the other since language is "the heart within the body of culture." The same idea is emphasized by Smith (2002: 45) who states that language is "a carrier of cultural messages." Contextually, Muhammad (1986: 7) believes that culture is dependent on language because people learn culture through language and culture survives through language. This emphasizes that it is rather difficult to separate the identities of both language and culture.

The idea of inseparable relationship between language and culture is

suggested strongly by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. Sampson (1980:

81-92) agrees with the Sapir-Whorf hypotheses which claims that language determines or at least influences thought and some non-linguistic behaviors. Hence, when language is a symbol of culture that reflects its literature, science, customs, values and even names of food items, the popularity of foreign languages and foreign terms in one culture may indicate a threat to both the national and cultural identities.

1.3. Translation and culture

Food culture first became an area of interest for translation studies as it shifted approach and orientation from linguistics to cultural, back in the 1970s. The importance of culture in translation is associated with the fact that translation is not merely an exercise at the language level, but also involves the cultures of the two peoples that can be close or remote.

Ricardo (2002: 92) presents the article of Juliane House, "Universality Versus Culture Specificity in Translation" where she introduces significant statements that highlight the importance of culture over language in translation. Such statements include "One does not translate languages but cultures. " and "In translation we transfer cultures not languages."

Nowadays, much attention is given to the cultural dimension in translation studies. According to Chan (2004: 52), translators ought to be sensitive to the cultural aspects which create much difficulty in translation.

The same idea is shared by Newmark (1988: 94-100) who believes that cultural focus usually causes translation problems due to the cultural "gap" or "distance" between the source and target cultures (SC) and (TC) respectively. This gap can be represented through a number of concepts, including terms of food or clothes to name a few, which are bound to the SC and have no equivalents in the TC. Such concepts or terms are usually known as culture-specific concepts (CSCs) or culture-bound terms (CBTs) Al-Harasi (2009) presents two different viewpoints concerning translation and culture. The first one considers the text as part of the culture to which it belongs and the purpose of translation is to introduce the SC to the target reader. As a result, translation should keep the norms and cultural aspects in order to enrich both the target language and culture. On the other hand, the second emphasizes the global nature of the text rather than the aspects of the source language or source culture (http://www.nizwa.com).

Somewhere in the middle between the two visions, stand some scholars such as Full (2004: 15) who considers the translator as a mediator who should take into consideration that the target reader has different cultural vocabulary. This process of mediation is expected to be affected by globalization and the position of English as a global language.

1.4. Translation and globalization Cornin (2003: 1) quotes Odell who states that "the new world is now the united states of the world and the 'English race' has conquered the globe."

Traditionally, scholars like Ray (1962: 187) and Brislin (1976: 38), both (qtd. in Muhammed, 1986: 13) define translation as a process of transferring meaning from one language to another and as a cross-cultural communication. This communication among different cultures, according to al-Tahtamouni (2006: 1), is a key factor that facilitates the exchange of the


and/or concrete aspects of globalization including products.

This can be fulfilled through communication which can prove difficult without translation. In other words, translation plays a rather important role as a bridge between cultures and languages that can make nations closer and, at the same time, help them to keep their identities and local colors. In her article, "Globalizing Translation.," Adewuni (n.d) indicates that both of globalization and translation deal with language and culture but their effects are the opposite. While translation brings people closer and helps communication and understanding between people of different cultural backgrounds, globalization gives the chance for a particular language or culture to dominate the world. (http://www.translationdirectory.com) Moreover, globalization can be responsible for the dominance of English borrowed words in other languages in addition to the overuse of sourceoriented translation strategies such as transliteration. In this context, Hornby, et. al. (1995: 188) refer to the article of Jettemorva et. al, "New Advertising Markets As Target Areas of Translation," in which they argue that "non-translation" or "zero translation" is an evidence of "linguistic imperialism and foreign cultural dominance." A clear example is in the dominance of the American life style through "the flood of borrowing" into the other languages. This point of view may explain the dominance of transliteration (borrowing) in translating food menus in four Arab cities as the study shows in the next chapters.

1.5. Food and globalization

Cornin (2003: 77) defines globalization as the "global movements and exchanges of people, commodities and ideas." The conclusion here is that commodities which include food items are symbols of globalization that carry both its values and effects. In this context, Ho (2008: 57-59) talks about three waves of globalization. The third, as identified by scholars, including Spybey (1996), Matres (2001), Talwar (2002) and Hopkins (2002), as "Americanization", "McDonalization", "Macworld" and "Cocacolonization."

Conflicting views about American food items consider them as a symbol of American style of life that threatens national cultures, and on the other hand they are seen as a sign of modernity and high social status.

However in the final analysis these American food items will remain examples of globalization that no doubt affect national cultures, and some might say have diverse effects on religious beliefs as well, through spreading the values of American culture

1.6. English as a global language

In our view it is legitimate to wonder why English is so dominant today. This has been a focal point for many scholars. Crystal (1997: 7-8) believes that the popularity of a particular language results from the political and/or economic power of a nation. This fact is clear in the case of English which becomes international following the strength of the British Empire during the nineteenth century and the growth of the American power in the last seven decades. Today English is used everywhere, in schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, hotels, media and the internet.

This is part of the role of English as a lingua franca of the global village that covers different fields such as science and technology and advertising.

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