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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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Since the choice of the suitable translation strategy to deal with a particular concept or term is an individual decision that depends on the translators' tastes and skills in addition to the environmental factors around them, one concept or term may have two or more different and equally valid translations due to different reasons. The following section sheds some light on such varieties and multiple translations

5.9. Multiple translations of the same concept There is a strong belief that one word can have more than one correct translation following different translations strategies. There are different reasons for multiple translations. The primary reasons are related to the TL regional dialects, the different synonyms of the same concept, the semantic ambiguity of some terms and the tendency towards the SL-oriented strategies. Let's discuss the reasons in detail depending on the analysis of the examples selected from the sample of the study that includes 27 cases of various renderings 5.9.1. The TL regional dialects Language varieties refer to "subtypes of a language on the basis of their differences from one another in terms of pronunciation, lexical choice, grammar…." (www.hawaii.edu).

They include the regional dialects that form a main reason behind several renderings of the same term. The regional dialect is not a distinct language but a variety of a language spoken in a particular area.

(www.hawaii.edu). Dialect is defined by Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia as "a version of language differing in some aspects of grammar, pronunciation, or vocabulary from other forms of the same language."


Arabic is a rich language that has many regional dialects such as Egyptian Arabic, Palestinian Arabic, and so on. This variety affects the process of translating restaurant menus and food items. The fact that the sample of the study covers the area of Palestine, Jordan and Egypt justifies the different renderings of the same food item that can be attributed to the differences between Palestinian and Jordanian Arabic, on one side, and Egyptian Arabic, on the other side. Moreover, some differences are ascribed to the variety in modern-standard Arabic and colloquial spoken Arabic. The following table introduces examples of regional dialects in

food terms rendering:

Table (14): multiple translations due to regional dialect.

–  –  –

Obviously, the different translations of the same concept are all acceptable and reliable, but one is more suitable for a particular area than for another. In other words, the use of the local dialect in a region is more attractive and emotive for customers. It shows the customers' identity and local color. At the same time, it supports the informative function of the menu as the regional dialect can convey the message better. For example, the adjective " " is unfamiliar in Jordan or Palestine as a synonym of " ", while it is the term frequently used in Egypt. The same can be said of " " and " ", where the first is common in Jordan and Palestine, and the second, in Egypt. It is widely expected to find customers in Palestine or Jordan who have no idea what " " refers to.

Therefore, it is a wise decision to use the familiar term in a particular area even though both translations are accurate.

Moreover, the lexical term in one dialect can be more emotive than another term that refers to the same concept, in other dialects. For instance, the Egyptian Arabic term " " is more emotive than its synonym in Palestine, " ". It goes to the extreme in frying. In this sense, it is connected with good taste and image, which makes it more appellative.

Further, some multiple translations of food items are related to the variety in standard Arabic and colloquial dialects. A clear example to represent the idea is that of "soup" which is rendered as " " and " ", where the first is a formal term belonging to standard Arabic and the second is an informal colloquial term. The use of a standard term may indicate the high level and status of the restaurant. Meanwhile, this is against the viewpoint discussed in Chapter I that the language of the menu should be simple and informal.

5.9.2. Translation by different synonyms in the TL Synonyms are two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all their senses (www.answers.com).

Arabic is a rich language that usually has different synonyms for the same concept. This is why translators have trouble finding an adequate translation. Several translations are possible for the same concept without change in meaning. In such a case, multiple translations are just a matter of taste and individual choice on the part of translators depending on the commission and the type of the expected audience. Next are few examples

of translation by synonyms:

Table (15): multiple translations by synonyms.

–  –  –

Clearly, different translations of the same food item can be used alternatively without message distortion. For example, the term "shrimp" has two counterparts in Arabic which are " " and " " that represent the same concept. The translator's taste determines the choice between the two equivalents. This is also true for all the other examples.

The slight differences, if any, do not change the meaning or the intended message. Both of " " and " " refer to the same bird which makes both accurate and faithful.

5.9.3. Lexical ambiguity of some terms

Some SL terms are semantically complex or ambiguous in that they have two meanings in the TL. Such terms usually have multiple translations; each one is suitable in a certain context. Let's take the example of "hot" for more clarification. The term is rendered differently in two different menus. The first translation " " is the opposite of "cold", while the other translation as " " meaning "chili". The two Arabic terms represent two different states of the food. "hot" food is not necessarily "chili food" and vice versa. This is why translators should have good knowledge of the dishes they are rendering to avoid confusing translations.

5.9.4. The overuse of transliteration One major reason behind multiple translations is the overuse of transliteration vs. other strategies such as literal translation and adaptation.

Although transliteration is used for need in many cases, it is, more likely, used for prestige. In the age of globalization and under the dominance of English as a global language, transliteration becomes a sign of modernity and high status. It occupies the menus of restaurants despite the fact that direct counterparts are available in Arabic. The following table includes

several examples of transliteration vs. literal translation:

–  –  –

Obviously, the overuse of transliteration in the previous examples is attributed to the assumption that foreign names sound better and more prestigious than local names. It is a matter of lack of trust in Arabic.

Otherwise, what is the justification of using " " instead of " " which is a clear, direct and precise equivalent for "cheese"? The same can be said of all the examples included in the previous table. From the researcher's point of view, whenever literal translation is possible and successful, transliteration is unjustifiable.

In some cases, the direct equivalents are not available in Arabic. Still, there is a space for translation by target –oriented strategies, such as adaptation. Next are some examples of transliteration vs. adaptation Table (17): transliteration vs. adaptation.

–  –  –

Although transliteration, here, is, somehow, justifiable, there is a viewpoint which says that transliteration should not be used unless translation is impossible which is not the case in the examples mentioned above. (See Chapter I). Those who support this viewpoint tend to produce the second translation such as " " for "spring rolls".

Others who prefer the safe side are expected to use transliteration as " ". Such varieties are intentional following translators' tendencies and the commission given to them.

To sum up, menus are rich in food terms and unfamiliar names of dishes that are not easy to be rendered from English into Arabic. In their attempts to judge such terms, translators adopt different strategies that are either source-oriented strategies such as transliteration or borrowing, or target-oriented strategies including adaptation, addition and omission.

Sometimes strategies are applied appropriately and successfully. In other cases, they are mistakenly applied mostly as a result of lack of attention and careless reading of phrases or sentences, or translator's inefficiency and search for prestige.

Further, the fact that more than one strategy can be suitable for rendering a certain term is significant. It leads to a number of varieties in translation of the same concept under the influence of some linguistic issues, such as the regional dialects, or the semantic ambiguity of certain lexical items, in addition to some environmental factors. Translators should do their best to choose the suitable strategy for each food term taking into consideration customers' expectations. The next chapter concludes the data analysis. The recommendations at the end of next chapter will, the researcher hopes, facilitate and improve the process of translating menus.

–  –  –

In the last chapter of this thesis, it is appropriate to sum up the findings reached. It is also useful to include a set of recommendations by the researcher for further research in the field of menus translation. The recommendations address researchers, translators and food companies.

6.1. Conclusions Upon the careful analysis of the data collected for the research in addition to the interviews carried out by the researcher, she has come up

with the following conclusions:

1. Translating restaurants' menus and foreign food terms from English into Arabic is not an easy task since it creates big challenges and problems either linguistically and/or culturally.

2. Translating food menus is a decision-making process joined with taste and knowledge.

3. The study identifies the main problems of translating food menus including brand names, proper names, slogans, CSCs, ambiguous food terms and taboos.

4. Non-equivalence is a primary source for problems in translating food menus especially the odd names of dishes with which translators, even professionals, are unfamiliar. This requires maximum effort in search depending on specialized dictionaries or personal interviews. Otherwise, borrowing is preferable to avoid inaccurate translations.

5. Translating a food menu is a problem-solving process in which many terms, though seeming simple for the first impression, are problematic or ambiguous which urge the translator to pay attention for every single term.

Some terms might be semantically related that they are similar in most aspects. Therefore, they need a lot of focus and knowledge to be distinguished and translated accurately.

6. Some food terms have cultural or religious connotations which make them sensitive in translation requiring enough attention on the part of the translator to produce acceptable translations that respect the cultural and religious values of the target audience.

7. There are seven strategies that are used in translating restaurants' menus.

The strategies are either source-oriented such as transliteration (borrowing) or target – oriented such as adaptation, addition and translation by a more general or specific word (super ordinate and hyponym). Neutral strategies such as literal translation are also adopted frequently in translating food terms.

8. Transliteration (borrowing) is the most common strategy in translating menus which illustrates the continuous dominance of English as a global language and as a symbol of modernity and prestige.

9. Any strategy of translation is significant in many cases when it can achieve many functions such as clarification, specification or adaptation.

However, if the strategy is adopted mistakenly, it can cause message distortion or unfaithful translation. It may also be counted as an example of over translation or as a translation error.

10. Pictures are helpful aids to clarify the meaning of some semantically related terms or odd names of dishes. They help to specify the product, attract the customers and compensate for the lack of equivalent.

11. A term may have more than one accurate and faithful translation, but one translation is more appellative and appropriate in the case of food production.

12. The multiple translations of the same concept are noticeable in Arabic.

They are usually attributed to the variety in the TL regional dialects, the synonyms in the TL, the lexical ambiguity of some terms and the over use of transliteration. The translators' examination of such factors enables them to choose the most appropriate translation in each case.

6.2. Recommendations

Although the researcher is still a student, she finds herself in a position to give some recommendations in the light of the previous conclusions.

These recommendations might be useful since the search in the field of

menus translation is still new and fresh. Here are the recommendations:

1. The corpus of the study could be increased in order to reach more specific and significant conclusions. Moreover, a larger corpus is expected to make the results more reliable.

2. The area of the study could be widened to include other Arab countries that are more conservative,

3. Researchers are recommended to study menus translation from a sociolinguistic and a psycholinguistic approach in order to explain translators' choices and interpretations of customers' needs.

4. Menus translators should be qualified enough and their knowledge in the field of menus translation should be accompanied by the necessary interest of food products.

5. Menus translators are advised to consult specialized reference books and dictionaries in order to be able to solve problems and translate accurately.

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