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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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In this context, Schaffner (2000:48) states that "It leads consumer culture."

In fact, there are two views towards the dominance of English in our everyday activities including the food industry. The first view, according to Crystal (1997: 114-115), rejects the status of English because it threatens the national identity of other nations where language is the primary symbol of identity. Those who advocate for this view see English as an invader seeking to control the planet. In the Middle East, where English is widely used by Arabs, many scholars criticize this phenomenon. Al-Qatri (2009) argues that those who refer to things by their "foreign" names including names of food stuffs violate their own national identity (http://www.qatarim.com). Meanwhile I stand by this view and see that this is a result of lack of confidence in the Arabic language. Khoust (2010), on the other hand, sees that many customers in the Arab world don't consider Arabic as the language of the age. Therefore, there is a tendency to weaken national identity which leads to a habit of westernization that includes customs, clothes and food (http://www.manfacta.com). These antiglobalization ideas are recognized by many scholars, Arab and foreign alike. For example, Ho (2008: 62) refers to the continuous resistance from people who feel the danger to their local cultures and values. The same indication is made by Samha (2005) who adds that the fear of the threat of the American culture's control of consumer needs, desires and ways of life leads to the conclusion that "Americanization" and "globalization" are synonymous.

Yousef (2004) considers the dominance of English as a process of destroying culture and creating "empty personalities" with false affiliation to a global community (west) which causes the loss of national identity.

Moreover, he suggests that strict laws be issued to make it illegal to use foreign names and terms in all fields of specialization.

(http://www.saaid.net). However, Inglis (2005: 125-132) accepts the idea of interaction between "local" and "global" factors whereby people can keep their thoughts and values in spite of global factors.

It may be true that foreign terms help to enrich the target language and solve some translation problems. However, the overuse of English names for prestigious aims may raise the question of national identity and create cultural and/or linguistic problems in translation. This fact increases the importance of the decision-making process. Food industry, food habits, menus and names of dishes, could be considered as clear example where the globalization of the English language has its worldwide impact. Hence, we cannot assign translating menus as a cultural study nor as a linguistic one, as the cultural aspects and globalization play a central role in such an issue.

1.7. The Menu Menus can be considered as one of the related and the most significant example of food culture. In this context, Robert Robinson, a BBC television reporter, argues that "The national Dish of America is Menu."


1.7. 1. Definition of the Menu There are several definitions for food menus. These definitions can be classified into two types. The first type defines a menu as just a list of dishes, while the second type refers to its advertising theme. A traditional definition of a menu is given by Andrews (2007: 95) that a menu is "the range of food and beverage items offered in a food service outlet." On the other hand, some scholars stress the importance of attractive design to

advertise the food operation. For example, Ann and Arnold Zwicky (n.d.:

88), in their article" America's National Dish", define menu as "a sort of list usually subdivided according to the traditional parts of the meal accompanied with a descriptive part to give information about the dish in order to attract the customers (http://www.translationdirectory.com).

Other definitions, by some Arab scholars, give more importance to the theme of the menu as a central point in the art of food service. Manal alKhouli (2002: 15) defines a menu as a group of food dishes and types that have a certain order following the norms of cooking and they are served in a significant design that can achieve the intended purpose(s). Considering the origin of the word "menu", Abu-Tour (2005: 124) says that it is a French adjective which means "a detailed list". Meanwhile, he believes that a menu should be attractive, appealing and priced correctly.

1.7. 2. Role of the menu The menu has a very important role for both customers and food operations. Kotschevar and Withrow (2007: 23) emphasize the double function of the menu. For customers, it is a list of offerings and dishes that facilitates their choices of food items, while for operators and owners, it is "a strategic document that defines the purpose of the establishment and every phase of the operation." The previous statement indicates the importance of the menu for a food service which widely depends on the menu to improve sales and to sound unique. In this context, McVety and J.

Ware (1990: vi) state that "The menu is the backbone of a food service operation." The same idea is shared by Andrews (2007: 118) who considers the menu a symbol of the identity and the theme of the restaurant.. It is the soul of the restaurant that represents its signature. At the same time; it is a tool to advertise the restaurant. The role of the menu, in brief, is "to promote, advertise and inform."

The role of the menu has developed through time according to Shur (2008) who presents one example considering the development of menus in Russia after the Soviet era. The writer focuses on the move from dealing with the menu as an informative text that merely lists the dishes to an advertising text that intends to attract the customers' minds and emotions through words and pictures and even through the use of famous Russian figures.

All the previous quotations, and examples, show the importance of the menu as a central factor in the marketing policy of any food operation Depending on this fact, owners and operators have begun to pay more attention to the planning, designing and translation of menus. Their final aim is to produce attractive and appealing menus following the old Arabic proverb that says ‘People eat with their eyes.’

1.7.3. The menu as a text type

Texts are usually classified according to the functions and the purposes they aim at achieving. For example, menus aim at both informing as well as

persuading. There are three traditional classifications of texts:

informative, expressive and operative texts. According to Jurate (2006:

257-271), the menu as a text, is made for a specific purpose and a specific audience. It has a double function; it is an informative text that tells the customers what they need to know about the dishes available. Meanwhile, it is a means of advertising aimed at expressing the restaurant's image and the culture of the country (http://www.ceeol.com). The same idea is shared by Ann and Arnold. Zwicky (n.d.: 83) who examine American – restaurant menus as genre where the provided information and the words used reflects the informative and advertising functions of the menu. The idea that the menu is a text with a double function leads to the conclusion that it is a hybrid text that has more than one function and that shifts frequently from one function to another based on Hatim and Mason definition of a hybrid text.(1990: 146-147).

1.7.4. Linguistic characteristics of menus

The language of a menu seems to represent the standard of the restaurant. It also seems to depict the sophistication of the meals offered.

Ann and Arnold Zwicky (n.d.: 83-99) emphasize the use of adjectives to advertise dishes rather than a description of them. Such adjectives include fresh, new, delicious and super. Moreover, past participle modifiers, such as boiled are widely used while some of them such as topped or dipped have advertising functions to attract the customers. Ann and Arnold summarize the language of the menu in one statement that says: "A menu supplies its information in a list of noun phrases, heavy with modifying past participles such as topped and dipped, often larded with appealing adjectives like rich, crispy, special and fresh."


In our view menus share the features of advertisements, and hence the language used in them has the characteristics of the language of advertising. Wallace (1981: 267-286), in his article "How Registers Register," makes a brief analysis of the language of advertising. It usually involves the use of simple, informal, personal, friendly and easy-to-read style, in addition to the use of descriptive adjectives, verbs, adverbs and nouns to highlight and exaggerate a situation. For example, the adjectives such as special, famous and supreme can be necessary because they add color and feeling. This idea of simplicity is shared by Donnell and Tod (qtd in Jarjeis, 1989: 12) as they point out that the language of the menu should be simple, drawn from everyday, colloquial language. On the other hand, some scholars call for sophistication of the language. Among them is Al Tanero (2005) who considers that menus should be flowery in their language to indicate the high standard of the food operations which they represent. The use of foreign terms can be useful as they are part of the knowledge of the elites and because they sound better (http://www.multilingual.com).

1.7.5. Non-linguistic characteristics of menus

A menu is not only words. According to Davis, et al. (2008: 267), it is a complete design that includes color, shape and size. All these elements, in our view, should be taken into consideration to produce a satisfactory menu which should be attractive, interesting, clean, accurate, simple and easy to read. Therefore, attention should be given to the layout and design of the menu to improve its features. Eckestein (1983: 214-217) and Lawson (1994: 159) are among several scholars who try to determine the general characteristics of a "good menu". While Eckestein talks about variety, balance and truth, Lawson mentions attractiveness and accuracy in a friendly style. The style, which includes size, shape and quality of paper, should agree with the market strategy of the food service. Under no condition should the menu be over-elaborate nor too short. However, elaboration can be preferable to avoid unpleasant surprises. According to Kotschevar and Withrow (2007: 100), "It is probably better to give too much information than too little." Thus lack of clear and truthful description may cause misleading choices, which is unfair to customers and can cause them never to come back.

1.7.6. Translation of menus

Not only wording but also translation of restaurants menus is very important because a professionally translated menu can improve the image of the restaurant and help to avoid intercultural miscommunication.

Considering translating menus from English into Arabic, there are serious problems related to cultural specific concepts, odd names of dishes, logos and brand names. The strategies used to solve such problems are varied.

They are mainly transliteration (borrowing) which usually produces target texts culturally bound to their originals. Unfortunately, few studies tackle the issue of translating menus, especially from English into Arabic.

Therefore, this study tries to identify certain problems of translating food menus and the strategies used to solve them in an attempt to judge their appropriateness. The main problems and the questions of the study will be discussed in the following sections.

2. Statement of the problem

Translating menus is a problematic issue that causes problems related to brand names, CSCs, sensitive and ambiguous terms. The fact that some food items are totally unknown in Arab culture causes both cultural and linguistic problems. The multi-functions of menus increase the difficulty of translating them. It is a complex process of decision making based on knowledge and taste on the part of the translator. Most of the translated menus we have examined are very close to the original STs. The translated versions abound with borrowed terms. Some even sound foreign due to the overuse of transliteration of foreign names of food items. Moreover, some menus suffer of poor translations, wrong choice of lexical items, or misleading translations either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, the word "sauce" transliterated as " " is usually confused in Arabic with the word "chick". This example indicates the importance of choosing the suitable strategy for each food term. Moreover, the multiple translations of some concepts may reveal the influence of some extra-linguistic factors related the region, the type of the expected audience and other environmental factors.

3. Purposes of the study

This study attempts to identify the problems of translating restaurants menus and food terms from English into Arabic taking into consideration the various components of the menu, such as the brand name, CSCs and even neutral food terms. Further, the study evaluates the main strategies used in solving such problems focusing on the advantages and weaknesses of these strategies and suggesting alternative translations where it is necessary and possible. It also identifies the reasons behind various translations of some terms.

4. Questions of the study

The study aims at answering the following questions:

1. What are the main problems and challenges that face translators of restaurants' menus?

2. Are the common strategies used in translating menus and food terms adopted appropriately?

3. Does the dominance of transliteration and borrowed terms in menus result from need or/ and prestige?

4. What are the reasons behind multiple translations of some food terms?

5. Hypotheses of the study In the light of the previous studies, in addition to personal

experience, the researcher has set the following hypotheses:

1. Translating food menus may cause certain problems related mainly to brand names and CSCs.

2. The strategies used for translating menus are mainly transliteration (borrowing) and literal translation vs. adaptation techniques.

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