«Translating Restaurants' Menus from English into Arabic: Problems and Strategies By Kefaya Adeeb Hafeth Saleh Supervisor Dr. Odeh Odeh Co-Supervisor ...»
3. Translated menus suffer from a number of weak choices and misleading renderings or multiple translations of the same concept.
6. Significance of the study Some studies concerning menus seem to focus on the language and characteristics of the menu. Yet very few, to the researcher's best knowledge, have directly dealt with issues related to translating menus and food terms from English into other languages, particularly Arabic.
Therefore, the significance of this study stems from the fact that it tackles a recent subject in the field of research. It addresses the problems and challenges of translating menus. It examines the problems focusing on brand names and problems related to non-equivalence in addition to ambiguity and sensitivity of some food terms. At the same time, it suggests solutions for some of these problems which may help improve the translation of menus and food terms.
Further, the study sheds light on the frequent strategies adopted in translating menus and food terms. It evaluates the strategies descriptively, thus highlighting the advantages and identifying the weak points of each strategy. It also attempts to find the reasons behind the misleading application of some strategies suggesting solutions and alternative translations where necessary. This analysis is aimed at helping translators read menus and choose rendering of food items more carefully. Hopefully, it will also help owners and managers of restaurants' owners to control and revise the translations of the menus of their restaurants giving the necessary attention to hiring translators and evaluating translations since owners of restaurants usually determine the commission for translating menus.
Finally, the study discusses the multiple translations of some food concepts and terms. This discussion includes the reasons such as dialects and synonyms. It also suggests solutions to deal with these multiple choices.
Following the previous theoretical background tackling menus from both linguistic and cultural dimensions and seeking to achieve the purposes of the study, the researcher makes use of few earlier studies and examples from different parts of world. These studies concerning problems and strategies of translating menus and food terms will be examined briefly in the next chapter.
Menus have been the focus of many researchers worldwide. Planning and designing the menu as a marketing tool have also been investigated while translating menus and food terms has received little attention. Since the current study focuses on translating food menus from English into Arabic, this chapter briefly presents some studies conducted on menus wording and translation. These studies tackle issues related to foreign terminology in menus, problems of translating menus and the strategies applied in translating food terms. This review is expected to support the researcher's arguments.
2.1. Menus planning and foreign terminology
Menus have been the subject of a number of studies. Some of these studies have questioned the use of foreign terminology in food menus.
Kreck (1988: 18-25) indicates that the use of foreign terminology in food menus is an "old phenomenon." In the past, any menu of prestige (i.e. a menu that denote something of superior quality), anywhere in the world, had to be written in French. However, there are two views concerning the use of foreign terminology in food menus. The first one emphasizes the importance of the menu as a mean of communication that should meet the expectations of customers from different backgrounds. In this context, James (1983: 2) encourages the use of multilingual menus to achieve the theme of communication. On the other hand, some scholars consider the use of foreign languages in local food menus as unnecessary act. For example, Eckestein (1983: 91) believes that it is not advisable to use a mixture of languages on the menu, as, for instance, English and French because, for many English guests, the French part is ‘Chinese’. This argument may justify the current discussion of issues related to borrowing and the reasons behind using foreign terms, mainly English, in food menus.
In the age of globalization, English terms are used frequently in local menus in Palestine and Jordan supporting the assumption that menus, historically, can be considered as witnesses of societies and their styles of life.
McVety and Ware (1990: 45-47) and Abu Tour (2005: 127-135) identify the factors that affect menu planning such as nationality, age, level of income and religious restrictions on the part of the customer. Other factors are related to the meal itself including flavor, texture, shape and colors. All these factors can determine the quality of the menu. This quality necessarily varies amongst high- class and popular restaurants. In fact, the image of the restaurant has a strong impact on the menu. Davis, et al.
(1998: 267) state that in quality restaurants the menus are usually a l carte and written in French. The researcher also noticed that most menus of claimed high-class restaurants in Amman and Ramallah are written in English only as a sign of high standard and quality.
2.2. The importance of translating menus The final aim of the whole process of translation is the receptor. Hatim and Munday (2004: 163) indicate the significant role of the receptor. They consider satisfying the receptor as the main factor that judges the adequacy of translation.
In the case of menus translation, the aim at satisfying the receptors' expectations is clear. Therefore, translating food menus is very important and necessary. The researcher agrees with Libman (2009) who argues that "It is a big difference that menu translation can make" (http://www.onehourtranslation.com). Whenever customers visit a restaurant and the menu offered is understandable and the foreign names are translated correctly, they are more likely to order and to become regular customers because of the positive feedback. In this context, Libman (2009) stresses the importance of translating aspects of food and beverage, saying, "It would be ideal if you are able to provide your patrons, especially foreigners, with a menu translation." Moreover, he calls for a professional translation which can be an ideal way to increase the sales and to give the restaurant a significant edge over the competitors (http://www.onehourtranslation.com). The same call is shared by Liao (2008: 1) who raises the need for specialized translators for food translation (http://www.standford.edu).
The call for professional translation is due to the fact that translating menus and food terms is not an easy task as one may think. The difficulty increases whenever there is a cultural gap between the source culture and the target culture. Al Tanero (2005) emphasizes that menus are tricky and that their translation requires not just knowledge of the two languages but also a deep sense of localization. This knowledge is necessary because translating foreign food terms can be very difficult. Al Tanero quotes Naqvy who comments on the difficulty of translating some food items such as wines and cheeses saying "not many people, including knowledgeable translators, may have ever tasted, seen or heard about many wines or cheeses." (http://www.multilingual.com).
Concerning the theme of communication in translating menus, HuaYing (2008: 21-26) suggests the application of skopos theory in terms of translation of dishes and food names. Skopos theory, which is a translation approach, proposed by Reiss and Vermeer in the late 1970s, believes that the purpose is the main factor that determines the shape of the target text. Yung (Ibid: 24-26) tries to explain the relationship between skopos theory and translating food names following the function.
A translated menu is expected to achieve four main functions that represent the basics of skopos theory. These functions are the informative, aesthetic, commercial and cultural functions. In the application, a translated menu should keep the characteristics and the style of the dish for the informative function. Moreover, it should be done as a work of art (on the basis of aesthetic function).Moreover the use of adaptation techniques to fill the cultural gap and to produce satisfactory translations that facilitate communication can achieve both of the commercial and cultural functions taking into consideration that translation is intercultural communication (http://www.linguist.org.cn).
2.3. Common problems and suggested solutions in menus translation
Translating menus creates many problems due to either linguistic or cultural factors such as the difference in vowel system, non-equivalence and sensitive terms or taboos. Such problems increase the difficulty of translating menus and highlight the need for solutions through using the appropriate translation procedures and strategies. The problems that translators of menus face are varied. Penny Marinou (n.d.) explains the reasons that make translating recipes and menus a big challenge. First, a dish on the menu has to inform the customer and has to be sound appetizing. Second are the dialect differences, such as those between British and American English, for example, aubergine in British English and eggplant in American English. Finally is the translator's total ignorance of the object of food and lack of cultural knowledge. Therefore, translators should have knowledge, taste and concern in the field.
Further, Liao (2008: 1-3) mentions what he considers the main problems of translating menus in China. The first problem is the odd names of dishes which a normal translator cannot handle. Another problem is related to useless additions. For example, ‘fried’ or ‘deep fried’ can mean the same thing most of the time and ‘deep’ can be a useless word (http://www.stanford.edu). However, this argument is not necessarily true since some adjectives, such as ‘deep’, can achieve emotive functions indicating a high level of frying.
Another main problem is related to culture-specific concepts (CSCs).
A CSC is defined, according to Baker (1992: 21), as a "concept which is totally unknown in the target culture. The concept in question may be abstract or concrete; it may relate to a religious belief, a social custom or even a type of food." According to Ordudari (2007: 1-5), it is a big challenge for translators to deal with CSCs accurately. For example, the term "hotdog", "burger", and "nuggets" are totally unknown in the Arab culture. Therefore, the terms are usually borrowed with the concept itself.
Furthermore, Newmark (1981: 39) points out another problem of translation, namely overtranslation. It is when the TT includes more meanings than do exist in the ST usually for emotive purposes. For example, the phrase "Extra loaded pizza" is translated into " ". The adjective ' ' meaning ' crispy' does not exist in the ST and it is an example of overtranslation. Meanwhile, AlTahtamouni (2006: 62-63) identifies the problem of the use of non-frequent lexical items which might be correct but do not achieve the aim of easy communication. Translators may follow this technique to prove their linguistic abilities. (See chapter IV. 4.4. p. 56) The discussion of the problems cannot be isolated from the search for solutions. Some scholars suggest a number of simple, easy and direct solutions. For example, Martin (n.d.) suggests a universally translated menu to help customers avoid unpleasant food surprises. In this context, he prepares ten small guides describing famous universal dishes (http://goeurope.about.com).
Similarly, Eckestein (1983: 92) encourages the use of a standard dictionary of food terms which enables translators to get familiar with foreign food terms that are used frequently. Another solution is proposed by Kotschevar and Withrow (2007: 100) who focus on giving descriptions with visual factors such as pictures that help to clarify without unnecessary exaggerations. Some writers emphasize the importance of knowledge not only on the part of the translators but also on the part of the customers themselves. Fernandez (2007: 2-3) believes that there are some international dishes that people from different cultures should know. This knowledge is essential for customers, especially when they intend to travel, or visit a high-class restaurant. Still, the best solution can be in the choice of the accurate translation strategy on a given commission. Interestingly, Darwish (2003: 73-74) states that there is no "right" or "wrong" translation. Moreover, no translation is better than the other, but the idea is summarized in the right choice of the suitable translation procedure that could be effective in relevance to the purpose of the translated product. The same idea is shared by Sahu (n.d.) who ensures that there is nothing like ultimate or accurate translation. The writer quotes Seleskovitch, an analyst of translation who says "everything said in one language can be expressed in another"(http://www.creativessaplings.com).
2.4. Source-oriented strategies vs. target- oriented strategies
The primary strategies of translation are either source oriented such transliteration (borrowing) or target oriented such as adaptation and cultural substitution. While source–oriented strategies produce TTs which are bound to the original STs and the target-oriented strategies are close to the TC norms and values, literal translation is neutral and faithful. However, no one strategy is ideal in all contexts. A strategy which is successful in one context can be misleading or confusing in another. Therefore, the choice of the suitable strategy for each lexical item is the central mission of the translator. The different points of view concerning each strategy prove the importance of the decision- making process. For example, the term "'ice cream" is usually translated in Palestine or Jordan as " ". However, such translation can be misleading in other countries such as Egypt where the word " " is an old name for "wine". Here, transliteration as " " becomes preferable. On the other hand, transliteration can be misleading or meaningless such as the example of "sauce" which was examined earlier in this research.