«Translating Restaurants' Menus from English into Arabic: Problems and Strategies By Kefaya Adeeb Hafeth Saleh Supervisor Dr. Odeh Odeh Co-Supervisor ...»
A major source-oriented strategy that is widely used in translating menus and names of dishes is transliteration which is also known as borrowing or loan words. Campbell (2004: 63) defines a loan word as "a lexical item (a word) which has been 'borrowed' from another language, a word which originally was not part of the vocabulary of the recipient language but was adopted from some other languages and made part of the borrowing language's vocabulary." Campbell gives some examples such as "ketchup" which is acquired from Dutch "ketjap".
Pollard and Chan (2001: 1088) argue that transliteration (borrowing) has a big advantage of narrowing the distance between the target readers and the ST at least phonologically. It also helps translators to avoid misleading or confusing translations. In my view, transliteration could be seen to be better than inadequate translation or distortion such as the example of "ice cream" mentioned above. Yet, the overuse of transliteration could not be seen to be preferable since it produces target texts which are bound to the originals. Zhou (2008) criticizes the use of transliteration when translation is possible and meaning can be rendered in the target language. Another scholar who shares the idea is Chings (1966) who states "Translation when possible and transliteration when necessary" (qtd. in Pollard and Chan, 2001: 1089). This statement, by Chings, is significant since it may indicate that transliteration is not a translation while it is considered by most scholars as a strategy of translation. For Chings, transliteration is just to render the sound while translation is to render the meaning.
Considering the use of transliteration for food menus and names of
dishes, Gagansmo (2010) suggests three ways to translate names of dishes:
1- a photo of the dish, 2- transliteration of the name, and 3- translation plus description which can be a space for the translator's creativity. However, he believes that transliteration can be the ideal method to deal with names of some dishes such as "pizza" because no translation may be applicable in the target language. In addition, it is also expected that everybody knows what pizza is like (http://www.fourpxarticles.com). In the same context, Mahjub (2007) advises the use of transliteration with foreign names including proper names, clothes, food, drinks, furniture and other names that are not part of the Arab culture and that Arabs have never known before.
Therefore, Arabic has no equivalents for such names. In certain conditions, Mahjub supports using importation since it helps to enrich the language with a repertoire of words that express different fields (http://www.dahsha.com).
Still, the large number of transliterated food terms and names of dishes in restaurant menus and advertisements is a phenomenon that deserves to be studied. Fairwan (2007: 65) tries to give reasons for such a phenomenon. The reasons vary from ignorance and carelessness on the part of the translator to the influence of the American culture on other cultures including the Arab culture. However, the importation from other languages, in most conditions, does not happen randomly, or without a reason.
Therefore, some writers have investigated the issue in an attempt to find out the reasons that have produced different types of borrowing. Among these scholars are Campbell (2004: 64) and Scotton (2006: 212-216) who mention what they consider as the two primary reasons behind borrowing which are need and prestige. Whenever a language acquires a new concept, it borrows its foreign name along with it in order to fill gaps in the recipient language. In other situations, the foreign term is seen as highly-esteemed, so we find borrowings for prestige which are sometimes called ‘luxury’ loans. It is usually so because of the dominance of one language over another when two languages are spoken in the same community.
In the case of translation from English into Arabic, including that of food terms, Hanafi (2006) refers to the fact that a large number of borrowed foreign terms have invaded the Arabic language, especially in the last three decades. In fact, this phenomenon is not new. Full (2004: 13) states that the existence of foreign terms in the target text is as old as the history of translation itself. Translation has been seen as a way to enrich the language and the culture.
Al-Saqqa (2001: 5-14) distinguishes between two kinds of borrowings or loan words in Arabic. In the first kind, the word is Arabicized which means that it has all the characteristics of the original words in the target language such as derivations. The word telephone is a clear example of this kind. In the second type, the word is non-Arabicized which means that the borrowed word has only one form in the target language without the ordinary derivations such as plurals or verb forms. Following this classification, one can conclude that many foreign food terms such as "burger" " ", "pizza" " " and "ketchup" " " are nonArabicized since they do not have derivations, plurals or verb forms.
On the other hand, the target-oriented strategies such as adaptation, omission and addition adapt the ST to the TC in order to satisfy the intended recipients. Translators usually opt to use such strategies to achieve promotional functions, clarify unfamiliar concepts or specify products.
Hornby, et. al. (1995: 182-183) introduce an article by Smith and Braley who support the use of adaptation which carries out certain "tactical adjustment" to meet the audience's needs and expectations. In fact, adaptation is a preferable strategy from the point of view of many other scholars. Schaffner (2000: 333-336) shares a similar attitude towards adaptation and mediation in the process of translation because what is culturally appropriate for one community is not necessarily appropriate for another.
Similarly, Hatim (2001: 19-20) refers to the concept of adjustment that includes certain techniques such as addition, omission, and cultural substitution. These techniques can be very useful to clarify the intended meanings. Blum, et. al. (1997: 82) emphasize the need to add certain aspects by the translator whenever it is difficult to get accurate literal translation. Still, translators should not try to be helpful through overtranslation because interpretative translations may lead to mistranslation.
Furthermore, adaptation can be considered as a synonym of localization. In this context, Guidere (2006) stresses the conflict between two opposite strategies to deal with advertising texts including menus: the first one is internationalization (standardization) and the second, adaptation (localization), in which the translator should pay attention to social, religious and ethical norms and restrictions in dealing with linguistic and graphic elements of the text (http://www.wisegeak.com). In the case of food menus, there is a tendency towards having a standard translation. Still, some scholars criticize full standardization and call for a kind of balance with localization. For example, Zhou (2008) considers that standardizing a menu translation is a double-edged sword since it has both positive and negative effects. It removes ambiguity and misleading translations, but it takes away the rich connotations. Interestingly, he makes a simile between standardizing menu translation and plain rice which has necessary nutrients but without flavor (http://www.chinadaily.com).
When the SL term has a direct equivalent in the TL, both of transliteration and adaptation become unnecessary as literal translation can simply achieve the intended message. In such a case, it becomes the best, safest and most faithful strategy. Venuti (2000: 36), for instance, suggests literal translation when he says addressing translators, "be accurate, you have no license to change words that have plain one-to-one translation just because you think they sound better than the original..."
Translation is a process of decision making that starts with determining the type of the text and ends with choosing the suitable strategy to deal with a certain type of text taking into consideration all the micro - and macro-structure factors. Considering menus translation, the process seems to be more difficult due to the absence of sentence structure and the large number of odd names of dishes that are usually new and unknown in the target culture. In addition, the difficulty increases because of the double purpose of the menu as an informative text that should inform but in an advertising style that helps to achieve the commercial and aesthetic function. As a result, translators of menus should be careful in order to be able to give satisfactory translations. According to Gisslen (2010: 101), the misleading translation of menus can give a negative idea about the restaurant. It may indicate for customers that no care to wording and translation indicates no care to food cooking. Therefore, an appropriate translation is necessary whenever foreign food terms are included. This intended accurate translation can be achieved through using the appropriate procedures and strategies whether they are source-oriented strategies such as transliteration and borrowings or target-oriented strategies such as adaptation and localization. A certain strategy may be suitable on one occasion but unsuitable on another. Any strategy can be accurate when it is used for the right function and the right type of audience. The wrong choice causes mistakes or shortcomings that may destroy the message. To avoid this, translators need to think about all the aforementioned factors that affect translating food terms and menus to produce a successful and attractive translation.
The primary aim of this chapter is to clarify the methods and procedures used in this study. The sample of the study followed by the limitations of the study, data collection and data analysis are presented in this chapter.
3.1. Sample of the study The sample of the current study consists of 19 restaurant menus; all are bilingual and include English food terms with their Arabic translations.
The sample can be classified according to the type and the place of the restaurant.
Concerning the type, the menus are classified into two groups:
1. The first group represents the menus of foreign cuisines and branches of international food companies such as The American fast –food operations Subway and Pizza Hut. This group includes 11 menus.
2. The second group contains local Arab menus that include some international food items and dishes, such as "burger", "pasta" and "pizza".
This group is illustrated by 8 menus.
The sample is also distributed upon 4 Arab cities as the following: 12 menus from Amman in Jordan, 3 from Nablus and 1 from Ramallah in Palestine and 3 from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. (As indicated in Appendix B). The selected menus in the 4 cities involve some common fast-food items and international dishes. However, Amman has the biggest selection of menus because it is a capital city that has franchises of many international food companies which is not available in Nablus or Ramallah, for example.
3.2. Limitations of the study The selected menus for the study, though seem limited, are the most representative among the 95 menus which were collected by the researcher.
They are the only bilingual ones while the rest are monolingual, either English or Arabic. Moreover they represent different types of restaurants including franchises of some famous international food companies that introduce similar food items in many other Arab cities and countries.
Although the area of the study is limited to the four Arab cities,:
Nablus and Ramallah in Palestine, Amman in Jordan and Sharm-El-Sheikh in Egypt, it covers varied samples of expected customers either local customers or foreign tourists.
Finally, this study of menus translation focuses on the linguistic and cultural dimensions. However, other dimensions, such as the psycholinguistic and sociolinguistics, could be addressed by future studies.
3.3. Data collection The majority of the data of the current study were collected by the researcher herself from different restaurants and coffee shops that offer foreign food items and dishes in the city of Amman in Jordan and the cities of Nablus and Ramallah in Palestine. Only 3 menus, which are the ones from Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt, were taken from 2 Arabic printed books
concerning menus planning. The books are:
3.4. Procedures and data analysis By investigating the 19 menus, it has been noticed that translating menus is a complex task that is fraught with problems. In order to identify these problems and, may be, their causes, the researcher adopts the descriptive analysis approach by which the problems are described, discussed and illustrated with examples from the sample of the study. The analysis covers textual and graphic elements of the menu and compares English food terms and their Arabic translations. The analysis of the problems is usually followed by suggested solutions or translations. The suggested translations have been translated back into English.
Further, the description includes 7 strategies adopted in translating menus. These strategies are: transliteration (borrowing), literal translation, adaptation, addition, omission, translation by a more general word (superordinate) and translation by a more specific word (hyponym). The descriptive analysis of strategies is complemented with 2 personal interviews with a translator and a restaurant owner. The accuracy and faithfulness of the strategies are judged by the researcher who suggests alternative translations when it is useful or necessary.
Problems and Challenges of Translating Food Menus
4.1. Introduction Translating a food menu is not an easy task. It is a process of solving problems in order to create faithful, accurate and attractive translations.
This fact is the main concern of this chapter.
Having investigated the selected examples of food menus in Palestine, Jordan and Egypt and interviewed some translators and restaurant owners, the researcher was able to reach answers for the questions of the study.