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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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Therefore, she concentrates, in this chapter, on analyzing and discussing the main problems and challenges that face menus translators. This chapter tackles both cultural and linguistic problems and challenges that increase the level of difficulty in translating menus. Brand names as well as CSCs cause the major problems, in addition to the problem of synonyms or semisynonyms. Many examples from the sample of the study are included to illustrate the problems. The details of the problems are discussed in a descriptive style while the problematic elements along with their solutions are evaluated. In some cases, alternative translations are being suggested by the researcher.

4.2. Logos and brand names Mohammad (2006) defines a brand as "a name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors." (www.atida.com). The American Marketing Association gives a similar definition for a logo as" a word, phrase or graphic, that is used as a continuing symbol for a company, organization or a brand "(www.hooverwebdesign.com). However, the logo usually represents the graphic elements of the brand. Sometimes the brand name itself can be a logo through the way it is written such as Coca Cola and the following


Figure (1) the logo of Coca Cola. (http://www.logoblog.org).

In all conditions, the brand name should be simple, appellative and easy to be pronounced and remembered.

A good brand name can be very effective in different communities.

Some international brand names have become parts of many languages such as Arabic. Many people, for example, use the word Pepsi instead of cola although Pepsi is a brand name. Therefore, food and beverage companies pay great attention to their brand names and the best way to transfer them to the target markets through translation. Some writers including Lamb (2009: 141), Onkvisit and Shaw (2008: 393) and AlShehari (2001: 216) suggest the standardization and transliteration of brand names to keep the strength of the brands and to avoid confusing translations. However, brand names can be adapted to the TL and the TC to remove any negative connotations and to keep national identity. Boden (2008: 196) mentions some examples of rendering international brand names in China such as Coca Cola which is translated as Ke Kou Kele meaning" Joyful taste and happiness" Concerning the translation of 9 selected brand names used by 9 of the most famous international food companies and operations in Jordan, in the sample transliteration is used 8 times (around 88.8%) while adaptation is used only once (around 11.2%). A careful analysis of the translations reveals that the adopted strategies may cause problems in the TL. In the following few pages the researcher tends to clarify some of these problems and the techniques used to solve them. Moreover, she suggests some slight changes to improve translation and to achieve the intended message.

4.2.1. Proper names of people and places

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1986: 1016) defines a proper noun (or a proper name) as a word that names a person, a place or institution. Proper names refer to specific referents and serve to distinguish a particular individual from others. Some brand names include proper names of people or places which can constitute a major problem in translation. In fact, it is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to render brand names which are proper names. Harvey and Higgins (1992: 29), Newmark (1988: 214) and Vermeer (2003: 89) argue that proper names shouldn't be translated unless they have special connotations in the text.

They suggest either copying or transliteration to render brand names. In the sample of the study, there are 4 brand names which are, completely or partially classified as proper names. Transliteration is successfully used to

render the brands in spite of some shortcomings. Here are the examples:

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Figure (2a), (2b), The brand Figure (2c), (2d), (2e) and (2f). Proper names used name of McDonald's and its in brand names of three international food transliteration in Arabic companies. See Appendices.


Let's take the example of Tuscana Pasta in which the word "Tuscani" refers to "pasta" which comes from "Tuscana" a region in Italy. "Tuscana" is a proper name that has no equivalent in Arabic, so it is transliterated into " " and the whole brand is rendered as " ". Although the term "pasta" has a possible equivalent in Arabic as ‘ ’ which is also originally foreign but still more familiar in the Arab culture. The transliteration of the brand name remains the preferable procedure to keep the rights of the original producers and to avoid imitation of the product or different translations of the same brand name which may affect the reliability of the product and the food operation. However, the researcher suggests the addition of the word ‘ ’ meaning ‘Italian’ to emphasize the origin of this type of pasta. It can also help to attract customers since Italy is the original source of pasta. The final translation could be ". " In other examples, the proper names are copied in their original language and script. Harvey and Higgins (1992: 29) call for exoticism in which the noun remains unchanged from the SL to the TL. Such a strategy proves that no translation is possible for a brand name which is defined as a proper name. For example, the brand Sbarro, which is a chain of pizza restaurants in New York that specializes in traditional Italian cuisine, is named after the founders of the restaurant, Gennaro and Carmela Sbarro (www.fundinguniverse.com). The name and the logo are copied into the TL because translation is impossible and transliteration as ‘ ’ can add nothing. On the contrary, it may create confusion between Sbarro as a name of a food company and as a name of a famous Japanese car.

However, transliteration and copying are not limited to proper names; they are widely used in translating brand names, such as the following examples

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Figure (3a) The brand name Figures (3b) and (3c) The brand name of Burger King and of a Subway. See appendix its transliteration in Arabic. See Appendix b.


In the example of Subway, transference helps to avoid meaningless or misleading translation that may result from literal translation. The brandname Subway can be literally translated as ‘ ’ or ‘ ’ (al-Mawrid Dictionary, 2005: 925). Such translations will sound laughable and meaningless since they tell nothing about the product, in addition to the fact that both of the literal translations are not attractive enough as brand names of a food company.

Sometimes the transference of logos and brand names in English is due to the fact that emblems (icons) may be more effective than written names, especially for logos being translated into many alphabets. In other words, the design of the logo along with the way a brand name is written can compensate for translation by words Figure (4) The brand name of Chili House.( See appendix B.) The way the word "Chili" is written, with the picture of peppers, indicates that the meals are "spicy" and the logo is drawn in the shape of a house. Here, pictures can say more than words.

Another significant example is that of Burger King. Although the brand can be translated nicely as " ", which means "The king of meat.", it is always transliterated in order to keep the foreign spirit of the name based on the assumption that people usually know such famous brands and that there is no one possible and reliable translation in the TL.

By time, customers become familiar with the brands. They will easily remember and distinguish them. Translators usually have no license to change brand names which makes the researcher hesitate to suggest alternative translations for the brands in question 4.2.2. Differences in vowel systems between English and Arabic that cause mispronunciation The tendency toward transliterating brand names may cause some linguistic problems and reveal the negative face of transliteration. Let's take

the following example:

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Here, the brand name Pizza Hut is transliterated as " ". Some Arab customers whose English is poor may confuse the pronunciation of hut /h t/ and hot /h t/. Many of them think that pizza Hut means " " which is ‘hot Pizza’. A lot of people, in the city of Jenin, told the researcher that there is a franchise of Pizza Hut in Jenin. The researcher decided to visit the place to find that it is a local restaurant named ‘Pizza Hot.’ The main reason behind such ambiguity is the difference in the vowel system between English and Arabic. Vowels are independent letters in English while they are represented through diacritical marks in Arabic.

This fact leads to mispronunciation of some terms along with a change in meaning. For example, the transliterated word " " may be pronounced as / h t/ which means" a small building, often made of wood." (Longman Dictionary, 1989: 301), or as / h t / which means "having a certain degree of heat. "(Ibid: 295). The two meanings are completely different. To remove such ambiguity the researcher suggests adding the necessary diacritical mark to the Arabic transliteration. The final translation of the brand Pizza Hut could be " ". The logo that illustrate hut helps to clarify the meaning. Despite the fact that some customers whose English is poor may not prefer such a translation that sounds foreign, it seems to be the best rendering. It is not advisable to make big changes in translating brand names because different versions of the brand weaken its fame and specialty. (AL-Shehari, 2001: 3). The researcher tends to agree with this opinion

4.2.3. Cultural and religious connotations

Some brand names carry cultural connotations or imply a religious message. Customers in the TCs, such as the Arab culture, may be sensitive or suspicious of such connotations or messages. This fact forces the company to adapt the brand to fit the target culture and to remove the negative connotations. Here is a significant example that illustrates the problem and the adaptation solution

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Figure (6a) The brand name of Figure (6b) and (6c) The brand name of Texas Chicken Church's Chicken. and its translation in Arabic. See Appendix b.

(http://churchs.com.) The brand name Texas Chicken, which is rendered as " ", is originally known as Church's Chicken. The original company was established in 1952 for the benefit of George. W. Church. St. in Texas. But in the Arab countries, including Jordan, the name has been changed into Texas Chicken to avoid the religious connotations that the word "church" may evoke in Muslim communities (www.muslim.net.vb). However, the translation as " " remains foreign and sounds American since '' " "Texas" is a state in the USA. To overcome such a problem

certain statements were added in Arabic. The first statement is:

, It can be translated into English as "Our chicken is fresh, vegetarian and halal." It addresses the Muslim fast-food market because it includes the word "halal" which means permissible.

Another significant clarification added is the following:


The English translation of the statement could be the following:

"The trademark of Texas Chicken is globally owned by the Islamic company 'Acapita Inc '."

These additions tend to keep the franchise away from the original company and the church. They adapt the names to the Arab Muslim culture in order to achieve high sales and to satisfy the customers sending a message that "we respect your morals, beliefs and values relating to food culture."

4.2.4. Slogans Al-Agha (2006: 67) defines slogans as "short phrases that a company uses over and over in its advertisements." Sometimes slogans become parts of logos and brand names. While brand names are usually transliterated or copied, slogans can be rendered in the TL. Therefore, translators should take great care to understand the slogans and convey them in the target language. The following table includes three slogans which are parts of

three brand names, accompanied with suggested translations:

Table (1): Slogans and their suggested translation

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(See Appendix B.) Here, the researcher puts forwards her suggestions because she strongly believes that slogans should be translated rather than copied.

However, the translations should be as short as the original. They should also be attractive since they imply a promotional goal. They tend to influence the market and convince customers to choose the product.

Meanwhile, they should tell something about the nature of the product. For example, Subway restaurants are known for offering fresh bread baked in the restaurant every four hours.

In short, translating brand names can be a problematic issue either linguistically or culturally. There is no clear agreement about the best strategies and procedures to render brand names. Still, there is a great tendency towards copying and transliteration which ensures that when the TC imports the products of other cultures, it shall accept their languages and names. The problems result from transliteration which increases the difficulty of translating brands where few choices are available. However, good translators will always find space for some "tactical adjustments" that may solve problems and prove their skills and creativity.

4.3. Culture-Specific Concepts (CSCs):

Sofer (2009: 86) refers to the cultural, political, social, economic and even religious differences between the ST and the TT audiences. These differences make translating advertising copies, including menus, as a real challenge. The cultural differences have particular significance since they create a lot of difficulties in translation. They represent the cultural gap between the SC and the TC. This gap is clearly noticed in CSCs or CBTs.

Harvey (2003: 2-6) defines CSCs as terms that refer to concepts which are specific to the SC. In other words, they express concepts which are totally unknown in the TC..

In the case of menu translation, CSCs create a serious problem.

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