«Translating Restaurants' Menus from English into Arabic: Problems and Strategies By Kefaya Adeeb Hafeth Saleh Supervisor Dr. Odeh Odeh Co-Supervisor ...»
Many dishes and food ingredients are specific to a certain culture. Most likely, they have no counterparts in the TL. Therefore, there is a great tendency towards standardization of menu translation that some food terms, such as "pizza" and "burger," become international items, especially in the age of globalization in which English is a dominant language. However, there are many attempts to overcome the problematic issues related to CSCs in order to adapt them to fit the TC.
Upon careful investigation of 19 food menus in Palestine, Jordan and Egypt, along with their Arabic counterparts, the researcher was able to come up with certain observations concerning the problems of translating CSCs and foreign food terms. She discusses, in detail, these problems, as well as the strategies adopted to render such concepts and terms.
4.3.1. Lack of equivalence The problem of non-equivalence often poses difficulties for the translators who try different strategies for dealing with them. Food terms and dishes are good examples of CSCs which were defined earlier in this study. The items in question include types of cheeses, sauces, desserts, drinks and unfamiliar names of dishes. Some examples which are extracted from the sample of the study are frequently used in many different menus in Palestine, Jordan and Egypt. Other examples are specific to certain cuisines such as Italian (see Appendix b.).The researcher introduces some
of these examples in the following table:
Table (2): examples of food CSCs and their translations.
The table above shows some, not all, of the examples. They were selected by the researcher as the most representative. These items seem to be foreign for customers that may keep them away from the restaurant because people usually hesitate to ask for dishes with which they are unfamiliar. The names of some dishes sound odd and difficult to be pronounced, which may lead customers to avoid ordering them. The major reason behind this phenomenon is that these dishes belong to different origins. The international dishes represent different cuisines throughout the world, such as Italian, French, and Chinese …and so on. These names have been borrowed from one culture to another along with the dishes themselves. They are very difficult to be rendered in the TL that has no direct counterparts for these terms. (www.multilingual.com). Therefore, all the examples are borrowed (transliterated) into Arabic.
Let’s take some examples from different cuisines. The first one, "general Tsao's", which is transliterated into Arabic as" ", is originally Chinese food. It is named to honor General Tso Tsungtang or as his name is spelled in modern Chinese as Zuo Zongtang who is one of the most remarkably successful military commanders in Chinese history (www.chinesefoodiy.com).
The fact that the dish is a proper name makes it impossible to find a direct and correct counterpart in the TL. However, transliteration alone may not be enough since it gives no information about the nature or ingredients of the dish. It could be useful to give a short, informative and appealing description of the dish. For instance, the Arabic transliteration " " can be helpfully accompanied with the following explanatory
. ( ) Another solution could be the use of pictures to illustrate the dish depending on the assumption that pictures can tell more than words and that" people eat with their eyes". In this context, the previous example can
be illustrated as the following:
Figure (7) A Picture of General Tsao's dish. (http://www.en.bestpicturesof.com).
In other examples, other techniques of adaptation such as addition and translation by paraphrase can be very useful. Sometimes, a key word added can clarify the nature of the dish to a great extent, For instance, the word" "if added to" " may be enough to state that the dish is simply a kind of macaroni and not so odd as customers may think at first sight. The same can be said about "Fettuccine Alfredo" rendered as " " to which the addition of the word" "can elaborate that it is a pasta dish and that fettuccine is a kind of pasta. Still, a short additional description of the dish as ". " is more useful. Pictures are also helpful and attractive. The following are pictures
of "fettuccine Alfredo":
Figures (8a) and (8b). Fettuccine Alfredo dish. (http: //www.foodnetwork.com).
Further, adaptation and paraphrase become necessary when literal translation is meaningless. One example that illustrates the issue is that of " Drums of Heaven" which has no direct equivalent in the TL. Suppose the translator has rendered the term literally as " ", the literal translation tells nothing about the dish. It sounds more as a name of a film or a poem. Meanwhile, any expected transliteration as " " is just a complex retention of the foreign name. Therefore, in this particular example, a descriptive translation as" " is the best solution to provide customers with basic information about the dish. It is also successful since it is as short as the original.
Another group of odd names of dishes results from the overuse of transliteration although literal translation or adaptation is possible. One example that attracted the researcher's attention is that of "Mediterranean Prawn," that is transliterated as " ". The transliteration is difficult to be pronounced which may decrease the orders of the dish.
Interestingly, it is possible to avoid such a problem through literal translation as" ". The addition of the word " " is advisable for better clarification. A final suggested translation by the researcher could be " ". Although the term may not be as prestigious or attractive as the original, it is nonetheless clear and informative enough to meet the basic norms of the menu.
In short, non-equivalence and odd names of dishes form a big challenge in the process of translation not only because they need intensive search and knowledge, but also due to the limited choices of appropriate strategies or techniques to deal with them. However, translators can be creative in their attempts to adapt and adjust the translations, as much as possible, to the TC in order to satisfy the expectations of the audience and improve the sales.
4.3.2. Sensitive terms and taboos The cultural dimension is very important in translation. Chan (2004: 52) and Newmark (1988: 94-100) agree that cultural aspects usually cause translation problems for which translators should be careful and sensitive in order to fill the cultural gap. In the same context, Hatim and Mason (1997: 223-224) state that "It is certainly true that in recent years the translator has increasingly come to be seen as a cultural mediator rather than a mere linguistic broker." All these comments come in the spirit that we do not translate languages but culture. A careful analysis of the sample of the study shows that the names of some food dishes are problematic in the sense that they carry negative cultural and religious connotations.
Let's take the example of "hotdog" which is a very popular American fast-food concept. The sample of the study introduces two different translations of the concept following two different translation techniques.
In the first one, the term" hotdog" is transliterated into Arabic as " ". Such rendering may be rejected by a wide group of customers who have little knowledge of English because they may attribute the product to the meat of dogs, which is disgusting and unusual, in Arab culture, to eat dog's meat. In the second translation, "hotdog" is rendered as" " as a possible translation free of connection with disagreeable elements. However, transliteration is used twice out of three (around 66%) in the sample of the study, while " " is used only once (around 33%).
(See appendix b.) There are other examples that have relations with religious values. The difference in religious values between the SC and the TC affects the decision-making process taking into consideration some environmental factors such as commission and the expected audience. For instance, the terms "ham" and "bacon" are very much sensitive in Muslim communities as they refer to pigs' meat, which is forbidden in Islam. They are not included in fast-food restaurants in Amman and Nablus, but they are parts of high-class restaurants in Sharm El-Sheikh where a large number of foreign customers and tourists are expected. The two terms are transliterated into Arabic as " " and " ", respectively. Here, the translator achieves a kind of balance between faithfulness and adaptation.
S/he respects the right of customers to know. Meanwhile, s/he avoids clash with religious values that may result from literal translation. On the other hand, Muslim customers, who are surely expected in a large Muslim country such as Egypt, have the right to know what they are ordering, especially if their English is poor. Therefore, the researcher suggests having two versions of the same menu; one is free of pig's meat in which the food items "bacon" and "ham" are deleted completely from the menu.
In the other version, the items are included with their transliterations or literal translation where "bacon" is rendered as " " (AlMawrid Dictionary, 2005: 82), and "ham" is translated as " " (Al-Mawrid Dictionary, 2005: 410). The religious sensitivity is avoided because the customers who tend to choose the second suggested version have a clear idea that it includes items related to pig's meat.
One more major source for cultural and religious sensitivity is the offensive and harsh terms that may shock customers and become taboos in the public morality, for example, the term" wine" can be translated literally into Arabic as " " or " ". Still, translators tend to use the second one as it sounds less offensive and more prestigious than " ", which is harsh, blunt and offensive for Muslim customers. The main reason behind this replacement is that the term" "is mentioned several times in the holy Qu'ran and in the Hadiths of prophet Mohammad –peace be upon him- as a forbidden drink. As a result, it is widely rejected by Muslim customers and this raises the necessity for the substitution of a less sensitive term for " ". This method is known as euphemism. According to Algeo and Pyles (2009: 214), as well as Govier (2009: 85), euphemism, which is derived from a Greek word meaning good-sounding, is a polite term to replace taboos, embarrassing, uncomfortable and undesirable. Sometimes translators opt to misleading translations to deal with such terms. Fore example, "wine" might be translated as " ", meaning "super drink", or " ", meaning "grape juice "or simply " ", meaning "a drink". Such mis- translations remove the negative connotation but remain unfaithful.
To sum up, some food terms can be culturally sensitive which increases the difficulty of translation. However, translators should take into consideration all the extra-linguistic factors. They need to remember their roles as mediators between cultures who can expect and change and not work as machines that are limited to the text. In the process of the translation of a cultural element, the external factors such as social, religious and moral values play an important role that a sensitive translator can never ignore.
4.3.3. Lexical similarity of some terms Some food terms are synonyms or semi-synonyms, which means they have the same or nearly the same meaning (www.grammar.about.com).
Such terms are particularly troublesome since they are similar in most aspects to the extent that many translators, including professional ones, can rarely distinguish between them. The terms are semantically complex and the concepts are almost the same with slight differences.
One significant example is that of "hotdogs" and "sausages" as both terms are translated into " " in 3 different menus (of the sample of the study). The researcher checked many sources such as dictionaries and inquired of many people working for years in fast food restaurant, but she was unable to find a clear or considerable difference between the two concepts. In fact, "hotdogs" are the same as" sausages". All "hotdogs" are "sausages" but not all "sausages" are "hotdogs". The only difference is that a hotdog is an emulsified sausage (www.wisegeek.com). The problem is more serious when one menu presents the two items. Sure, the translator cannot render both of them as " ". One possible solution is the one applied in Lubnani Snack restaurant in Jordan where "hotdog" is transliterated as " " and "sausage" is rendered as " ". However, this may bring us back to the previous problem of cultural connotations (4.2.3). Rendering "hotdog" as" "and "sausages" as" " can be a good solution. In spite of the fact that the two Arabic translations are synonyms with slight differences, they are two different words, at least phonetically. The pictures can help, or clarify, more
Let's take another example for more clarification. Two similar food concepts are "prawn" and "shrimp". Both are translated into Arabic as " ". They have the same counterpart in Arabic because the difference between them lies in secondary details. Some say that the difference is in size: that while "shrimp" is small, "prawn" refers to larger ones. Others recognize the difference in gill structure. Prawn has a branching gill structure while shrimp is lamellar (www.helpwithcooking.com). It is also known that "shrimp" is widely used in US English and "prawn" in UK English. Whatever the source of difference, the two concepts have only one counterpart in Arabic which raises a problem in translation. The translators tend to solve the problem by transliteration for "prawn" as" " or translation as " " and literal translation for "shrimp" as" ".
However, the researcher suggests addition as a possible technique to render the terms. She suggests " "for "shrimp" and" "for "prawn" as alternative translations.
The following pictures support the idea:
Figure (10a). shrimp Figure ( 10b) prawn http://www.helpwithcooking.com A third example that attracts the attention of the researcher is that of "spaghetti", "pasta" and "noodles". The three terms refer to different types of the same concept. While the first two terms are borrowed originally from Italian, the third one is taken from the German word "nudel" (www.cookitsimpky.com).