Archive for February 13th, 2006

Translation confusion

Some time ago we visited the 99 Ranch Market up on Buford Highway and found this lovely label. 99 Ranch Markets are a chain that began in the 1980s in California. They sell not only groceries—with signs in many languages and sometimes just pictures, e.g., a pig image over the pork and a cow over the beef—but also housewares. Beware the labels here, too, and stick with the images!

I think of translation as a filter, sometimes amplifying and sometimes reducing the quality of information transferred, but generally not exactly the same as the original, especially when you consider denotation and connotation. All too often this fact is overlooked, especially by monolingual people (who by definition don’t have enough experience with translation issues). Think of all the American fundamentalist Christians who have never read the bible in anything but translation. What do they know about what meaning was really intended? How can they make their own critical assessment of the text?