A question of cultural difference
Thread poster: Balasubramaniam L.

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Jan 20, 2006

The word that is troubling me is "schnitzel" which occurs in the menu of a classy eating joint. The word roughly translates to "cutlets made of cow's meat (veal)" in Hindi, and may be found culturally offensive by many Hindi-speaking people who do not eat beef, and for whom the menu is being translated into Hindi.

It can of course be translated as "meat cutlet" by leaving out the reference to cow's meat, but then that would be incomplete translation.

Have you faced similar situations where the source text itself is devoid of any offensive meaning, but when translated into a target language, it takes on undesirable connotations?

How did you tackle such situations?


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Jalapeno
Local time: 02:00
English to German
Careful... Jan 20, 2006

Balasubramaniam wrote:

It can of course be translated as "meat cutlet" by leaving out the reference to cow's meat, but then that would be incomplete translation.


I haven't been in a situation like this myself yet, but I wouldn't just leave the reference to cow's meat out. Imagine a Hindi ordering the Schnitzel, eating it, and later finding out he's eaten a cow. I'm sure you're aware of this, just wanted to point it out.

As for a suitable strategy: I would probably point this out to the client and maybe recommend they change the menu and offer a different dish instead.


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Wouter van Kampen
Thailand
Local time: 08:00
Danish to Dutch
+ ...
translate and annotate Jan 20, 2006

Hi Balasubramaniam,

Schnitzel is veal, when it's the real thing.

You are only hired to do a translation, yet you do not want your client to get into trouble.

The best way to go about, is to translate and annotate your translation with a remark that your client better consider to scrap this menu item as it may be found culturally offensive by many Hindi-speaking people.

Best regards

Balasubramaniam wrote:

The word that is troubling me is "schnitzel" --snip--


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:00
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Anything could be offending to someone Jan 20, 2006

Schnitze can also be pork, which is offending to muslim and jewisch people, Scandinavian restaurants serve raindeer, which makes many Americans grieve. It's up to the customer and the chef. I disgust snails, but would not want restaurants to scrap these dishes. Many don't eat meat at all, others no mushrooms, so what?

Regards
Heinrich


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Sebla Ronayne
United States
Local time: 20:00
German to Turkish
+ ...
schnitzel is mainly out of pork! Jan 20, 2006

Hi Balasubramaniam,
"The word that is troubling me is "schnitzel" which occurs in the menu of a classy eating joint. The word roughly translates to "cutlets made of cow's meat (veal)" in Hindi, and may be found culturally offensive by many Hindi-speaking people who do not eat beef, and for whom the menu is being translated into Hindi."
This dish mainly comes from Austria and also some parts of southern Germany and made out of pork. It' not cutlet indeed. The thin sliced meat has flour, mixed egg and at the end powdered white bread mix on, get fried and will be eaten with marmaled and some lemon drops, french fries as side dish. You may find in the same name meat out of beef in Turkey for instans, in Amerika is also Shintzel and out of beef. In Turkey it was not translated but made with turkish letters that people can pronounse. I'd leave in original if you don't have it in your country though and made an footnote explaination.
Have a nice day!
Greetings, Sebla


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 08:00
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Be Language and Culture Mediator Jan 20, 2006

For translators, what Balasubramaniam experienced is not surprising. Indeed, a translator serves as language and culture mediator. Thus, linguistic and cultural meaning should be our focus of attention. These two criteria should be met. Partial fulfilment of them will result in a distortion of meaning and even offense. Therefore, be language and culture mediator.

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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:00
French to English
+ ...
Need to explain it Jan 20, 2006

I don't think you can just translate schnitzel by "meat cutlet", if you are concerned about cultural implications. If certain people find cow/pork/reindeer/whatever disturbing, then they will definitely want to know what kind of meat they are eating.
Personally, I'm willing to try just about anything once, but even so, if I saw just plain "meat" on a menu, my first question would be "what KIND of meat"?
My suggestion would be to ask the chef/restaurant what kind of schnitzel this is (veal/pork) and then simply translate as Veal schnitzel or Pork schnitzel (I think you can leave the word schnitzel since stating the kind of meat used explains enough about the dish to diners).

Hope this helps


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 20, 2006

Many thanks, all of you, for your valuable suggestions on tackling such tricky translation situations. The best course would be to see if the the client can be persuaded into allowing the modification of the translation to take in cultural sensitivities.

It is instances such as these that make the staid job of a translator a little more exciting and worth all the trouble.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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TOPIC STARTER
That is sound advice Jan 20, 2006

sebla weissenboeck wrote:

I'd leave in original if you don't have it in your country though and made an footnote explaination.



Thank you. That is sound advice and will work in many situations. Translation of food and clothing items are a real challenge at any time for these vary so much across communities. The best course would be, as you have suggested, to use the source language term itself and explain it in some way, either in the main text itself, or as a footnote.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
True enough... Jan 20, 2006

Hipyan Nopri wrote:

a translator serves as language and culture mediator. Thus, linguistic and cultural meaning should be our focus of attention. These two criteria should be met. Partial fulfilment of them will result in a distortion of meaning and even offense.


Thank you. I fully endorse your above views.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:00
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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A more complete note to the client Jan 25, 2006

Hi Balasubramaniam,

Sorry if this will have to be just a note for the future, but precisely I came back from India this Sunday, and my hosts in Mumbai explained how such things work in the big city.

Christian communities tend to organize around their own population centres (characterized by churches, cemeteries and their own procurement networks). Hence, your colleagues' advice is sound about informing Hindus and Muslims as to what goes into a schnitzel. Especially since 1.) the possibility is sanctioned and exists; and 2.) it can be even more offensive if information is withheld.

Such organization notwithstanding, the real picture of life in India is an eclectic mixture in which the members of a single family can come from many creeds. The families I stayed with, in their extended form, had Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Parsee members. Hence, many possibilities were open although there were a lot of voluntary vegetarians.

This given, there is no real reason to take offence at furnished information. However, furnishing that information is not your responsibility. If anything, the client may have to do a rewrite to clarify matters, as you cannot simply put in things that they do not say.

Hope it helps.



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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
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TOPIC STARTER
Well said Jan 25, 2006

Dear 'Parrot',

Well said!

As translators we often find that we have very limited powers to influence the actions (texts?) of our clients, but we often find ourselves in the role of cultural ambassadors in addition to being translators and we must be true this role as well to the best of our abilities.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 20:00
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
I would include all information Jan 27, 2006

including the word schnitzel, as it is not apparent to everyone what this is.

Now for an anecdote from many,many moons ago:
Back when I was in high school, I worked part-time in a restaurant that served BBQ chicken and ribs. One day a large group of people sat in my section, and ordered ribs. Judging from what I thought was their language (Arabic) and their clothing, I felt I needed to inform them that these were pork ribs. I was only 16, but I worried that these people did not know what they were planning on eating. The man was very distressed, saying he had eaten these before, and they were veal. I did not want to argue with him, and told him so; but I added that there was no doubt, the ribs served in this restaurant came from pigs. They decided to remain, and ordered chicken, but I was never sure if they were upset that they had eaten pork without knowing it, or that they had eaten pork and some astute teenage waitress had found out their secret...;-) I never saw them again.

When it comes to food, the more information, the better, that's my view.

Nancy


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That was an insightful anecdote Jan 28, 2006

Thank you Nancy. That was an insightful anecdote. Our trade involves the making of many difficult choices. Not only have we to provide as much information as possible, but we also have to be careful how we do it, as your little story so well illustrates.

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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:30
English to Hindi
+ ...
not offensive Jan 31, 2006

No, there is nothing offensive in it but one could inform the client stating that 'it could be potentially offensive to some people' and the client can decide to change the food item on the menu!!!

Roomy


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