Cultural Overlap

As we know, language is a reflection of culture and in order to understand the workings of a language we must fully understand its culture. Similarly, languages converge when cultures converge. English has been able to infiltrate the majority of languages in Europe and beyond simply because British and American culture has filtered into foreign societies and cultures and has become a part of these cultures.

This can be noted in the world of advertising and popular culture. Due to the fact that cultures often overlap, especially within the European Union, terminology, political slogans, advertising catchphrases are often borrowed into other cultures and languages in a variety of fields and domains.

A wonderful example is the world’s love of lotto, the lottery, Euro Millions, Powerball, Mega Millions, Takarakuji or whatever it is called in each country. This culture is mimicked throughout the world and the terminology and slogans attached to the lottery are often similar in each country. For example, certain games are known as “spiels” in the Canadian lottery and the slogans in the United Kingdom and Poland are remarkably similar:

“You’ve got to be in it to win it”

“Musisz grać ażeby wygrać”

The conclusion is that the areas that show a particular convergence in culture also display a convergence in language.


31 thoughts on “Cultural Overlap

  1. I agree with you. If we want create a perfect translation we should ‘meet’ other cultures and find differences to find a good equivalences. For example, in the Bible there is a phrase ‘chleba naszego powszedniego’ but we cannot say like this to Eskimo, who does not know what is bread; that is why we should refer to something as important as our bread, which is fish.

  2. Cultures sometimes nt simply overlap but takes a form of copies.
    My experience of Poland shows that Poles tend to make as many English calques as possible. It is especially visible in colorful magazines for women. Examples: girl next door- dziewczyna z sasiedztwa, good-looking niezle wygladajacy or college translated as koledż and many many more. Whereas niezle wygladajacy is a simple calque, notions of girl next door and even college are known to Poles only because of the presence of American movies.
    In such cases one has to answer a question whether we may assume that the source culture is known to the audience or not?

  3. One could argue that ‘dziewczyna z sąsiedztwa’ is not a true calque of ‘girl-next-door’, ‘koledż’ is simply a borrowing.
    Once the translator begins getting involved in questions concerning the knowledge of the listener/reader, he or she is on a slippery slope…

  4. However, you should take it into consideration if you want to produce a valid translation, even if you feel that you’re on the slope…

  5. I totally agree that the translator should know about the foreign culture as much as possible. Cultural studies and precise research – priceless:)
    When it comes to this similarity in slogans of the companies which exists in the whole world I would like to remind about the McDonald’s advertisement. “I’m lovin’ it” wasn’t translated into Polish though it was in other languages like German or Russian. I’m still wondering why it was so easily accepted in Poland.

  6. American mostly ….

    Each language has tradition of acceptiing foreign words and English is the best example of it. History of England is reflected in its language. Greatest part of English used to be French but now it’s acquiring Pakistani,Hindu, Polish words. That’s why Engish corpora is the most developed of all the European languages. Polish is no exception here.

  7. I don’t think it’s terryfying that “american dominates” so what? The mcdonalda slogan “I’m loving it” is acceptable cos it would be stupid to tranlate it into “Kocham to”( especially since “I love it” is a little different to “I’m loving it”)…

  8. American is most cetainly the dominant culture. Is that a matter of discussion for translators? As for translating “I’m lovin’ it” may seem acceptable for Polish speakers of English but what do the other 80% of the country feel?

  9. Ref: Margola. I’d say the vast majority of colourful magazines for people are owned by the foreign companies and the texts are usually simply translated into Polish, not adapted! The poor quaility of the texts may by justified by the same quality of translators or people in general who are responsible for translation.

  10. why?because there is a demand for such magazines and services Because it’s cheaper to have it translated only. Because people care about price not quality…

  11. I guess we gotta agree to this fact. Therefore, the interpreters who respect themselves ought to “educate” their clients. Serious companies realise that you cannot get a good translation for 20 zł per page.

  12. I agree with the fact that the salaries should be higher because translator’s tasks are often hard and tricky, not that obvious as many people may think…

  13. it’s true. In order to create a good translation, the translator should know not only the target language but also the culture.
    That is why a translating process is so difficult.
    However,the cultures very often overlap, so the translator has an easier taks to find appropriate equivalents.

  14. I agree with you; however, it is very difficult to translate a text with no overlap due to the fact that no matter how great the translator is, there is always a risk that he/she will not meet the expectations because they are not the natives of the country.

  15. Interesting point. Knowing the culture is indeed very important in translation; however, the boundaries between coulters become more and more close to each other. There are many egzamples of words that funcion in different cultures and I thing that in the future we are going to have more of them.

  16. I agree with You Iwona; however, people need a lot of time to familiarize with them. We were talking about this fact on our Reading course (Bridget Jones essay); people still don’t have appropriate knowledge about the topics and as a translator we should be aware of that.

  17. In my opinion we need to study the language more, learning it through our lives, what is more to be a part of the other culture we should try to travel to foreign countries to gain language skills. It is known that if you are let’s saying ‘in the culture’ you learn it faster.

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