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Culture In Chinese And English Idioms And Their Translation


Culture In Chinese And English Idioms And Their Translation


This paper is about the similarities and differences of cultures in Chinese and English idioms and their translation, pointing out that, due to the differences in geographical environments, historical developments, social systems, religious beliefs and customs and traditions, there are existent unique elements in Chinese and English. Then some methods are put forward to their translation.

Edward Burnett Tylor, a British social anthropologist, said in his Primitive Culture (1871), “Culture is a kind of complexity. It includes knowledge, belief, art, moral, law, custom and some habits formed by living in a certain society…”thus we can find that culture covers a wide area, it is a complex system. And language, as a part of culture, reflects a colorful national culture.

Mr. Zhu Guang-qian said in his About Translation, “In the foreign culture, the most difficult thing to understand and translate is the associate meaning…” “It has special atmosphere of sense, and it is profound and delicate. We cannot find them in the dictionary, but it is so important to the literature. If we are not familiar with the custom and the history background of a country, we will be blind to the meaning of the words and can’t translate it well.”

With the comparison of the ideas of English and Chinese idioms, we can find the cultural diversity in two languages, and the various translation methods should be put into use. It will benefit us to understand idioms clearly from a cultural perspective and know how to translate them properly. In other words, in order to raise people’s intercultural awareness to both Chinese and English idioms, the thesis deals with the cultural knowledge effects with each other and their translation. It attempts to reject people’s misunderstanding of idioms in two nations.

Cultural differences reflected in idioms analysis

Idioms carry and reflect culture. The differences in the culture can be an obstacle in understanding the foreign language. Due to linguistic and cultural diversity, exact equivalence is no easy to achieve, especially in the translation of idioms, since they are heavily culture-laden.

In the translation of English into Chinese or vice versa, the excellent script depends on both mastery of these two languages and the understanding of the culture, as the language cannot be separated from the culture. From the perspective of translation, the differences in both cultures are often found by the means of the contrast of the two different languages.

Idiom translations and the efficient approaches

Lack of cultural knowledge definitely will affect our comprehension negatively, idioms is not the exception. An admirable translation can be treated as a bright mirror to reflect our culture to the world. It will benefit us to understand idioms clearly from the angle of culture.



Translation is also related to both two languages. In other words, it is a transition between source language and target language. It contains two stages: understanding and expressing. Understanding the words, phrases and sentence structure is just the superficial one; and understanding the content, essential meaning and the cultural connotation of the language is the deeper one. Furthermore, in order to convey the different features of themes and styles with the appropriate approaches and ensure the perfect conformity between form and content, translators should try their best to seek some equality between the source language and the target language.

With regard to the standard of the translation, many famous translators of the Chinese and from the foreign countries have put forward various opinions. Yan Fu gives the ideas about “fidelity, fluency and elegance”, Fu Lei thinks that translation should pay more attention to the spirit than to the form, Zhang Pei-ji believes “accurate and fluent”, and Qu Qiu-bai supports the opinion of “equal option”. The famous American translation theorist Eugene A. Nidar believes “functional equivalence” or “dynamic equivalence”. Although these standards have diverse points, they share the similar central meaning, which is to express the original meaning of the source language well.

In translation, it is not the understanding of the language only when we try to understand the original work. Each language inevitably carries its own distinctive national culture and is the accumulation of such culture. So intercultural awareness becomes especially important.

In order to understand people’s way of thinking correctly and get a brilliant translation script, we should consider many aspects in both language itself and its culture, which include similarities and differences, together with the social background information.




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