Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. Mai 2004

7.1. Entlehnung und Übersetzung am Kreuzweg von Sprache und kulturellem Kontakt
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: George Echu (Université de Yaoundé I, Cameroun)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Report: Borrowing and Translation at the Crossroads of Language and Culture Contact

George Echu (University Yaounde I, Cameroon)


The papers presented within the above section, which we had the privilege to organize and chair, dwell on two central themes: linguistic borrowing and translation, examined against the background of their pertinence in language and culture contact. Represented in this section were contributions from Belgium, Cameroon, Hungary, Nigeria, Poland and the United Kingdom.

Linguistic borrowing is operational in language contact situations where bilingualism and multilingualism are practiced among individual speakers or in a given society. This linguistic device therefore permits language users to be able to express themselves more vividly, as they borrow elements from one language while expressing themselves in another. Although the general trend is that such usage of language could be justified from the point of view of necessity, permitting users to fill linguistic, semantic and cultural gaps in the language being used, some users resort to borrowing to 'show off' that they master the foreign language so used (especially in the case of languages that are socially more prestigious), or to give their speech some local color or render it exotic. Above all, it was also observed that borrowing and translation could go hand in hand, the former being an important technique employed when translation is carried out as an activity. Concerning the central role of translation in language and culture contact, translation as a linguistic activity that facilitates communication brings languages and cultures together. In translating, not only are ideas transmitted but cultures as well.

In the area of linguistic borrowing, the presentations revealed that the multilingual universe in which we live makes borrowing an indispensable activity wherein languages and cultures are brought together, as they mutually enrich one another. Such enrichment is observed in both oral and written discourse, thus blending different cultures that may originally look far removed from one another. This process does not only concern contact between some of the leading international languages (e.g. English, French, German and Arabic) but also between these languages and indigenous languages that are limited in scope from the linguistic point of view, especially within the African context. In recent years, such contacts have had considerable influence on the shaping of new varieties of English across the globe (generally referred to in the literature as 'world Englishes') or different varieties of French that linguists have referred to as "les français régionaux" (regional varieties of French). In all, borrowing has proven beneficial not only to the leading international languages referred to above, but also to the indigenous local languages especially in countries with a colonial past. Thus we learn that both English and French have lexically enriched Cameroonian indigenous languages or that Arabic has enriched the Yoruba language in Southwestern Nigeria. The lesson to be retained here is that linguistic borrowing ensures better harmony between cultures, and that the process is essentially one of give and take - no one language being superior or inferior to the other, but all having much to share in common.

As far as translation is concerned, the cultural element appears to be at the center of the process given that intercultural awareness is indispensable for the translator. No doubt our colleague Maria Piotrowska proposes the incorporation of 'culture training' into translation training programs. Other issues raised during the conference involve the extent to which translators cope with cultural elements such as religion and politics that permeate the works they are called upon to translate. On the whole, emphasis was not so much on the difficulties encountered in the process of translating but on the possible remedial measures that could be employed so that translation continues to be at the service of humanity in transmitting ideas and knowledge across languages and cultures.

© George Echu (University Yaounde I, Cameroon)

7.1. Entlehnung und Übersetzung am Kreuzweg von Sprache und kulturellem Kontakt

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For quotation purposes:
George Echu (University Yaounde I, Cameroon): Report: Borrowing and Translation at the Crossroads of Language and Culture Contact. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

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