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Risk management in cross-cultural communication. Anthony Pym. When languages meet…. Lingua franca Pidgins, creoles Language learning Code-switching  Translation . But translation is expensive…. The state of translation theory. Equivalence died.

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Risk management in cross-cultural communication

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Risk management in cross cultural communication l.jpg

Risk management in cross-cultural communication

Anthony Pym

© Intercultural Studies GroupUniversitat Rovira i Virgili Plaça Imperial Tàrraco 143005 Tarragona Fax: (++ 34) 977 55 95 97


When languages meet l.jpg

When languages meet…

  • Lingua franca

  • Pidgins, creoles

  • Language learning

  • Code-switching 

  • Translation

© Intercultural Studies Group


But translation is expensive l.jpg

But translation is expensive…

© Intercultural Studies Group


The state of translation theory l.jpg

The state of translation theory

  • Equivalence died.

  • Description, Skopos, deconstruction and localization lived.

  • No debate. 

  • Just data.

© Intercultural Studies Group


For a new theory l.jpg

For a new theory…

  • Equivalence as a useful fiction.

  • Explain what happens.

  • Explain what should happen.

© Intercultural Studies Group


Example 1 l.jpg

Example 1

  • In a birth certificate, where can you make a mistake?

    • Name of person born?

    • Date of birth?

    • Name of midwife?  

© Intercultural Studies Group


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This means

  • Only work hard where there is high risk.

  • Don’t work hard where there is low risk.

  • (Don’t work too hard!)

  • (These guidelines do not require equivalence.)

© Intercultural Studies Group


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What is risk?

  • The probability of not meeting success conditions.

  • Success means mutual benefits.

  •  (ethically)

  • Minimally: The benefits must be greater than the efforts (transaction costs).

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Example 2

  • Foreign students will need to convalidar or homologar their first degree.

  • Convalidación = accreditation

  • Homologación = accreditation

© Intercultural Studies Group


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This means:

“seek accreditation”

= low risk?

Use Spanish terms

= low risk?

Omit phrase

= high risk!

... More information is needed.

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Linguistics is not enough:

  • Success conditions are not in the text.

  • High-risk texts are not “rich points” (Agar).

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Risk aversion?

  • Risk-averse strategies:

    • generalization

    • explicitation

    • literalism (interference)

    • Non-translation.

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Why risk aversion?

  • Translators do not see success conditions.

  • Translators are not responsible for risk management (Patton’s interpreter).

  • Translators reduce transaction costs in order to increase the probability of (minimal) benefits.

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Risk-taking?

  • Translation of humour.

  • Translation in subtitles.

  • Highly localized texts.

  • Advertising.

  • Texts of salvation (Nida, Gutt).

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Why more risk aversion?

  • Cross-cultural communication:

    • relatively high transaction costs

    • relatively low trust between participants

    • relatively tight success conditions.

  • Translation is an expensive strategy, only justifiable in high-risk situations.

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Objection 1: trust

  • Trust reduces communicative complexity.

  • But translators are by definition open to mistrust.

  • Mistrust feeds on minor mistakes.

  • So,without trust, effort cannot be distributed away from low-risk messages.

© Intercultural Studies Group


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Objection 2 (Hatim)

  • The calculation of success conditions itself increases transaction costs.

  • So the default norm for translation is to reproduce what is in the text.

    (back to square one?)

© Intercultural Studies Group


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