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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

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
When languages meet…
  • Lingua franca
  • Pidgins, creoles
  • Language learning
  • Code-switching 
  • Translation

© Intercultural Studies Group

but translation is expensive
But translation is expensive…

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the state of translation theory
The state of translation theory
  • Equivalence died.
  • Description, Skopos, deconstruction and localization lived.
  • No debate. 
  • Just data.

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for a new theory
For a new theory…
  • Equivalence as a useful fiction.
  • Explain what happens.
  • Explain what should happen.

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example 1
Example 1
  • In a birth certificate, where can you make a mistake?
    • Name of person born?
    • Date of birth?
    • Name of midwife?  

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this means
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.)

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what is risk
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).

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example 2
Example 2
  • Foreign students will need to convalidar or homologar their first degree.
  • Convalidación = accreditation
  • Homologación = accreditation

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this means10
This means:

“seek accreditation”

= low risk?

Use Spanish terms

= low risk?

Omit phrase

= high risk!

... More information is needed.

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linguistics is not enough
Linguistics is not enough:
  • Success conditions are not in the text.
  • High-risk texts are not “rich points” (Agar).

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risk aversion
Risk aversion?
  • Risk-averse strategies:
    • generalization
    • explicitation
    • literalism (interference)
    • Non-translation.

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why risk aversion
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.

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risk taking
Risk-taking?
  • Translation of humour.
  • Translation in subtitles.
  • Highly localized texts.
  • Advertising.
  • Texts of salvation (Nida, Gutt).

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why more risk aversion
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.

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objection 1 trust
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.

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objection 2 hatim
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?)

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