By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Oct 12th, 2015
1 Comment



It is a well-known fact that in order to obtain a perfect translation, one must go beyond the superficial meaning of the words. It is very important to extract what the words mean in a particular situation according to the cultural context. Considering the cultural element helps us understand that the translator is not the only person involved in the translation process. Eugene Nida has noted that “language is a part of culture, and in fact, it is the most complex set of habits that any culture exhibits. Language reflects the culture, provides access to the culture, and in many respects constitutes a model of the culture.”

In this context, adaptation is a very important translation technique. It is necessary when something specific to one language culture is expressed in a totally different way that is familiar or appropriate to another language culture. It is a shift in cultural environment. Should pincho (a Spanish restaurant menu dish) be translated as kebab in English? It involves changing the cultural reference when a situation in the source culture does not exist in the target. The notion of “adaptation” is traditionally played against the notion of “translation” when commenting on the origin of a text: “Is it a translation?” “No, it is an adaptation”. What this means is that the text was not simply translated, there was a process of manipulating the text for a particular reason. We can give you some relevant examples:

1) The prototext was long in comparison to the space available for the metatext; In this case, the customer will ask for a shortened translation in order to fulfil his needs. This procedure is mainly used in the case of technical and technological texts, but there are situations when even literary texts have to go through this process of adaptation.

2) When the metatext is addressed to children, the publisher must adapt the text in order to avoid language that might be inappropriate for a child, and prepares a censored adaptation. Any sexual reference must be eliminated, as well as violent language. Words that are too difficult to understand will also be eliminated, as well as all types of behaviour that are considered contrary to public moral.

3) Ditto, this is another type of censorship, applied even if the text is devoted to an adult public.

4) Cultural features of the public differ to the point of demanding a major modification of the text contents so that it is better accepted in the reality in which it will be used. The latter point refers mainly to text of a practical character, instructions, functioning of machines or programs etc.

It is hard to perceive a difference between translation and adaptation because translation is actually a sort of adaptation. The translator must adapt the text even if he doesn’t encounter one of the enumerated situations. The reason is that the complexity of the text simply forces the translator to do so. He must adapt to all the nuances of the language in order to obtain good results.

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About "" Has 116 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

One Response to “Adaptation”

  1. Translation Company says:

    Hello there

    So nice article you have sharing. These kind of services are the most common and popular , that helps to the people to find the right one.

    Thanks for sharing

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