Untranslatability according to Wikipedia can be defined as “a property of a text or of any utterance, in one language, for which no equivalent text or utterance can be found in another language when translated. A translator can, however, resort to a number of translation procedures to compensate for this”. Terms are neither exclusively translatable nor exclusively untranslatable; rather, the degree of difficulty of translation depends on their nature, as well as on the translator’s knowledge of the languages is translated.
Understanding cultural elements of languages is critical in translation. Untranslatability can happen because of multiple reasons; two important reasons are linguistic and cultural. Translating greetings, jokes, and metaphors, poetry, puns, and other word plays are the best example of when these types of issues tie in. When languages do not share cultural common understanding, these types of translation issues may arise.
Translators often come across texts whose informal essence makes it necessary to rethink their definition of untranslatability and to stretch the target language to its very limit. In some instances, a translator will come up with a culturally appropriate equivalent. In other cases options are limited by circumstances that cannot be controlled, the translator may replace the text with something else altogether. Some occasional instances there may be a concept that is completely unknown to a culture; the translator’s work will have to go even further to make up for the concept. In all cases, the text will be deemed untranslatable.
In these instances when translator can simply not make the decision to expand the language, substitute text, or explain the concept, because in some cases the decision is simply not theirs to make. These are instances in which translators may find themselves using the word untranslatable to refer to something else altogether.
Be Ready For It
With this being said, we can say that as much as translators strive to retain the meaning and evoke the same reaction in their target readers, it is not surprising to claim that the translated word is not a 100 percent representative of the source word. In other words, there is not a 100 percent exact same meaning, only high similarity is possible – retaining as much of the original meaning as possible. This skill is, delegated to the translators. Expertise and experience are two very important requirements of producing well translated pieces of work.
In conclusion, we have to say that without observing and managing with cultural untranslatability, translators may miss out on conveying the naturalness or even the source texts true meaning. Because cultural untranslatability is not true for all language combinations, the concept may be insignificant to translators or translation scholars who work with a language pair that involves few or only a marginal amount of cultural difference. Depending on the local belief of correctness distinct to the cultural context; some translations can indeed be incompatible with the target language text. Finally, research should always be completed when translating such culturally items. Translation entails adequate knowledge about the culture, which translators should have a clear understanding and knowledge before taking on such a task. Additional work is required and should always be suggested to the client when handling these types of documents.