In Germanic (e.g., English, German, Dutch) and Nordic (e.g., Swedish, Danish) languages, both written and spoken, are organized in a linear way with an emphasis on being concise. There is an introduction, the main body of the story, followed by the conclusion.
Romanic (or Romance) languages (e.g., Spanish, French) like to be elegant and interesting. Detours from the main storyline are expected to build the context and atmosphere. In Asian languages, opinions are not being expressed directly. As a result, there is a lot of circularity. To avoid potential loss of face, ideas are hinted at or indicate and not presented in a straightforward way. A point of view is only expressed once feedback from other speakers or readers is received.
Translators are very much aware of this. Due to differences in culture and language structure, it is impossible to translate “word-for-word” from one language to another. A translator must have a solid understanding of this before starting to translate. For example, the Japanese word “hai” is literally translated as “yes.” For most Westerners, that would be pretty straightforward: “Yes, I understood and agree”. Japanese however, would understand “Yes, I understand what you are saying” without any further commitment. Even more, r a Japanese would understand “hai” as “Yes, I hear that you are saying something but I don’t understand what you are saying”.
Differences in cultural values result in different preferred methods of speech. In American English, an individual is assumed to be in control of his or her destiny) the American Dream). As a result, there is a preference for using the “active” tense (e.g., “I wrote the marketing plan”) as opposed to the passive tense (e.g., “The marketing plan was written by me.”). Some US companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) even have that in their guidelines (e.g., on their partner portals)
Good translators are very much aware of these issues. They will do their research and make sure that their translation is being proofread before submitting it to the client.
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