Case 1 In this case, there seemed to be problems in communicating with people of different cultures in spite of the efforts made to achieve understanding. We should know that in Egypt as in many cultures, the human relationship is valued so highly that it is not expressed in an objective and impersonal way. While Americans certainly value human relationships, they are more likely to speak of them in less personal, more objective terms. In this case, Richard„s mistake might be that he chose to praise the food itself rather than the total evening, for which the food was simply the setting or excuse. For his host and hostess it was as if he had attended an art exhibit and complimented the artist by saying, ―What beautiful frames your pictures are in. In Japan the situation may be more complicated. Japanese people value order and harmony among persons in a group, and that the organization itself－be it a family or a vast corporation－is more valued than the characteristics of any particular member. In contrast, Americans stress individuality as a value and are apt to assert individual differences when they seem justifiably in conflict with the goals or values of the group. In this case: Richard„s mistake was in making great efforts to defend himself. Let the others assume that the errors were not intentional, but it is not right to defend yourself, even when your unstated intent is to assist the group by warning others of similar mistakes. A simple apology and acceptance of the blame would have been appropriate. But for poor Richard to have merely apologized would have seemed to him to be subservient, unmanly. When it comes to England, we expect fewer problems between Americans and Englishmen than between Americans and almost any other group. In this case we might look beyond the gesture of taking sugar or cream to the values expressed in this gesture: for Americans, ―Help yourself; for the English counterpart, ―Be my guest.American and English people equally enjoy entertaining and being entertained but they differ somewhat in the value of the distinction. Typically, the ideal guest at an American party is one who ―makes himself at home,even to the point of answering the door or fixing his own drink. For persons in many other societies, including at least this hypothetical English host, such guest behavior is presumptuous or rude. Case 2 A common cultural misunderstanding in classes involves conflicts between what is said to be direct communication style and indirect communication style. In American culture, people tend to say what is on their minds and to mean what they say. Therefore, students in class are expected to ask questions when they need clarification. Mexican culture shares this preference of style with American culture in some situations, and that„s why the students from Mexico readily adopted the techniques of asking questions in class. However, Korean people generally prefer indirect communication style, and therefore
they tend to not say what is on their minds and to rely more on implications and inference, so as to be polite and respectful and avoid losing face through any improper verbal behavior. As is mentioned in the case, to many Koreans, numerous questions would show a disrespect for the teacher, and would also reflect that the student has not studied hard enough. Case 3 The conflict here is a difference in cultural values and beliefs. In the beginning, Mary didn„t realize that her Dominican sister saw her as a member of the family, literally. In the Dominican view, family possessions are shared by everyone of the family. Luz was acting as most Dominican sisters would do in borrowing without asking every time. Once Mary understood that there was a different way of looking at this, she would become more accepting. However, she might still experience the same frustration when this happened again. She had to find ways to cope with her own emotional cultural reaction as well as her practical problem (the batteries running out). Case 4 It might be simply a question of different rhythms. Americans have one rhythm in their personal and family relations, in their friendliness and their charities. People from other cultures have different rhythms. The American rhythm is fast. It is characterized by a rapid acceptance of others. However, it is seldom that Americans engage themselves entirely in a friendship. Their friendships are warm, but casual, and specialized. For example,you have a neighbor who drops by in the morning for coffee. You see her frequently, but you never invite her for dinner --- not because you don„t think she could handle a fork and a knife, but because you have seen her that morning. Therefore, you reserve your more formal invitation to dinner for someone who lives in a more distant part of the city and whom you would not see unless you extended an invitation for a special occasion.Now, if the first friend moves away and the second one moves nearby, you are likely to reverse this --- see the second friend in the mornings for informal coffee meetings, and the first oneyou will invite more formally to dinner. Americans are, in other words, guided very often by their own convenience. They tend to make friends easily, and they don„t feel it necessary to go to a great amount of trouble to see friends often when it becomes inconvenient to do so, and usually no one is hurt. But in similar circumstances people from many other cultures would be hurt very deeply. Case 5 In China, it is often not polite to accept a first offer and Heping was being modest, polite and well-behaved and had every intention of accepting the beer at the second or third offer. But he had not figured on North American rules which firmly say that you do not push alcoholic beverages on anyone. A person may not drink for religious reasons, he may be a reformed alcoholic, or he may be allergic. Whatever the reason behind the rule, you do not insist in offering alcohol. So unconscious and so strong are their cultural rules that the Americans equally politely never made a second offer
of beer to Heping who probably thought North Americans most uncouth. However, what we have to remember is that cultures are seldom a strict either-or in every instance for all people and there are always individual differences. Probably this young Chinese nurse was very different from Heping or, unlike Heping, she may have known something about the American cultural rules and was just trying to behave like an American when she was in an American family. Case 6 When a speaker says something to a hearer, there are at least three kinds of meanings involved: utterance meaning, speaker„s meaning and hearer„s meaning. In the dialogue, when Litz said ?How long is she going to stay?„ she meant to say that if she knew how long her mother-in-law was going to stay in Finland, she would be able to make proper arrangements for her, such as taking her out to do some sightseeing. However, her mother-in-law overheard the conversation, and took Litz„s question to mean ―Litz does not want me to stay for long‖. From the Chinese point of view, it seems to be inappropriate for Litz to ask such a question just two days after her mother-in-law„s arrival. If she feels she has to ask the question, it would be better to ask some time later and she should not let her mother-in-law hear it. Case 7 Keiko insists on giving valuable gifts to her college friends, because in countries like Japan, exchanging gifts is a strongly rooted social tradition. Should you receive a gift, and don„t have one to offer in return, you will probably create a crisis. If not as serious as a crisis, one who doesn„t offer a gift in return may be considered rude or impolite. Therefore, in Japan, gifts are a symbolic way to show appreciation, respect, gratitude and further relationship. Keiko obviously has taken those used items from Mary, Ed and Marion as gifts, for she probably doesn„t know that Americans frequently donate their used household items to church or to the community. Mary, Ed and Marion would never consider those used household items given to Keiko as gifts. No wonder they felt very uncomfortable when they received valuable gifts in return. Case 8 As the Chinese girl Amy fell in love with an American boy at that time, it seems that she preferred to celebrate Christmas in the American way, for she wanted very much to appear the same as other American girl. She did not like to see her boyfriend feel disappointed at the ―shabby‖ Chinese Christmas. That„s why she cried when she found out her parents had invited the minister „s family over for the Christmas Eve dinner. She thought the menu for the Christmas meal created by her mother a strange one because there were no roast turkey and sweet potatoes but only Chinese food. How could she notice then the foods chosen by her mother were all her favorites? From this case, we can find a lot of differences between the Chinese and Western cultures in what is appropriate food for a banquet, what are good table manners, and how one should behave to be hospitable. However, one should never feel shameful just because one„s culture is different from others„. As Amy„s mother told her, you
must be proud to be different, and your only shame is to have shame. Case 9 Hierarchy is significant in the Japanese culture. This structure is reflected everywhere in Japanese life, at home, school, community, organizations, and traditional institutions such as martial arts or flower arrangements. In this case, the young chairman must have had his own ideas about how to manage the company; however, when encountered with his grandfather„s dissenting opinions, he dared not to take a stand against him. This may manifest the rigid hierarchical structure in the Japanese society. In the Japanese society, how hierarchy is formed depends mainly on seniority, social roles, and gender. As a respectable senior member of the family and the former leader of the company, the grandfather obviously overpowered the inexperienced young chairman. In other words, the grandfather seemed to be an absolute authority for the young chairman. In Japanese culture, challenging or disagreeing with elders„ opinions would be deemed as being disrespectful and is often condemned. People in lower positions are expected to be loyal and obedient to authority. That„s why the young chairman didn„t say anything but just nodded and agreed with his grandfather. But Phil seemed to know little about the Japanese culture in this aspect. In many Western cultures, particularly American culture, seniority seldom matters very much in such situations, and young people are usually encouraged to challenge authority and voice their own opinions. Unfortunately, his outspoken protest could easily offend the grandfather and he might be regarded as a rude and ill-bred person by other Japanese. Case 10 In Japan, a company is often very much like a big family, in which the manger(s) will take good care of the employees and the employees are expected to devote themselves to the development of the company and, if it is necessary, to sacrifice their own individual interests for the interests of the company, from which, in the long run, the employees will benefit greatly. But for the French, a company is just a loosely- knit social organization wherein individuals are supposed to take care of themselves and their families. Moreover, the way the French make decisions in the family might also be different from the typical Japanese one, which may not often involve females and the power to decide usually lies with the dominating male. As there are such cultural differences between the Japanese and the French, Mr. Legrand„s decision made Mr. Tanaka feel dumbfounded. Case 11 Incidents such as these can point to possible cultural differences in so-called ―polite‖ behavior, and at the same time highlight the tendency for people to react emotionally to unexpected behavior. People in most cultures would probably agree that an apology is needed when an offence or violation of social norms has taken place. However, there may be differing opinions as to when we should apologize (what situations call for an apology) and how we should apologize. To many Westerners, Japanese
apologize more frequently and an apology in Japanese does not necessarily mean that the person is acknowledging a fault. To many Japanese, Westerners may seem to be rude just because they do not apologize as often as the Japanese would do. In this case, for instance, the attitude of the Australian student„s parents is shocking to the Japanese but will be acceptable in an English-speaking society, for the student is already an adult and can be responsible for her own deeds. Case 12 In this case, it seems that the Chinese expectations were not fulfilled. First, having two people sharing host responsibilities could be somewhat confusing to the hierarchically minded Chinese. Second, because age is often viewed as an indication of seniority, the Chinese might have considered the youth of their Canadian hosts as slight to their own status. Third, in China, it is traditional for the host to offer a welcome toast at the beginning of the meal, which is the reciprocated by the guests; by not doing so, the Canadian might be thought rude. The abrupt departure of the Chinese following the banquet was probably an indication that they were not pleased with the way they were treated. The Canadians„ lack of understanding of the Chinese culture and the Chinese ways of communication clearly cost them in their business dealings with the visiting delegation. Case 13 This example vividly illustrates that failures in intercultural translation may probably lead to very serious consequence, or even disasters to human beings. Definitely, translation is not such a simple process as rendering a word, a sentence or a text literally, but rather a far more complex one than most people assumed. For example, once a Chinese cosmetic manufacturer wanted to promote their products into the international market. The slogan of the advertisement was: ―sweet as Jade‖, since in Chinese ―jade‖ was always employed to compliment woman„s beauty; but unfortunately, it was not an appropriate word to describe the beauty of a lady in Western cultures. In English, ―jade‖ in its use of referring a woman had the connotations such as vulgar, rude, immoral, or skittish. Undoubtedly, the sales in European countries were not satisfying. The seeming equivalents between languages may have very different connotations in different cultures, thus the translator should be cautious in the process of doing the translation so as to avoid misunderstandings. Case 14 ―杨‖ refers to Yang Kaihui w h o w a s Mao Zedong„s deceased wife and ―柳‖ refers to Liu zhixun who was Li shuyi„s deceased husband. They can be translated in different ways, but it seems to be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve equivalence in translating from Chinese into English. Adopting the literal translation strategy, version 1 appears to be faithful to the original but may easily confuse the readers in the target language. Version 2 employs the liberal translation strategy with an attempt to convey the
original meaning as precisely as possible. However, the original poetic flavor is lost as the rhetoric device — pun — is not reproduced. Case 15 The translation seems to be faithful to the original, but it may not be really good for the purpose of intercultural communication. Foreign readers of the translation may find it strange and inappropriate. The following is what a friendly American journalist has commented on the translation: My first reaction was unfortunately laughter because it is so full of mistakes. It omits some necessary information about the Dragon-Boat Festival, including its historical origins and when it actually takes place. These things are important… The copy seems to try to ―snow‖ the reader with fanciful, overblown assertions about how terrific it all is, but in unintentionally hilarious language that leaves the reader laughing out uninformed… The brochure also suffers from lack of background material, the taking-if-for-granted that the reader already is familiar with many aspects of Chinese history and culture? visiting an area want to know. Why is it that many Chinese travel guides read basically the same, no matter what region is being written about, and are so packed with indiscriminate hyperbole? Less exaggeration would actually be more convincing. It doesn„t tell you where to go, how to get there, when things are open and closed, how much they cost, and so forth. All these are things people Case 16 Comparing the two English versions, we can see that in Yang„s version more culturally-loaded meanings are conveyed from the original while Hawkes„ version may be easier for English-speaking readers to comprehend. Look at some of the differences between the two versions of this extract: 贾母 The Lady Dowager / Grandmother Jia 老祖宗 凤辣子 Old Ancestress / Granny dear Fiery Phoenix / Peppercorn Feng the school-room name His-feng / the somewhat boyish-sounding name of Tai-yu lost no time in greeting her with a smile as ―cousin.‖/ 二舅母王氏 Lady Wang, her second uncle„s wife / her Uncle Zheng„s wife, Lady Wang 学名叫做 王熙凤 Wang Xi-feng 黛玉忙赔笑见礼，以“嫂”呼之 Dai-yu accordingly smiled and curt-eyed, greeting her by her correct name as she did so. 竟不象老祖宗的外孙 女儿 She doesn„t take after her father, son-in-law of our Old Ancestress / She doesn„t take after your side of the family, Ganny. 怨不得老祖宗天天嘴里心里放不下 No wonder our Old Ancestress couldn„t put you out of her mind and was for ever talking and thinking about you. / I don„t blame you for having gone on so about her during the past few days 现吃什么药？ What medicine are you taking? / Not translated And there are some culturally-loaded expressions in the text that seem to defy translation: 琏二嫂子 内侄女 以 “ 嫂 ” 呼之 外孙女儿 嫡亲的孙女儿 妹妹 By comparing different translations of the same text, we can achieve a better understanding of cultural gaps and differences and then learn to employ proper strategies to bridge those gaps in translating across languages for intercultural communication.