Domestication and Foreignization Strategies in Translation of Culture-Specific Items

Translations of English-Persian Children’s Literature

Term Paper, 2014

18 Pages

Mohammad Reza Shah Ahmadi (Author)



Culture-bound elements, such as proper names, food items, and idioms not only place the story of a book in a specific culture and period of time, but also imply certain values. These elements also have an effect on how the reader identifies with the story and characters. So, it is important to find the most appropriate strategy to translate such elements.

The objective of this paper is to find out what the most frequently used strategy in translation of culture-specific items in children‟s literature is. To this end, venuti‟s (1995) model of domestication and foreignization strategies was adopted as the framework. The culture-bound terms were classified based on Toponyms, Anthroponyms, Means of transportation, Date, Food and Drink, Idioms, Measuring system, Scholastic reference. In the process of tracking down the culture-specific items the model proposed by Pedersen (2005) has been used.

To collect and analyze the data, first, the researcher compared ten successive pages, selected randomly, of each of the selected English children‟s stories (Daddy long legs by Jean Webster, Anne- of- Green-Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain) with their Persian translation to identify culture-specific items. Next, the strategies used by the translator were identified and their frequency was calculated. The results, then, were presented in some tables.

According to the obtained results, although both domesticating and foreignizing strategies have been used, foreignization has been the most dominant cultural translation strategy in children‟s literature.

Statement of the problem

In the process of translation, the problem for the translator is how to deal with culture specific items; that is, to decide which issues take priority: the cultural aspect of the source language society, or the cultural aspect of the target language society?

This study analyzes the culture- specific items and the treatment given to them based on the concepts of domestication and foreignization proposed by Lawrance Venuti (1995) in before mentioned children‟s literature. The aim is to find out the dominant translation strategy adopted by the Persian translators in translating culture- specific items in children‟s literature.

Research question

In this study the researcher is to find answers to the following questions:

1. What treatment- domestication or foreignization- is given to culture-specific items in children‟s literature: Daddy long legs by Jean Webster, Anne- of- Green-Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain?

2. What is the most frequent strategy in translating culture-specific items in children‟s literature?


The researcher predicts that Domestication is the dominant strategy used by Persian translators in translating culture-specific items in aforementioned children‟s stories.

Key words: children‟s literature, culture-specific items (culture bound elements), domestication, foreignization


The researcher faced some challenges in finding the translation of some of the books. At first she was interested in studying on translation of culture bound items from Persian to English, especially on Hushang Moradi-e-Kermani‟s books such as Mihman-e-maman, Bachehaye ghalibafkhane, Morabbaye shirin etc. although they have been translated in to Persian, the researcher, despite her effort, couldn‟t find their translations. Thus, she chose short story. But she couldn‟t find their translations either. Thus, the researcher selected English to Persian children‟s literature and the books within her access.


The researcher decided to select randomly ten successive pages of each book to identify and analyze culture-specific items.

Review of the related literature

a. Children’s literature

Karin (2005) defines children‟s literature as “a category of books whose existence depends on the relationship with a particular reading audience: children”. (6)

Literature is a very effective way not only to entertain children, but also to help them understand the world, and to socialize them. With the help of a translated story, children can identify with the characters; and therefore, they can learn about the culture and values different from their own.

Children‟s literature cannot be thought of as fiction where it doesn‟t make any difference whether story is set in England or Never land. If the author has intentionally set the story in a specific culture and context, this surly has an importance for the story, at least by putting it in a frame. The more these frames are changed in a translation. The more obscure the result may be. (5)

Translating children‟s literature can either bridge cultural differences or obscure them. If culture bound elements are foreignized, the story can be a means of learning about cultures, in other words, help children learn about differences and similarities between his/her culture and in which the story happens.

Shavit (1981) argues that because of the peripheral position of children‟s literature, translators may have greater freedom regarding the text. He believes that, the translator is allowed to manipulate the text in various ways by changing, enlarging, or abridging it or by deleting or adding to it”. All these procedures are authorized if (1) the text is adjusted to make it appropriate and useful to the child, in accordance with what society considers as educationally “good for the child”; and (2) plot, characterization, and language are adjusted to prevailing society‟s perceptions of the child ability to read and comprehend. Therefore, in order to be considered as an acceptable translated story for children, the final translated text must follow these two principles, or at least not violate them. And these complementary principles determine the progression of the translation process. (9)

Oittinen (1993), Puurtinen (1995) and Pascua (1998) do not agree, generally speaking, with a foreignizing approach in children‟s Literature. (1) Puurtinen (1995) states that:

“Preference for acceptability is connected with the properties of the primary target group: ... children with their imperfect reading abilities and limited world knowledge are not expected to tolerate as much strangeness and foreignness as adult readers. (ibid)

b. Domestication and Fareignization

Since the time of Cicero and St Jerome there has been an argument over „word-for- word‟ translation and „sense-for-sense‟ translation strategies. This division has been expressed in many different ways through history, from Nida‟s „formal‟ and „dynamic‟ equivalence, Newmark‟s „semantic‟ and „communicative‟translation, House‟s „overt‟ and „covert‟ translation, and so on.

All of these oppositions relate to the degree to which strategies involve manipulating a source text in its translation to a target text, with extent of this manipulation being determined by the relationship of target text receivers to the source culture. (2)

Lawrence Venuti in his book „The translator‟s invisibility‟ (1995) proposes

„Domestication‟ and „Foreignization‟ strategies to handle cultural elements.

Foreignization, the translator‟s visibility or resistance tends towards the author. It is a theory of translation that resists dominant target-language cultural values so as to signify the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text (12). So makes the reader realize that he is reading a translation of the work from a foreign culture. (ibid)

On the other hand, there is domestication, the translator‟s invisibility, fluency and transparency. Domestication refers to the target-culture-oriented translation in which unusual expressions to the target culture are turned into some familiar ones to make the translated text fluent and easy for the target readers.

Venuti believed that the more fluent the translation, the more invisible the translator, the more visible the meaning of the foreign text.

“A fluent translation is recognizable, intelligible familiarized, domesticated, not foreign, capable of giving the reader unobstructed access to what is presented in original”. (ibid)

Venuti derived these two terms-„Domestication‟and„Foreignization‟- from his reading of Schleiermacher‟s famous 1813 lecture on the translator‟s choice between moving the reader towards the author or the author towards the reader.

Schleiermacher argued that:

“There are only two. Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as possible and moves the reader toward him or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible and moves the author towards him.”(ibid) The former refers to “foreignization”, while the latter refers todomestication”.


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Domestication and Foreignization Strategies in Translation of Culture-Specific Items
Translations of English-Persian Children’s Literature
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domestication, foreignization, strategies, translation, culture-specific, items, translations, english-persian, children’s, literature
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Mohammad Reza Shah Ahmadi (Author)Fatemeh Nosrati (Author), 2014, Domestication and Foreignization Strategies in Translation of Culture-Specific Items, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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