This study sets its boundary in studying cultural words in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture” by Huu Ngoc. It will look into the equivalence and non-equivalence of Vietnamese cultural words and their translations from the following points:
Translation has been viewed differently through times and thus defined variously. Larson (1984: 3) stated “Translation is basically a change of form… In translation the form of the source language is replaced by the form of the receptor (target) language”. Newmark (1988:5) did not seem to totally agree with Larson - who considered translation a basic “change of form”, by emphasizing the “intended in the text” as said “ Translation is rendering a written text into another language in the way the author intended in the text.”
Hatim & Mason (1990:3), on the other hand, focused more on the communicative purpose of translation by citing: “Translation is a communicative process which takes place within a social context”. It is then followed by other linguists, Bell (1991: 5), who thought “semantic and stylistic equivalences” are crucial for a translation to communicate successfully: “Translation is the expression in another language (or TL) of what has been expressed in another, source language, preserving semantic and stylistic equivalences”
These definitions, in spite of slight differences in the expressions, share common features that they all emphasize the importance of finding the closest equivalence in meaning by the choice of appropriate target language’s lexical and grammatical structures, communication situation, and cultural and the requirement to find equivalents which have similar characteristics to the original. It is this notion of equivalence, which will be taken into consideration in the next part.
1.1.2. Translation equivalence
As easily seen, equivalence can be considered a central concept in translation theory. Therefore, it is not by chance that many theorists define translation in terms of equivalence relation. Newmark (1988) defines: “The overriding purpose of any translation should be to achieve ‘equivalence effect’ i.e. to produce the same effect on the readership of translation as was obtained on the readership of the original”. He also sees equivalence effect as the desirable result rather than the aim of any translation except for two cases: (a) If the purpose of the SL text is to affect and the TL translation is to inform or vice versa; (b) If there is a pronounced cultural gap between the SL and the TL text.
Pym(1992) has even pointed to its circularity: equivalence is supposed to define translation, in turn, defines equivalence.