Crossing cultures – the significance of translation transferability for people innovation

The role of the cultural interlocutor

The discipline of translation and the social instrument of people innovation are now interrelated as words have an impact on the human conception of rationalising and perceiving the world and social structures which dictate our lives. Linguistic barriers stifle creativity, and through encouraging greater cross-cultural/ inter cultural understandings in business, new, creative and potentially breakthrough business ventures can be realised as a result.

Arguably, it is the translator’s job to eliminate linguistic misunderstandings for a target language readership; concurrently, it is the responsibility of the employer to eliminate linguistic isolation within his /or her workforce.

The global translation community is now focused on producing methodologies to minimise cultural differences in their target readerships for greater intercultural understanding amongst diverging cultural systems; cultural differences are still incredibly relevant and diversity tends to increase, as a direct result of cosmopolitan community expansion.

More and more in the translation profession, including theorists, Edwin Gentzler and Laurence Venuti, are becoming cultural mediators as well as rewriters of translated texts. It is now argued that every translator procreates as textual constructors themselves, controlling a target language reader’s conception of the text they are presented with. Concurrently, people innovators at a business level must now be aware of acute cultural differences and sustain respectful cross-cultural relations with workforce personnel.

The cultural interlocutor as an innovator can help neutralise the fear that alienating language causes. Like the translator, the innovator is bound by an ethical code; when engaging with attitudes from the diverging cultural community, the people innovator will have to take account of the individual’s behaviour towards activities, suggestions and language usage proposed, and remains communicative even if there are conflicts of interest.

One prominent translation theorist, Edwin Gentzler, has recently argued that translators have to ‘communicate/ translate’ across cultural and physical spaces through an exchange, a transfer of meaning, known as ‘border spaces’. It is now contested that through transposing new ideas from one language to another and from one local system to another, cultural tenets become more globalised. Translators mediate between cultures (including ideologies, moral and socio- political structures) seeking to overcome incompatibilities in the way of transfer of meaning, adopting ‘bi-cultural vision’ (Hatim and Mason, 1990), ‘translators are authors; translation is as creative as original writing’ (Gentzler, 2008:115). Concurrently, by tackling this transfer of meaning, people innovators can expand on the superstructure of fear, innovation and motivation in a business context as representatives of ‘bicultural vision’.

The objective is to encourage acceptance, tolerance and greater cultural sensitivity towards the ideological tenets of a workforce in order to achieve or at least emulate ethical change. If greater steps are taken to bridge the ideological chasm separating cultures and diverging language users in a workplace, ethical change in business can occur with the potential to induce breakthrough business ventures.

Translators have an ethical responsibility for the words they use and ideologies they are advocating, having to consider the impact their words/ or lack of explanations, can produce on the TL readership. Concurrently, in a business context, techniques in human innovation for organizations and employers are also expected to carry out this role in order to provide effective communication in a workplace environment and must also consider the impact and functional purpose of language, not to the detriment of the employee.

Having a ‘way with words’; people innovating at a lexical level

Lexical structures can empower how we make sense of the language we use to communicate, and consequently, innovate. Different groups within cultures have different expectations about what kind of language is appropriate to particular situations and culture specific words, are not easily accessible for the target language user, especially when incorporated into a business context. Translators have reconsidered the way we use language at a core level; they ‘disambiguate’, resolving distortions in texts when addressing key lexical chains so that the intended TL readership can perceive what the ST writer had intended to convey in this specific linguistic context.

The translator has to combat the ‘fuzziness’ inherent in language, attempting to perceive the meanings of words and utterances as precisely as possible in order to render them into another language. Consequently, the employer and business organisation can adopt the same procedure and uphold the same ethical duties; by ‘disambiguating’ at a lexical level, alienating language can become redundant and nonhierarchical and a clearer, more egalitarian understanding can be rendered for personnel of distinguishable cultural and linguistic makeups, eliminating the majority of fuzziness of meaning at a word level.


Baker, Mona. (2011) In Other Words: A Coursebook on translation. 2nd Edition. Routledge: London & New York.

Christensen,Clayton M.,Dyer, Jeffrey H, Gregersen, Hal B, ‘The Innovator’s DNA’ (December 2009) Available at: <> (Last accessed 6th September 2013)

Gentzler, Edwin. (2008) Translation and Identity in the Americas: New Directions in Translation Theory. London and New York: Routledge.

Hall, Stuart (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hatim, Basil and Mason, Ian (1990) Discourse and the Translator. Harlow: Longman Group UK Ltd.

‘Kwintissential- Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions’ (2012) Available at: <> (Last accessed 6th September 2013)

Singer, R. Marshall (1998) Perception and Identity in Intercultural Communication. Maine: Intercultural

Venuti, Lawrence (2004) The Translation Studies Reader. 2nd edition. Routledge.

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