The Effect of Vermeer’s Theory on Translating Cultural Communicative Texts

It is imperative to have a translation for communication to occur between people from the different cultural backgrounds. Through it, people are introduced to different languages as well as culture. Therefore, it is fundamental to articulate accurately the relationship between translation and culture. According to Newmark theory, for communication to take place effectively, it is critical to consider the cultures of parties involved during translation. However, it is not always easy for a translator to achieve this goal. As such, the current discussion focuses on outlining problems encountered in translating communicative cultural texts, the effect of Vermeer’s theory on translating communicative cultural texts, the strategies of Vermeer’s Skopos theory and the role of applying Skopos theory in improving cross-cultural readability.

Problems Encountered in Translating Cultural Communicative Texts

Through translation, the translators become the transmitters of different cultures. However, it is inevitable that the translation of a text aimed at facilitating communication reflects the translators own cultural outlook. A problem arises due to discrepancies in translator’s cultural beliefs, linguistic expression, and norms between the two languages in which a text is being translated (Kocbek, 2006). As such, cultural differences often impose a significant difficulty for a translator when it comes to elements such as language structure.

Further, there are always cultural gaps that arise from the aspect of society that lead to linguistic differences.  Translation of communicative text becomes problematic due to lack of translation equivalent for cultural terms which affect the goal of translation and readers expectations. Languages are different from one another; they are distinct because they have different rules and codes that regulate the construction of grammatical stretches of language (Kocbek, 2006).  Also, the different forms of language have divergent meanings. Therefore, it is always difficult for translators to convey the text message as intended due to the fact that a language does not have a counterpart in another.

Further, translation of communicative text encounters a problem due to terminology regarding adjectives and nouns combined with tenses. Some of the languages such as German and English are often constructed through a combination of several adjectives and nouns in the same sequence (Kocbek, 2006). However, for others this is not the case as words in the sentence goes in reverse order. As such, the occurrence of multiple elements in the text becomes quite ambiguous for a translator because of the several possible ways in which it can be interpreted.

Another problem occurs due to cultural elements commonly embedded on the syntactic level and forms that concern the way components in a sentence are connected idiomatically. Technical communication uses a purposeful reduction of stylistic forms. However, there are differences between languages that go beyond technical writing styles. If the structure of the target text is different, the translator finds it difficult to apply shifts to enhance intelligibility (Kocbek, 2006). These phenomena are related to a cultural aspect of people’s language because they are inherent to its use idiomatically.

The problems in translating communicative cultural texts can be encountered based on a pragmatic level (sender and receiver of the message). Different cultures have separate procedures used to organize social life, particularly when it comes to law. Cultures impacts text level and a translator with inadequate background knowledge can lead to insufficient translation that difficult to comprehend (Du, 2012). This is because dissimilarities in culture encompass special images of the society and literal translation that does not take this into account produces strange sound among people of the target culture.


Effects of Vermeer’s Theory in Translating Cultural communicative Texts

One of the impacts of this theory relates to its assertion that translation should be considered as interpersonal, intentional and partly verbal intercultural interaction. According to Vermeer, this should be dependent on the source of the communicative text. As such, it has brought a novel concepts on the target and source of the text. In the same manner, the theory enables the same text to be translated in distinct ways based on the aim of the target text. In other words, Vermeer’s theory requires one to translate what the principle is although this can be decided separately in each of the situations. In addition, the source of the communicative text becomes the focus (Du, 2012). Therefore, translators should be relieved of any restrictions to increase the range of possible strategies for translation based on the distinct purpose the translator aims at attaining. This implies acceptance of the various versions as well as evaluations of the individual translations on the purpose for which each is intended. Also, it means that there is no source text that has a perfect or even correct translation so the possibility of translating it is often expanded (Du, 2012). As such, Vermeer put different criteria that translators can depend on while translating a text in situations that involve people from different cultures. Translation can thus be perceived as adequate or insufficient based on the purpose and communicative function that is assigned to the audience.

Similarly, another impact of this theory is that it provides an adequate theoretical framework that can be used in certain areas of translation-related to communicative cultural texts. In this respect, the translation would certainly benefit from a consistent application of the guideline of this theory. For example, translators can rely on its importance of the clearly stated purpose of translation that defines the techniques as well as strategies which can be applied in producing functionally suitable text sensitive to cultural elements (Du, 2012). Similarly, by following the major principles outlined in Vermeer’s theory, complete translators can considerably increase the quality alongside the functionality of translation in cultural communicative texts by indicating the aim of the target text function while also taking into account its reception.

At the same time, Vermeer’s theory is perceived as a tool for cultural communication transfer where both the target language and source are embedded in their cultures. As such, it follows that translators should be highly qualified intercultural experts with ability to follow guidelines used in cultural translation (Du, 2012). It means interpreting the source culture for the text receiver.

The other impact of the theory relates to the need for translators to determine the method of translation as well as strategies to be applied to generate a functional translation. It has been identified that within a cultural community, there is often difficulty in communication because of an overlap of culture between the sender and receiver of information. Further, it has been determined that problems arise because translation is intercultural transfer in which communicative non-verbal and verbal sign is transmitted from one language to another (Beidelman, 2013). This is where Skopos theory comes in as it facilitates this type of transfer, particularly, when one considers its non-verbal aspect of communication between cultural diverse people. Here, a good knowledge of target culture and source is required and the translator who is the participant in the communication has to show a great extent of cultural competence. Vermeer also advocates consideration of language as essential means of communication which has to be used in the context of corresponding culture (Beidelman, 2013).

The other impact of Vermeer’s theory is concerned with the need for translators to have a good command of language and knowledge of the various aspects of culture. These have to be taken into account to prevent communication issues or breakdown. In other words, to avoid problems that encounter in translating cultural communicative texts, translators require having good knowledge bases of both the target culture and source (Beidelman, 2013).

The Strategies of Vermeer’s Skopos Theory

The strategy of translation stipulated by the theory related to the source text (ST) vs. target text (TT) orientation. It is interesting how the theory deals with the problem of ST vs. TT-orientation.  Skopos maintains that the function of TT can be different from that of ST. As such, as a pursuant of this theory, it is the role of translator to the task to produce a TT which satisfies communication between people of diverse cultural background (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013). A greater importance is put on TT as the theory proclaims the need to bear in mind Skopos does not state that this orientation is the correct way of translating a communicative text.  Therefore, there is no single way for translating a text, for instance, the purpose of translation can be based on strict word-for-word interpretation.

In this regard, it is evident that Vermeer’s model does not prefer one macro strategy over another; rather translator has to make a choice based on the given cultural circumstance. In the same connection, it is noteworthy that the Skopos theory does not apply or deal with translation method at the micro-level (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013). As such, it can be said that it does not provide translators with any specific guidelines to direct them on how to achieve the intended purpose of text interpretation. This is because the model is to be used in translation based on the circumstances in question and can be different every time. It is not possible to categorize micro strategies that can be used in this theory. It is up to the translators to plan a translation strategy on macro level to be used (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013). This should be a method that assists them to fulfill their purpose of the translation. The aim is dependent on the situation at hand and translators are at liberty to select what technique to apply.

Roles of Applying Skopos Theory in Improving Cross-Cultural Readability

One of the roles of applying Vermeer’s theory in improving cross-cultural readability concerns taking into account the receiver’s background knowledge and situations. For accurate readability of text in cross-cultural communication, these aspects must be internally coherent. Further, the theory improves cross-cultural readability as it holds that target text should be coherent with target text which means there must be coherence between ST and information to be received by the translator (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013). Also, since translation cannot be separated from a culture different, customs result in a huge gap in translation. Therefore, the Skopos model plays a significant role as it requires translators to have a cross-cultural mindset to release the ideal textual conversion from the source to the target language.  Similarly, it allows translation to be oriented towards target culture which means the need to get familiar with target culture while being cross-cultural sensitive (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013).

Additionally, it is imperative to note that Vermeer’s theory gives the translator a greater sense of flexibility as it allows them to choose the strategy to use translating a text based on the situation at hand. This helps them to take into account the cultures of the parties involved and the intended outcome of the target text. As such, it improves cross-cultural readability by promoting equivalence (Reiss & Vermeer, 2013). In return, this makes translation remain adapted to cultural standards and target language style.


Indeed, translation of cultural communicative text faces several problems due to discrepancies in translators beliefs, norms and linguistic expression, cultural gaps that lead to differences in languages, terminologies, elements embedded in syntactic forms and programmatic level. On that note, Vermeer Skopos’ theory affects translation of cultural texts. First, translators have the freedom to translate the text based on the desired outcome. The communicative text becomes the focus of doing this. It also provides a sufficient theoretical framework used to translate text taking into account the target culture and required translators to have high expertise while at the same time possess a good command of language and aspects of culture. Regarding strategies of Vermeer’s theory, it does not apply any specific strategy. In other words, it does not prefer any micro or macro strategy over another. Translators are at freedom to select what suit the situation at hand. Finally, it is this aspect that makes it’s a tool that helps to improve cross-cultural readability. Therefore, there is no single way for translating a text, for instance, the purpose of translation can be based on strict word-for-word interpretation. To read more about language and translation traditions you can look up this moving to a new country essay.