Culturally and Geographically Bound Translation

Culturally and Geographically Bound Translation

One of the challenges faced by a translator is translating culturally and/or geographically bound terminologies.  The problem dealing with this phenomenon is the unknown concept in the target language. Some examples of culturally and geographically bound terminologies that are found in translating private legal documents especially a lease agreement are “banjar”, “banjar dinas”, “banjar adat”, etc.  These terms may appear in the first part of the lease agreement involving Balinese people as a party. The first part of the lease agreement usually describes the  parties’ addresses and identities. These terms are unknown in English due to cultural differences, therefore they have no exact equivalents in English.

In order to translate these terms, a translator should firstly understand the geographical and cultural concepts in the source language. Since the concept is unknown in a target language, there is perhaps no equivalent of such term in TL (target language). Therefore, the translation strategies that a translator may adopt are a borrowing strategy combined with a descriptive equivalence strategy that is to borrow the word and providing a descriptive sentence presented in brackets or in the form of a footnote. The following extract taken from a lease agreement is presented to further describe the procedure that may be applied by a translator.

SLT (Source Language Text)

– Tuan XX, lahir di Badung pada tanggal 31-12-1950 (tiga puluh satu Desember seribu sembilan ratus lima puluh), Wiraswasta, bertempat tinggal di Banjar Dinas/Lingkungan XXX, Kelurahan Seminyak, Kecamatan Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, warga negara Indonesia, pemegang kartu tanda penduduk kabupaten Badung nomor XXXXXXX….


TLT (Target Language Text)

-Mr. XX, born in Badung on 31-12-1950 (the thirty-first day of December nineteen fifty), Private Person, residing at Banjar Dinas (Administrative Banjar) / XXX Village, Seminyak Sub District,  Kuta District, Badung Regency, Indonesian citizen, holder of Badung regency identity card number XXXXXXX….

By borrowing the term, the translator can transfer all the meaning components within the term as the literal translation may cause a skewing in translation in this specific case. There will be a loss in some information if we translate the term Banjar into ‘village’. Adding some descriptive information is also important to provide some information related to the term borrowed. The translator may put a footnote explaining the term Banjar which is a community center consisting of a number of families ranging from 20 up to 100 or more. The footnote does not have to be long depending on the target reader.

It is also important to know some information related to Banjar as a background knowledge. One village may consist of several Banjar depending on the size of the village itself. There are two types of Banjar namely Banjar Dinas and Banjar Adat. Banjar Dinas refers to the administrative one while Banjar Adat refers to the traditional one. Administrative Banjar represents the government in Banjar level while traditional Banjar primarily serves its member communal and religious needs. Banjar is headed by a Klian (Head of Banjar), assisted by a secretary, a treasurer and several messengers known as Kesinoman who are assigned to deliver messages to each family within the Banjar. The term “lingkungan” in the above context also refers to Banjar.


Written by Luh Windiari

TranslationPapers Bali


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