Translation Of Public Signs From Functionalist Perspective Cultural Studies Essay

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Public signs are always treated as a bridge for international communication. Public signs are very important in real life. They have played an important role in regulating people's behavior, improving mutual understandings, adjusting interpersonal relationship, building a harmonious society, etc. Walking on the street of Zhoushan, we can easily find various bilingual public signs. However, according to my survey, the mistranslations and pretermissions of the C-E translation of public signs in Zhoushan are very common, which deeply do harm to Zhoushan's image. Thus we should put more emphasis on their translations.

Functionalist approaches provide us with a translation theory for the C-E translation of public signs, under the guidance of which this paper tries to analyze part of public signs in Zhoushan and puts forward some translation strategies, hoping to make a contribution to improving Zhoushan's C-E sign translation quality.

This paper first introduces some related information of public signs, such as the definition, classification, characteristics of public signs, etc and then introduces the theoretical basis of C-E sign translation of this paper-functionalism, including some of its important basic concepts. By a case study, the author analyzes some errors and mistakes of parts of C-E sign translation in Zhoushan and puts forward some advisable translation strategies based on functionalism. In the conclusion, some limitations such as the time and the authors' capacity are eventually explained.

In addition, many experts have put forward their own understandings of its definition. According to Professor Dai Zongxian and Professor Lü Hefa, public signs are "the words and graphics that are closely related to the life, production, ecology and the profession of the public in order to provide information of notifying, directing, displaying, and warning" (Dai & Lü, 2005: 38). Professor Zhang Meifang defines the meaning as "the notices published by both governmental agencies and non-governmental agencies in public places, including road signs, signboards, bulletin boards and slogans" (Zhang, 2006: 29). Based on the several scholars' researches, Professor Pi Demin offers a re-definition: "public signs, a kind of special practical style, are displayed or broadcast in public places through written or spoken language and graphic symbols also when necessary in order to realize certain communicative purpose and help the masses to understand better" (Pi, 2010: 131).

Informative texts are aimed at conveying "information to the receiver" (Shuttleworth & Cowie, 2004: 73). The language dimension used to transmit the information is logical or referential, the content or 'topic' is the main focus of the communication" (Munday, 2010: 73). Thus informative signs are also aimed at giving the receivers some information. Take a hotel sign from GRAND BARONY ZHOUSHAN as an example (See Picture 1.1). This sign informs the guests of the checkout time and that extra fees will be charged after the checkout time.

According to Reiss, when referring to expressive texts, "the major characteristic is that they include an aesthetic component." (Shuttleworth & Cowie, 2004: 56). "The author or 'sender' is foregrounded, as well as the form of the message" (Munday, 2010: 73). Her idea of expressive texts is "restricted to the aesthetic aspects of literary or poetic texts" (Nord, 2001: 41). Unlike Reiss,her student Christine Nord thinks that the expressive texts in her model refer to "the sender's attitude toward the objects and phenomena of the world" (ibid). Consequently, we can apply expressive texts to public signs as well. For example, (See Picture 1.2), this sign can be clearly seen in front of the entrance of Mount Puoto, which expresses the addresser's (the scenic zone) friendly attitude towards the addressees (the guests).

When referring to functionalism, we often come up with the "German School" of functionalism. However, in Christine Nord's famous book Translation as a Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained, she defines a broader definition for it: "'Functionalism' is a broad term for various theories that approach translation in this way. A number of scholars subscribe to functionalism and draw inspiration from Skopostheorie without calling themselves anything like 'skopists'" (Nord, 2001: 1). From her definition, we can see that not only the "German School" belongs to functionalism. Besides, according to Professor Jia Wenbo, there are also other scholars who belong to functionalism, including British scholar Peter Newmark and American scholar Eugene A. Nida. As a result, this paper will briefly focus on the three types of functionalism.

This sign was set up at the exit of Wugongshi Dock. It is a common mistake which I have seen many times in Zhoushan. The Chinese version indicates the hospitality of the staff in the dock, but it is misused. Let's look at the usage of "welcome". "Welcome" in English can be used as a noun, a transitive verb, an adjective and an exclamation. When it is a transitive verb, it has three meanings: (1) to greet sb in a friendly way when they arrive somewhere. (2) to be pleased that sb has come or has joined an organization, activity, etc. (3) to be pleased to receive or accept sth. All above-mentioned meanings do not fit for the context. "Welcome" should be used when you greet sb. Here "欢迎" is a way to invite sb to come to the dock again. Thus "welcome" and "欢迎" are not functionally equal. "Welcome" has another usage when it is an exclamation, namely "welcome" plus "to someplace". "Welcome to China" is such an example. But it hasn't the usage of "welcome" plus "to do sth". To sum up, the proper English version should be "Look Forward to Your Next Visit."

Pragmatic errors are very serious problems and translators should take responsibility for these errors. Thus the strategy to improve the C-E sign translation from the pragmatic perspective is to produce more qualified translators. A qualified translator should possess not only solid translation knowledge, skills and cultural awareness, but also a conscientious attitude. On the one hand, without solid knowledge and cultural awareness, a translator cannot properly do the translation work and even cause mistakes. On the other hand, the attitude of the translators is also very important. Translation is similar to scientific researches, which pay much attention to one's attitude. Therefore, the translators should bear in mind the responsibility and adopt an earnest attitude.

Public signs play a very important role in the daily life for both the Chinese and the foreigners. Accordingly, the translation of these signs seems to be very essential. Thus, I attempt to make an investigation of C-E signs in Zhoushan. At present, bilingual signs can be found in many places in Zhoushan. However, through my observation, the translation versions are so far from satisfactory that it will cause misunderstanding for the foreigners and even damage Zhoushan's image. Thus it is necessary for me to carry on a case study here and finally I finished this paper.

As for the paper, the author uses four chapters to finish it. To begin with, the paper introduces some related information of public signs, such as the definition, classification, characteristics, etc. Then the paper introduces some important basic concepts of functionalism. In addition, from the functionalist approaches, this paper analyzes the translation errors of public signs by a lot of examples collected in Zhoushan. Furthermore, the paper puts forward some strategies from the pragmatic, cultural and linguistic perspective.

Through my survey, I have made some conclusions about the current situation of public signs in Zhoushan. On the one hand, the amount of bilingual signs is badly deficient. On the other hand, there are so many errors in the C-E signs translation. It indicates the inefficiency of the C-E signs in Zhoushan.

It should be pointed out that because of the wide range of signs, the limited time and the author's energy, there are also some limitations about the paper. What's more, the strategies the author puts forward cannot be applied to all situations. Further studies need to be carried out.