Today I wanted to look at how to translate the word ‘bread’.
Easy, isn’t it? Bread. Pane. Pain. Pan. Brot.
But before leaving things at that, just think for a moment about ‘bread’. What comes to mind? A loaf? Sliced bread? White bread? Brown bread? If you’re from Umbria you will probably be thinking about a classic loaf of saltless ‘pane’. You can feel the crunch of the crust between your teeth. You can feel the softness of the crumb in your mouth. You can even feel the warmth from the fireplace where you prepare bruschette with the newly pressed olive oil. Can you translate all of these sensations with the word ‘bread’? Bread is not just bread, it is also a reflection of our culture, our lives and our traditions.
For every one of us, the concept of bread is very closely tied to the culture in which we live and when translating we need to consider the importance of this connection between language and culture. Let’s look at an example…
Part 1 – The Recipe, the components of bread
Let’s take a classic Italian recipe for ‘pane comune’, a nice introduction to the world of bread-making for a beginner, and translate it into English. What do we need? Farina, acqua, sale and lievito. Let’s start with the farina, flour; in Italy, the most common flour is ‘00’, but what does that relate to in English? Even though 00 flour can be found in the UK, it is anything but the most common type of flour. You would need to go to a specialist shop for it and fork out more than you would for ‘normal’ flour.
Lievito. Let’s use normal yeast, ok? The little cubes of fresh yeast which you can buy anywhere in Italy? Not so easy to get hold of in the UK though.
Acqua e sale. Water and salt. No problem.
Here you have two possible translations for the ingredients of this recipe.
Italiano Translation 1 Translation 2
|Pane comune||Basic Italian loaf||Basic loaf|
|Farina 00||“00” flour||Strong white bread flour|
|Lievito fresco||Fresh yeast||Instant yeast|
These two translations are very different but both equally valid. It all depends on why we are doing the translation and who the text is aimed at.
The first example for a basic Italian loaf is more faithful to the original and is appropriate for a translation in which we want to maintain the Italian nature of the recipe. Whilst the original text works as a simple recipe for an Italian, the translation in English had a degree of foreignness to it and could serve as a way for the reader to learn more about authentic Italian food.
What does this translation entail? Considering the cultural differences between the reader of the original text and that of the translation, it could be useful to add some explanations, for example, as I have done in the title by specifying the Italian nature of the recipe, something which is not present in the original.
The second example, although it is very different, is valid when the purpose of the translation is to provide a recipe for English-speakers which is as equally simple and straightforward as the original recipe is for Italian readers.
What does this translation entail? To create a translation of this type, it is necessary to make some changes to the text, for example, by using a type of flour and yeast which are common in the UK. These changes would call for further changes, such as the quantity of water needed and the way of preparing the dough. The final result of the recipe would also be very different to that of the original….but nevertheless, it’s still bread!
Part 2 – in our next post….would you like a panini?