Original Research

Intercultural communication problems relating to translation from English into Sesotho

Anastacia Sara Motsei
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 9, No 3 | a201 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v9i3.201 | © 2013 Anastacia Sara Motsei | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2016 | Published: 30 December 2013

About the author(s)

Anastacia Sara Motsei, University of the Free State, South Africa

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In this article, certain translative communication problems associated with the linguistic and stylistic differences between English and Sesotho are identified and discussed. With a view to help improve translation between the two languages where inaccurate and stilted communication frequently occurs, issues of equivalence, fidelity/faithfulness and the purpose of translation are delved into. It is furthermore argued that in South African multilingual contexts, like legal courts, criminal cases/hearings and hospitals clinics and similar health establishments, inaccurate translation and/or misinterpreting can lead to serious miscarriages of justice and poor service delivery. The reasons for such unfortunate eventualities sometimes relate to the translator-interpreter’s poor understanding of the cultural factors behind the English or Sesotho message. As such, emphasis is lain on the need for a translator-interpreter’s cultural understanding of the source language/text (SL/T) and target language/text (TL/T) to deliver an accurate version (in the target language or text – TL/T) of the original message. It is furthermore shown that one cause of social and legal injustice is closely related to the translator- interpreter’s insufficient knowledge of both the English and Sesotho culture as it exists in grammatical forms, idiomatic structures, collocation patterns and stylistic patterns of the SL/T and the TL/T.


translation processes; interpreting practice; equivalence; fidelity; translative purpose; cultural influences; intercultural communication; legal discourse; social justice.


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