;   Medical Translation Insight: Recipe for success – localization of recipes? - ForeignExchange Translations

Recipe for success – localization of recipes?Our recent guest posts around medical translation (pro and con) received a lot of attention. The debate also touched on culinary translation, and one of the commentators pointed out the difficulty that surrounds the translation of dishes without equivalent names.

Prior to last summer's Olympic Games, Slate's Examiner looked at the stories behind Chinese dishes like "chicken without sexual life" and "bean curd made by a pockmarked woman". It's funny but it also highlights some of the difficulties in coming up with really good culinary translations.

So it's no surprise that translating recipes is similarly difficult. As a result, recipes often get localized to account for differences in tastes, measurements, available products, and so on.

Proponents of this practice argue that it's the only sensible approach. Why provide instructions that are impractical if translated? For example, this article on the discusses how the different attitudes and expectations around time must be taken into account when adapting Japanese recipes for American audiences:

To create Japanese sushi in America, some sushi making classes may have the rice already cooked or suggest instant rice. The sushi making ingredients may come pre-packaged, unlike the traditional way to make sushi, but in a way to make it easier on translation. The silent ceremony and traditions behind creating sushi may not be mentioned in a sushi making class in America, because Americans will not be performing the ceremony when they make sushi at home.
On the other hand, "foodies" and purists decry the localization of recipes. Their argument is that if you want Italian food that was adapted to U.S. tastes, go to Pizza Hut. Otherwise, take the time to search for original-language recipes and then translate them with out localizing them.

Where are you in this debate? Pizza Hut or strict adherence to sushi rules?

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  1. Paulina said...
    I think that recipes often have to be localized, as some ingredients are not available in other countries. I had a visitor from Taiwan who wanted to serve us a traditional dish, but she needed tofu for that and it is not easy to buy in my town. She "localized" her recipe and prepared the dish using hard boiled eggs. It was tasty. I am for localization.
    Investment Property said...
    It depends on the text and also the language combinations, I guess. Before translating, a little research is needed, so that we can decide whether this recipe has to be localized or not.
    E said...
    Isn't a recipe just like any other document in this sense: it depends on your audience?
    EasyLSP said...
    Localization vs Individualization

    With having the the means of today's technology we also have multiple opportunities. Why not have several versions?

    A traditionally localized version to serve the locale in a way to ensure that methods and concepts are understood on the one hand, and a means of translation rather than what we commonly understand as localization on the other hand, both directly linked to each other.

    This results in more choice and maybe more understanding in not only the recipe but also in the culture the recipe is native to.

    Of course it's more work as well, but I can see a lot of web publications going into that direction sooner rather than later.
    ForeignExchange Translations said...
    The Brave New Words blog had a good post on this recently. Check it out at brave-new-words.blogspot.com.

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