Mannheim, Germany

Translating Languages and Cultures

when 12 June 2019 - 6 July 2019
language English
duration 4 weeks
credits 6 EC
fee EUR 250

Misunderstandings often arise when speakers of different language backgrounds, even speakers of different dialects of the same language, communicate with one another. Sometimes misunderstandings may be easily identified and rectified; but other times there may be grave consequences resulting in complete communication breakdowns. Serious misunderstanding may be largely due to mal-translation or mis-interpretation of a particular culture when, very often, people involved are not really aware that there are any problems, especially in a bilingual/bidialectal environment, which may lead to serious failures in communication.

This course will not attempt to address everything leading to misunderstandings caused by mal-translation. The discussion will be firmly grounded in cutting edge research, and we will begin with the relationship between language and culture as defined in contemporary theories and then explore the issue of false friends across languages in depth, aiming at a modified model of classification (into which a comparison of Chinese ideographs [Hanzi] with alphabetical writing will also be integrated). The course then moves on to explore the differences in language and culture that underlie and play a major role in mal-translations in intercultural contexts. We will examine barriers to successful intercultural translations and issues of intranslatability across cultures. Finally, mal-translations in contemporary bilingual dictionaries (with special reference to Chinese-English dictionaries) will be discussed in order to raise students’ awareness of the seriousness of the issues involved and to highlight ways of improving the quality of intercultural communication. Throughout the course, practical means for identifying and minimising misunderstandings will be addressed and discussed. The course will conclude with considerations of useful strategies in resolving intercultural dilemmas in cross-language/cultural interactions.

This course will be relevant to a wide range of majors, including students of linguistics, culture, translation, literature, education, mass media, and also to students from other professional areas interested in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural themes. This course will help participants to gain substantial knowledge and deep insights into the background of mal-translation issues, and to become aware of the problems of mal-translation in cross-cultural contexts. The course is designed to provide students with the effective tools they need to improve their interactions and to cope with barriers in their intercultural encounters. During classes, students will be encouraged to provide examples from their own languages, to contribute to discussions by taking into account different perspectives and to reflect problems against the backcloth of their own cultures. They will gain new insights into the ways in which language and culture affect each other.

Course leader

Prof. Gong Qi

Target group

Undergraduate Students

Fee info

EUR 250: This course forms part of the Mannheim Summer School 2019. The registration fee of 250€ includes all coursework (up to two courses of the program), a Welcome Reception, a welcome package, two excursions, evening leisure activities, a Farewell BBQ, transcript of records and certificate as well as individual support in finding accomodation.


The Mannheim Summer School is strongly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. We are therefore able to keep registration cost low for every participant and do not offer individual scholarships.