On the Mistranslation of Cultural Words in the English Versions of Sun Tzu’s Art of War

  •  Jianchuan Zhou    


Sun Tzu’s Art of War is originally a book of military science, and its influence has transcended military field and found its way into many fields such as politics, business, and diplomacy. It is commented that Sun Tzu’s wisdom should belong to the whole world rather than any single country. This book has been translated into about 30 languages hitherto. However, it is noticeable that there are many mistranslations in these versions for various reasons. This paper holds three reasons for mistranslations, namely, the translator’s compromise to the patrons; misinterpretation of the source text and improper expressions in the target language; and the translator’s lack of knowledge of the source language’s culture. More examples of the mistranslation of cultural words are given to illustrate the importance of the translator’s cultural competency without which the translation would be unreadable and unacceptable. In a global exchange context, more attention to cultural differences may contribute to cultural communication and progress.

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