Intercultural Aspects of Specialized Translation. The Language of Traditional Chinese Medicine in a Globalized Context

  • Barbara Cappuzzo University of Palermo, Italy
Keywords: Traditional Chinese Medicine, English translation, sourceoriented translation, target-oriented translation, terminology standardization


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a very ancient history and its importance for human health has long been acknowledged worldwide. The significant role that TCM plays in the global healthcare system has been officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), which devoted a chapter to TCM in the 2019 latest version of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11). TCM, alone or in combination with Western Medicine (WM), has been recommended for various health conditions (Aung et al., 2013; Cai et al., 2015; Zhang et al., 2015) – including mild COVID-19-related symptoms (Zhao et al. 2021). As a result of globalization, which has fostered the spread of TCM in the Western world, and the prominent role of English as the language of international communication, there has been an ever-increasing need for translation and higher levels of accuracy and standardization in the English terminology related to Chinese medical concepts. This issue has raised several debates over time among linguists, translators, and physicians as to the approach to be adopted for the English translation of Chinese medical terms. If on the one hand, a source-oriented strategy tends to preserve the original meaning and to convey concepts as closely as possible to the original language, on the other hand, a target-oriented method attempts to render those concepts more accessible to the target language, albeit the integrity of their true meaning is likely to be undermined. This paper intends to highlight the major questions that the translation of culture-bound terms poses when different cultures are involved. In this respect, two important works were analyzed and compared, namely A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine (1998), and the International Standard Chinese-English Basic Nomenclature of Chinese Medicine (2008). Both works testify to the difficulty of carrying out advanced projects of standardization of Chinese-English nomenclature of medical terms in the joint effort to create a common reference language.


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How to Cite
Cappuzzo, B. (2022). Intercultural Aspects of Specialized Translation. The Language of Traditional Chinese Medicine in a Globalized Context. European Scientific Journal, ESJ, 18(5), 25.