An assessment of the Problems and Prospects of Translating Hausa Proverbs into English

An assessment of the Problems and Prospects of Translating Hausa Proverbs into English

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Proverbs enshrine a lot of historical and cultural heritage of the people who possess them. They contain a vast treasure of information and knowledge on the socio-cultural life of their beholders. But unlike prose narratives and some other forms of literary genres, proverbs do not lend themselves easily to translation. Translators often encounter a lot of problems in translating proverbs across languages. Some of these problems are linguistic, especially where the source language and the target language are structurally different. Others are cultural, especially where the languages involved are geographically apart. The aim of this research is to identify and discuss the problems and prospects of translating Hausa proverbs into English. The research investigates Hausa proverbs in order to identify their functions, the historical and cultural elements of the Hausa people they contain, the different contexts within which Hausa proverbs could be used, the translation techniques suitable for translating Hausa proverbs into English, and measures to adopt in order to minimize loss of meaning. In doing so, 50 Hausa Proverbs were randomly selected -according to their relevance to the research- from the internet, and from the work of Kirk-Greene (1966) titled: Hausa Ba Dabo Bane and those proverbs compiled by Ibrahim Madauchi, Yahaya Isa and Bello Daura in their book Hausa Customs (1968). In some instances proverbs from the researcher’s personal experience are used based on the Chomskian concept of the validity of native speaker’s intuition. These proverbs are grouped into two; culture bound and culture free. At the end of the research we discovered that Hausa proverbs are used for different functions and in different contexts. They are used to warn, admonish, encourage, rebuke and so on. Furthermore, we discovered that culture bound proverbs tend to pose more problems to translators as a result of the cultural elements ingrained in them. Such proverbs could be translated with minimal loss of meaning only through the use of footnotes to explain the cultural elements, circumlocution, loan translation e.t.c. On the other hand, a similar proverb in the TL could be adopted to translate a culture free or universal proverb.


2.0 Introduction

This chapter introduces the study thereby examining the motivation to the study, brief

historical origin of the Hausa people and language, statement of the research problem, aim

and objectives, research questions, hypothesis to be tested, significance of the study and the

scope and delimitation of the study.

Proverbs are one of the genres of oral literature. Lamidi (2008:61-2) views them as witty

sayings that capture the logic, culture and observation of a people. They often evolve from

traditional lore, history and religion, and are attributed to elders, as they are believed to

contain the wisdom of the elders or ancestors in the society. Like human language, proverbs

are a means of communication and information storage. Proverbs as major sources of

information storage are a dominant means of communication in the unlettered culture and are

quoted constantly when folks engage in a discourse (Ashipu, 2007:521). Proverbs in both

traditional and modern societies are used for so many purposes. Murray (1911:13) observes:

They have much to teach us. They are the safest index to the inner life of a people. With them we can construct a mental image of the conditions of existence, the manners, characteristics, moral and weltanschauung of the community which used them. They present us with the surest data upon which to base our knowledge of volspscholgia.

Therefore, proverbs are not just wise sayings, but also a medium through which much can be

learnt about a people’s past history, philosophy of life, family structures, ideas and cultural

beliefs. Kirk-Greene (1966: ix-x) observes that proverbs enshrine much of the cultural

heritage of a people, their traditions, their history, their wisdom and ethics. According to

Amali (1985:30), African proverb lore is its indigenous warehouse well fortified for the safe-

keeping and codificat

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