South African language practitioners' approaches to the translation of public health communication: mere intermediaries or social and cultural mediators?
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Health communication in South Africa aimed at a lay target group is still largely expert led, marked by medical jargon and affected by cultural taboos. South African language practitioners who translate health communication for target communities may facilitate expert-lay communication if they take the target reader's context and culture into account. The extent of their text mediation may indicate whether they are merely intermediaries conveying health messages or act as social and cultural mediators adapting source texts to the culture of target readers. As intermediaries, they may assist the client in achieving predetermined health outcomes; as social and cultural mediators, they may assist the community in advancing their health. Within Craig's Constitutive Metamodel of Communication, the intermediary can be included in the transmission model; the mediator, again, who promotes intercultural understanding, information sharing and reader participation, may find conceptual space in the sociocultural model of communication. As related to development communication, the intermediary can be positioned in the diffusion of innovations (DOI) model; the mediator, again, in a participatory development (PD) model. Language practitioners, who contribute to communication for development (C4D) or communication for development and social change (CDSC) by being flexible in applying translation approaches, may be positioned in a hybrid model of development communication. The aim of this phenomenological study was to determine whether or not South African language practitioners act as social and cultural mediators, and whether their selection of translation approaches and degree of text mediation confirm such a role. The study applied mixed-methods research with a two-phase sequential design to investigate the scope of translation approaches. 74 language practitioners participated in this research by completing a questionnaire designed as research instrument. Nine respondents were interviewed. Through triangulation of literature, quantitative and qualitative data, this study found that language practitioners were using the full spectrum of translation approaches available to them, i.e. approaches of equivalence, functionalist approaches and (culturally) adaptive approaches. Language practitioners mediate texts to some degree by applying these approaches innovatively and creatively, and by improvising while translating. Their selection of translation approaches indicated provision for high-context and low-context cultures. Lack of health and medical terminology and research possibilities in African languages apparently stimulates the use of adaptive translation approaches. While language practitioners from the Nguni and Sotho language groups were likely to view themselves as social and cultural mediators, language practitioners from the West Germanic group were divided in this respect. The study also found a relationship between language practitioners' views on social responsibility and a social and cultural mediator stance. Sufficiently strong evidence indicated language practitioners' contribution to health promotion and CDSC, which justifies their positioning within a hybrid of the diffusion and participatory approaches to development communication.
- Humanities 
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