Cultural Differences and the Message
Cultural differences can affect the way a person perceives the meaning of a communicated message in several ways: the forms of communication in which people can understand, the translation of message, the context of message, and the development of theology (Hiebert 1985:141).
When a message is communicated from a sender to a receiver, it is represented in the form of a signifier or a symbol. A symbol is the linkage of meanings in which people can understand the message. This means essentially that symbols link together meanings, forms, persons, functions, and contexts. When a message is transmitted within the same culture, there is no need to differentiate the connotative and denotative meaning of the symbols because the message can be understood with the same underlining meaning. However, when the message is communicated to a new culture, it must be translated so that the people can understand the message with minimal distortion. For example, the word 'shepherd' which we associate with people who care for sheep, is also seen as debauched drunkards people of the Telugu culture. To minimize such misunderstandings, therefore, translators of the Bible these days take into considerations dynamic interpretations, where emphasis is placed on retaining connotative meanings to link the message to local context using symbols of the closest cultural equivalence (Hiebert 1985: 141-143, 149-152, 156-158).
In understanding that Bible translations can connote non-original Scriptural text, we must be careful to convey the correct meaning of the message when teaching the young in faith and leading people of other cultures to Christ.
Hiebert, G. Paul (1985), Anthropological Insights for Missionaries. Michigan: Baker Book House.
For the complete e-book of this article, please read Introduction to Christian Missions.
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