Translating ‘Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes’ Cookbook Into Malay: Issues And Challenges


The food industry grows constantly each year and food has become a medium to bring out a new cultural identity of a race and society to other people from different backgrounds. Hence, translated cookbooks can help introduce new cultural aspects to the targeted readers and introduce ingredients that are rarely used in different countries. This paper discusses the issues and challenges faced whilst translating ’Jamie Oliver's Food Escapes’ cookbook into Malay. A cookbook is chosen as the source text because cookbooks are normally laden with specific cultural elements and this can be seen from the differing styles of cooking and ingredients used between different regions. Before translating, a pre-translation analysis is carried out based on the analytical framework introduced by Christian Nord in order to analyze the extratextual and intratextual factors of the source and translated text. Based on the pre-translation analysis, issues such as the name of ingredients and dishes, the use of figurative language and cooking terminology were found to be some of the challenges faced during the translation process. Thus, the translation procedures structured by Peter Newmark and strategies proposed by Mona Baker are applied to counter these challenges. The semantic procedure is also used to support the translation choices. The findings showed that cookery texts cannot be translated merely using the communicative approach alone but requires the use of other translation strategies to retain the referential and appellative function of the source text, so as to produce a natural sounding translated text that reads smoothly.

Keywords: Culturetranslationtext analysisproceduresstrategiescooking terminology


Newmark (1981) defines translation as an attempt to replace a message or written statement from the source language (SL) with the same message or statement in the target language (TL). In this case translation does not simply refer to the act of transferring words from the SL to TL but epitomises the act of presenting cultural information contained in SL into the TL. Thus, translation acts as a bridge of communication that links differing languages and cultures and helps to propagate the sharing of knowledge between these different cultures. The discussion in this paper revolves around a translation specifically produced for a translation project which represents a part of an MA. thesis requirement. An English cookbook was chosen as the source text to be translated into Malay because food has become a progressively fascinating subject in translation. Food related translations can be seen in most mass media communications such as in books, magazines, newspapers, on television and on websites. Furthermore, improvements in food production from all over the world have increased the need for the translation of information on food labels, thus, making these types of translation rather important (Chiaro & Rossato 2015). Translating cookbooks is one example of knowledge sharing between two cultures because food is all about identification and culture and that food has become the symbol of identity of a country's culture and politics (Kohler, 2001). In other words, cookbook translation can help to introduce new cultural aspects via styles of cooking and ingredients used as cooking features of every region can be vastly different. Thus, this helps decrease the knowledge and language gap that exists between diverse cultures and introduce target readers to a different food culture and other perhaps unfamiliar ingredients used in the cooking of meals from different countries and communities all across the world.

Problem Statement

It is known that every industry has its own jargon that is used widely by the people in a certain industry. Similar to every industry like in health, law, engineering and many others, cooking industry has its own specialized vocabulary that may be difficult for the layman to understand. A safe approach in translating would be to translate it literally. However, translating recipes or cookbooks require a more comprehensive approach and strategy to ensure that readers will be able to follow the instructions given in the recipe and to give readers a clear idea of the food culture outside of their vicinity. Byrne (2014) has defined cookbooks as technical texts in the form of a manual as cookbooks usually comprise of a set of recipe-style units containing a list of ingredients and a numbered list of readable steps needed to cook a specific dish. As such, translating technical texts of any specialized discipline requires familiarity, knowledge and experience with the respective subject and use of terminology, Cookery texts are no exception. This field has its own terms and expressions, not to mention the culture specific elements associated with this particular lingo. Thus cookery texts cannot be translated simply without taking into account these culture specific elements as language and culture are complimentary of each other. With that in mind, translating cookbooks will surely come with its own set of challenges especially when it involves different cultures with diverse ingredients and styles of cooking. Several words and expressions that can be confused for another in the process of rendering cookery texts from one language into another have been noted. Ingredients for example, can be misleading. A case in point is ’mincemeat’. Mincemeat is meat that has been minced but in some western recipes ’mincemeat’ may also refer to an ingredient which hardly contains animal protein, only spiced dried fruits and is used in the baking of cakes during Christmas. Other frequently confused words are: ’parsley’ versus ’parsnip’, ’celery’ versus ’celeriac’ and ’cumin’ versus ’caraway’ (Paradowski 2010).

According to Paradowski (2010) further:

The words “brush”, “baste”, and “spread” can all be used, but again not interchangeably. In the same vein, recurrent confusion can be observed between verb pairs such as “sprinkle” and “drizzle” (where the difference lies in the state of matter of the substance concerned), or “melt” and “dissolve” (chocolate can do both, but obviously with different results) (p.8).

Thus, if one is not careful, errors in the translation of these words may occur. One way to counter this is to perform a translation analysis in order to identify factors that need to be taken into account before starting the translation so as to produce quality translation texts that are compatible with the target audience. Today, recipes are carried across all over the world, more than ever before, hence increasing the need for the translation of these types of texts.The cultural differences that exist between one community and another race can attract the target audience to learn the culture that exists in the source culture of readers. Food does not just form the identity of a race, but it can also be a form of cultural mediation that acts as a liaison between two different identities through translation, (Charron & Desjardins, 2011). In the case of cookbook translation, translators should aim to convey, not just the same meaning, but must attempt to show the dissimilarities between cultures so as to provide an introduction and to bridge the cultural gap between two worlds in the cooking and food arena.

Hence, the cookbook by Oliver (2011) titled Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes is chosen as the source text (ST) because it is laden with various cultural elements to be translated into Malay. This cookbook is an interesting cookbook that embraces the best dishes from Spain and Italy that will be fascinating to readers in Malaysia who are not accustomed to Spanish and Italian dishes. The result of this book's translation can increase the knowledge of the target reader by introducing western cuisine and cooking terminology. This cookbook translation can also be a guide to readers in Malaysia who are less knowledgeable with the names of food and ingredients in some western cuisine. There is a vast difference in culture between the people in Malaysia with the people of Spain and Italy. The differences can be seen from the dishes they serve, the recipes as well as the ingredients used in cooking. Use of unfamiliar terms such as al-dente , artisanal and eye-meat may cause confusion to readers who are not familiar with these cooking terminologies. Thus translating these terms into Malay can provide an introduction to the terms mentioned and many more as well as introducing ingredients that are rarely used in the Malaysian cuisine. Not only that, culinary text translations can provide a brief overview of foreign terminology into the target language as well as introduce culinary ingredients that may be rarely used in the dishes in Malaysia. 

In short, cookbook translation helps to diminish the knowledge gap between two different cultures by exposing the readers to western dishes and introducing the readers with the ingredients used in western cooking.

Research Question

The objective of this paper is to discuss issues and challenges faced in translating an English cookbook into Malay as well as highlight the importance of undertaking text analysis to help translators understand the workings of the ST better and in consequence, choose the most appropriate strategy and procedure before the translation process begins. The following questions will be used to guide the writing of this paper: [i] What are the issues and challenges in translating a cookbook? [ii] What are the procedures and strategies suitable to translate this cookbook? [iii] Can translation of the cookbook be done using only one approach?

Research Methods

To be able to examine issues and challenges, translation strategies and procedures in detail, a qualitative research approach is utilised. The main source of data in this study is a text from a British cookbook written by Jamie Oliver titled Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes which has been translated partially form English into Malay. This cookbook is a compilation of various cuisines from Spain, Italy and around. Before translating, a pre-translation analysis is carried out based on the analytical framework introduced by Nord (1991) in order to analyse the extratextual factors and the intratextual factors of the source text (ST) and the target text (TT). This is done so as to enable the translator to understand features of the ST and to help translators choose what is deemed the most appropriate translation approach and translation procedures before translating. The translation is then carried out bearing in mind the features discussed in the pre-translation analysis as stated above. This culinary book has 360 pages consisting of six chapters. In order to produce this translation project, the translator will translate the source text from pages 9 to 92, i.e. Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and part 3 of the source text. In addition to strategies and procedures that have helped with translation choices, dictionaries, parallel texts, relevant printed cookbooks were used as well as food and culinary websites. Due to space limitations, it is impossible to analyse each relevant example from the translation in this paper. However, those that are included do represent a general pattern for the rest of the translation choices. The following sections describe the methodology of this project work from the aspects of the extratextual and intratextual analysis in greater detail.

Extratextual Factors

The extratextual factors that are analysed are (i) text function, (ii) sender and recipient, (iii) time and place of publication, (iv) medium, and (v) motive. There are a few similarities and differences in the extratextual factors of the ST and TT. The first factor is to determine the function of the text in order to examine the author’s purpose in writing the book. Nord (1997/2001: 40-45) has outlined that a text may consist of four basic functions such as (i) referential function, (ii) expressive function, (iii) appellative function and (iv) phatic function. The ST and TT have similar functions which are referential and appellative. The referential function provides new information to the readers such as ingredients used in cooking, while the appellative function has the purpose of instructing the reader to do or prepare something according to the recipe. The second factor involves the sender and recipient. Source and target readers should be given due thought in the translation process since the reader for the ST and TT are from two different languages and culture. Both the ST and TT are targeted for adult readers. However, there are differences in their socio-cultural background and knowledge as not all readers in Malaysia are familiar with Spanish and Italian cooking. The target readers may comprise of readers who has no prior knowledge of western cuisine or does not recognize the ingredients used in the recipes. The translator must use appropriate words to ensure that the target readers will be able to comprehend the content of the TT. Apart from that, the religion of TT readers should be considered because most of the readers in Malaysia are Muslims. Muslims are prohibited from eating food that contains non-halal ingredients such as pork and alcohol. Since this book contains recipes that uses non-halal ingredients, some modifications are required to enable Muslim readers to use the recipes in this cookbook. In order to modify the recipes and to make it edible for Muslim readers as well as to ensure the taste of the food is as similar as possible to the original recipes, some of the non-halal ingredients in the translated recipes are altered according to suggestions provided by Yvonne Maffei; a renowned Muslim chef and food blogger of This also benefits readers that are non-Muslims and do not eat pork meat nor consume alcohol.

The third factor is the time and place of publication. The ST was published in the United States of America in 2011. The TT will be published in Malaysia in 2019. Although there is a difference in the year of publication, it will not influence the translation as the information in the ST is still relevant to be used in 2018. However, there is a difference in the place of publication of this cookbook. The place of publication should be a guide to the translator to make changes that are appropriate for the target readers who may have some constraints in terms of difficulty in finding the ingredients used to cook western food at stores in Malaysia.

Subsequently, the fourth factor is medium. Nord (1991) defines medium as the form in which to transfer the text to the reader. The ST is printed as a hardcover book with illustrations. Thus, the TT should follow the same format and layout as the ST. The fifth and last factor in the extratextual factor is motive. The ST and TT have the same purpose, which is a book written for general reading as well as to provide recipes and information on the history of food in Spain and Italy.

Intratextual factors

Based on the pre-translation analysis of the intratextual factors, issues such as the name of ingredients and dishes, the use of figurative language and cooking terminology constitute some of the main source of translation difficulties. As such, the communicative translation approach by Newmark (1981) is used to produce the TT. The communicative translation approach is used as the main approach because this approach allows the translator to produce a TT that is attuned and natural sounding to Malaysian readers, whilst at the same time help retain the function of the ST which is to introduce a different style of cooking to readers in Malaysia. According to Newmark (1981, p. 39), a communicative translation attempts to produce a translation that is as close as possible to the ST for the target readers. Thus, to help make this happen, procedures such as ( i) notes, (ii) couplets, (iii) reduction and expansion, (iv) modulation, (v) recognized translation, (vi) synonym and (vii) neutralization will be utilized.

However, there may be a specific need to conserve certain special foreign ingredients and dishes so as to introduce those dishes and ingredients to the target readers. In this case, the semantic translation procedures such as (i) literal translation and (ii) transference will also be used because the ST requires some literal translation to suit the motives of ST and TT not only as a general reading material but to introduce and provide new information on the history of food in Spain and Italy and recipes to cook these two countries’ dishes. Newmark’s translation procedures (1988) is explained in the table 1 below:

Table 1 -
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In addition, Baker’s ( 2011) translation procedures generally proposed for translating idioms is used to translate lexical elements of the figurative language nature in the ST and the procedures used are as follows; (i) using an idiom of similar meaning and form, (ii) using an idiom of similar meaning but dissimilar form, (iii) using an idiom in the SL, (iv) translation by paraphrase and (v) translation by omission.


The issues and challenges in translating Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes cookbook are compiled. It has been found that the ST contains translation issues such as (a) the name of ingredients and dishes, (b) the use of figurative language, and (c) the cooking terminology. The data are analysed according to the subtopics as follows:

  • Translation of the Name of Ingredients and Dishes

Challenges that are usually faced by translators are issues of translating the cultural aspects in ST. This cookbook is a compilation of various cuisines from Spain and Italy. Therefore, there are some dishes that may be unknown to readers in Malaysia unless they are avid travelers and have been to Spain and Italy or have eaten or are familiar with Spanish and Italian food. Name of dishes like tapas, risotto and croquetas are translated using the transference procedure. According to Newmark (1988) transference can be used to retain the name of the dishes in TT. Newmark further explains that the name of the dishes can be retained if the dishes are explained in the recipes. Thus, in order to introduce the Spanish and Italian dishes to Malaysian readers, the name of this dish is retained to show the readers that these are the delicacies from other countries. In addition, some of the dishes are translated using couplets (transference and expansion) such as paella to ’Nasi Paella’, gazpacho to ’Sup Gazpacho’ and minestrone to ’Sup Minestrone’. The expansion procedure is used to provide further explanation in order to give a brief description of the dishes to Malaysian readers especially for readers who are not familiar with Spanish and Italian cooking.

Apart from the issues to translate the name of the dishes, other difficulties faced is translating the ingredients used in this cookbook. The cultural differences between source readers and target readers can be seen in terms of the ingredients used in the recipes. Some TT readers may not know the ingredients used in the recipes. Ingredients such as swiss chard, radicchio dan endive are translated using transference. To help with understanding and comprehension the translator has added notes as recommendation to substitute the ingredients with something that is easier to find in nearby stores. Notes play an important role to also help translate non-halal ingredients for recipes that uses pork and alcohol as some of the recipe’s ingredients, such as chorizo and sherry vinegar.

  • Translation of Figurative Language

According to Ainon and Abdullah (1993) figurative language are expressions that carries a different meaning from the literal meaning of the word. According to Mohd Sidin (1999), figurative language is a form of affiliation that uses comparisons or analogies to equate one thing to another to enable visualization or visualization through imagination. In translation, the translator plays an important role to translate the meaning of the figurative language as intended by the original author. The translator’s inability to recognize a figurative language in a sentence will change the meaning intended to be expressed by the author of the ST. The list of figurative language that will be analyzed in ST comprise of idioms. Larson (1984), defines idiom as a sequence of words that carry different meanings from the literal meaning of a sentence. Fourteen (14) idioms were found in the ST from pages 9 to 92. Only three (3) out of the five (5) translation strategies for idioms proposed by Baker (2011) are used to translate the idioms in ST. The strategies used are (i) using an idiom of similar meaning but dissimilar form, (ii) translation by paraphrase and (iii) translation by omission. (Table 02 ).

Table 2 -
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The two idioms above are translated using an idiom of similar meaning but dissimilar form. ‘A breath of fresh air’ means something new, fresh or a new approach to something. This idiom is translated into ‘nafas baru’ which has the same meaning as the idiom in ST. The second idiom is ‘follow my gut’, which means a feeling that you are certain you are right and that you cannot explain why. This idiom is translated into ‘kata hati’ to retain its form as a figurative language. Use of idioms in writing normally serves as an attention grabbing strategy targeted for readers and to sustain the reading and because of that, the translator tries to translate the idioms into a different figurative language that is suitable in the TT so as to preserve the attention-grabbing properties of the recipe and to make it as attractive as possible.

Table 3 -
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Translating figurative language, such as idioms can be challenging for translators because to find idioms that has a similar meaning to the idioms used in the TL or to retain its figurative form is no easy task. Thus, the 10 idioms as shown in Table 3 of this ST are translated via the paraphrasing procedure. According to Baker (2011), translation via paraphrasing is the most commonly used strategy to translate idioms. It is more convenient for a translator to paraphrase the idioms used as the translator may disregard the need to find equivalent idioms used in ST. In this regard, paraphrasing can accommodate constraints faced by translators to find figurative language matches. The translator believes that this strategy can help express a more precise meaning and will not change the meaning intended of the ST.

Table 4 -
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Some idioms may need to be omitted in the TT as shown in Table 4 above. The first idiom, ‘broken the bank’ means ‘to cost too much’ and the second idiom ‘not the end of the world’ means ‘a very big deal” or problem, often used in the negative to describe a situation that one believes is being exaggerated.’ These idioms are omitted as it does not disrupt the flow of the TT nor does it change the meaning intended in the ST. The strategy used demonstrates that some idioms can be omitted as long as it does not interfere with the meaning of the text because in communicative translation, the meaning or message should be the main focus of a translation.

  • Cooking Terminology

Pedoman Umum Pembentukan Istilah Bahasa Melayu (2005) defines a term as a word or phrase that belongs to a specific concept in a particular field. Readers who have no prior knowledge of terms used in culinary will not be able to comprehend some of the terms used in this cookbook. Terms used will need to be translated to laymen terms that is easier for other readers to comprehend. (Table 05 ).

Table 5 -
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The term ‘eye meat’ is translated using a couplet of two procedures; transference and additional notes. The ‘Eye meat’ is the name of a cut of meat used to refer to the oval shape of the portion of the cut. This term cannot be retained in TT or translated literally as it may cause ambiguity to the readers who might read it literally and think that it refers to the meat around the eyes of a cow. Thus, to avoid the confusion, ‘Eye meat’ is translated using the transference strategy and additional notes are added to further elaborate the definition of that meat. The same procedure; couplets are also used to translate artisanal bread. Artisanal bread is translated using couplets; [a] recognized translation to translate artisanal bread into ‘roti Perancis’, which is a type of bread that is more recognizable in Malaysia and, [b] additional notes to describe the shape and texture of the bread. Artisanal bread refers to bread that is baked fresh and made manually by hand using high quality ingredients. The last procedure used is neutralisation, that is, using descriptive equivalence to translate ‘al dente’ as there is no term in Malay that is equivalent to the concept behind al dente.


This paper demonstrates that translating a cookbook is no easy task as cookbooks like any other technical texts have their own terms and expressions, narrative style and not to mention the culture specific elements associated with this particular lingo. Thus cookery texts cannot be translated simply without taking into account all the above as each element is complimentary to other elements that make up the whole writing style. The paper also shows the application of communicative translation approach and procedures used to translate a cookbook to produce a translated text that can give the reader a TT that is like the ST. As stated by Choong (2013), the translation of literary texts and technical texts is dissimilar from one to another because the translation of literary texts usually focuses on the translator's language and ideas while technical text translation is to accurately describe facts and concepts to target readers. Therefore, a translator will not be able to avoid from adding or omitting the information contained in the source text. The procedures and strategies applied during the translating process have shown that a cookbook cannot be translated merely using the communicative approach in order to produce a TT that has the same function as ST. According to Newmark (1981), the overlapping in translations between communicative and semantic translations may occur during the translation process. Thus, it is impossible to translate this cookbook using only one approach. In addition, illustration plays an important role in cookbooks as illustrations help in making things clearer and is a good complement to the additional notes procedure. In conclusion, a translation when done well, can accurately deliver the message contained in the ST and makes it easier for target readers to comprehend the content of TT.


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23 September 2019

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, literary theory, political science, political theory

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Rahman*, W. R. E. B. A. (2019). Translating ‘Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes’ Cookbook Into Malay: Issues And Challenges. In N. S. Mat Akhir, J. Sulong, M. A. Wan Harun, S. Muhammad, A. L. Wei Lin, N. F. Low Abdullah, & M. Pourya Asl (Eds.), Role(s) and Relevance of Humanities for Sustainable Development, vol 68. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 569-578). Future Academy.