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New Zealand in Translation: Presenting a Country’s Image in a Government Website

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Zhao Ning photoIn this article, we examine how the image of New Zealand is presented in the Chinese translation of a press release titled "Film spotlight spawns hot Kiwi destinations," which is available at the website of the New Zealand Embassy in China. The differences between the original and the translation reveal that the presentation of New Zealand's image is driven by the purpose of promoting NZ as an exciting tourist attraction. Such a presentation uses the resource of seemingly contradictory aspects, and the translation recreates the original in an advertising style by adding, expanding, intensifying and reshaping the original to reinforce and magnify the original effect.


Translation not only involves the language and text, but also the author and the reader in a broad sociocultural discourse (Shi 2004). Translation has its own specific ideological and poetic implications (Bassnett & Lefevere 1990). The translated version embodies the translator's perspective, as Gentzler (1993 in Hatim 2001:66) asserts: translators "do not work in ideal and abstract situations nor do they desire to be innocent, but have vested literary and cultural interests of their own," and they "manipulate the source text to inform, as well as to conform to the existing cultural constraints." Culture is a set of signifying practices of representations through which cultural identities are constructed (Hall & Gay 1996). Translation constructs identities in its discursive representation (Bassnett & Lefevere 1998), as Hall & Gay (1996: 4) claim: cultural identities "are therefore constituted within, not outside representation". We aim to investigate how the image of New Zealand (NZ) is presented/manipulated in the translated text of a government website and what "cultural interests" and "cultural constraints" underlie such presentation/manipulation. We will attempt to discuss the reinvention and reshaping of the country's image in the original and the translation. The website is of the New Zealand Embassy in China (, which was created and is maintained by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. As a bilingual website, it virtually has a translation for each section with different functional contents. Because the source is government information, the translation would be expected to be a faithful (i.e. direct) translation, rather than a free one. As the Internet mouthpiece of the NZ government, it is supposed to convey the government's opinion on what kind of a nation NZ is. At the same time, it is supposed to promote and market NZ as an attractive tourist destination because one of the embassy's important tasks is to handle tourist visa applications. This is especially crucial, since tourism is one of the pillar industries which generate considerable revenue for NZ (Collier 2003). However, as a government, rather than a commercial, website, it is expected to articulate the message in a restrained manner, not in an excessively advertising tone. We'll examine a press release titled "Film spotlight spawns hot Kiwi destinations," which is in the section of Tourism in NZ, under the heading of Lord of the Rings—New Zealand Fast Facts and the subheading of Hot kiwi destinations (please see the above-mentioned website for both the original and the Chinese translation). In this study, literal back-translation is provided by the author to illustrate the differences between the original and the translation.

Findings and Discussion

The translation re-presents the original to offer an embellished advertising aspect by adding to, expanding, intensifying, and reshaping the original.
In the original, NZ's Mt Olympus is depicted as "once-isolated," and the translation literally reads as "once-totally-cut-off-from-the-world." The translation would augment the tenor to construct a more untouched and natural NZ. A sentence is deliberately added in the translation, which reads: "The Paradise (woods in the film) off-screen matches its reputation on-screen." The forest near Queenstown is extolled in two words - "tranquil, breathtaking" in the original, which are expanded into two statements in the translation to make it more concrete and corporeal, which literally reads: "Here the scenery is beautiful and the ambience is serene." In the original, the horse-riding is described as "visitors take a magical horse ride through the sun-dappled beech forest," which is disassembled into three sentences, slowing down and enumerating the experience. Its translation literally reads: "Visitors can take a horse-ride through the beech forest. The sunshine splashes on the body of visitors through the leaves of the trees. It makes people feel that they are in a magical paradise." The translations of forest and horse-riding scenes render up-close narration that magnifies and prolongs the sensual experience by the use of several individual sentence segments. The original claims that the approximately 150 shooting locations "exist in pure form," which is translated by employing two phrases to repeat and extend the "real" nature—"exist tangibly" and "authentic forms." Furthermore, a phrase is added in the translation, which claims that such a world "attracts international visitors." With these translation strategies, the myth of New Zealand as both a dreamy and real fantasy is constructed by juxtaposing the two spectacles of imaginary illusion on-screen and tangible reality off-screen. The shooting-location of the Oscar-winning film Whale Rider is described with two words - "beautiful, unspoilt" in the original, which are expanded into a sentence in the translation, which literally reads: "This area is characterized by innocent beauty and naturalness, without any tiny trace of pollution." Both would construct a 100% pure NZ as promoted by NZ Tourism Board ( There is no mention of local people's concern and worry for the detrimental effects of tourism development, which would spoil the beautiful nature.

In the original, the film's "impact on NZ" is portrayed in one word—"immense." But in the translation a long sentence is added, which literally reads: "Favorable comments, like turbulent sea-waves, have been generating a positive impact on NZ, and such impact is becoming increasingly significant in boosting the development of tourism." Later another sentence is added in translation again, which literally reads: "Flocks and flocks of tourists not only want to appreciate varied and colourful sceneries here, but experience outdoor activities that integrate Mother Nature and human innovation." Such additions aim not only to affirm NZ's value as a popular, value-for-money tourist spot, but also introduce another selling point besides naturally-evolved scenes—exciting outdoor pleasures. The additions identify and target the consumers who wish to pay for a dynamic and active experience in NZ, a very popular tourist destination. The source text then uses film-stars' endorsements to suggest a more vibrant NZ, which says: "While the majestic scenes from the three movies speak volumes for the breathtaking beauty of New Zealand, the spoken word of the stars is equally potent." The translation literally reads: "The magnificent sceneries from the movies already abundantly reveal the sexual and attractive appearance of NZ (personifying NZ as a woman). This is further complimented by the laudations (refined term) of various film-stars in unison (exaggeration), which naturally results in a massive momentum." The translation personifies the image of NZ as a beautiful woman and employs the refined term "laudations" instead of the original ordinary reference to "the spoken word," and exaggeration ("in unison") to intensify and magnify the original promotional discourse. With these strategies, this translation tends to create an image of NZ as a woman, enhancing its appeal to Chinese readers.

The image of a lively, energetic and classy NZ is embodied in the endorsements of world-famous film-stars. In the original, Orlando Bloom is said to be "taken by NZ's adventurous lifestyle." The translation literally reads: he is "deeply obsessed by the thrilling things in NZ." The translation would be an overstatement and narrow the original's broad focus of "adventurous lifestyle" to specific activities. Additions are made in the translation of Orlando's remark on his skiing and surfing to convey an advertising effect: "I always play for more than I can enjoy...all the games imaginable can be found here." Orlando's original remarks ends with "It's amazing—only in NZ." The translation presents the meaning of "amazing" twice, enriching it with adverbs to maximize the attractiveness, which literally reads: "It is really great—only because it is in NZ that things become so wonderful." The other image of NZ is embedded in the acclaim of its "unique culture." In the original, the fact that actress Liv Tyler purchased clothes from Kiwi fashion designers is used to prove the stylishness of NZ—it is "reinforcing NZ's growing reputation as a top player in the world fashion scene." The translation literally reads: "This further affirms the fact that NZ is already enjoying illustrious standing in the international fashion arena." In comparison, the original is written in a modest tone, whereas the translation assumes an assertive stance. Similarly, in the original "NZ wines are regarded amongst the best in the world" is translated as "NZ wines are solidly reputed as the highest-ranked internationally." The original claims that film stars "became big fans of the laid-back, but stylish NZ culture." The translation upgrades "fans" into "advocates," and interprets relaxation ("laid-back") as the "charm of the nature," and fashionable elegance ("stylish") as "the culture of unique taste." "They [the film stars] have even become the advocates of NZ—they love both the charm of the nature and the culture of unique taste here." The upgrading would convey a more positive and forceful stance, and the interpretation would target the specific demands of urban middle-class Chinese travelers, who have only sporadic access to nature and are overwhelmed by the trendy Americanized culture. NZ's national as both natural and creative would also be manifested in the local cuisine. The source text praises the "chefs who are being lauded for their innovative and natural approach to food." The translation embellishes such commendation by saying: "By making boundless creations and following the orientation of cherishing what is natural, the chefs create exceedingly palatable delicious cuisine." There is no mention on the unhealthy aspect of the cuisine that could cause obesity. Instead, it is intended to encourage spending by Chinese travelers, who treat eating as vital in their culture. The original word, "warmth," which is emphasized as the distinguishing feature of NZ, is stretched into a sentence: "New Zealanders will treat you in a warm and hospitable way, making you feel at home." In the translation, "warmth" is endorsed by actor Dominic Monaghan, "[NZ] is so very welcoming ... it just embraces people." The translation literally reads, "She /NZ is so welcoming that people will love her very much and bump into her bosom." The original tends to personify NZ, but doesn't offer explicit gender reference ("it"). However, the translation constructs a metaphor of NZ as an attractive woman. Furthermore, avoiding the inanimate pronoun "it" of the original, the translation converts the meaning of "it (NZ) just embraces people" into "people will embrace her (NZ)," and people "bump into her bosom" because of love. In this way, NZ is symbolized as femininely beautiful, with a mildly erotic connotation.


It is argued that (a) the presentation is driven by the purpose of promoting NZ as an exciting tourist attraction; (b) the presentation plays with seemingly contradictory aspects of the national image, by presenting NZ as a nation that is both pure and sophisticated, both untouched and civilized, both natural and innovative, both laid-back and modern, a nation for both peaceful relaxation and dynamic adventure; (c) such presentation aims to lure as many tourists as possible who would favor either aspect or both; (d) the ad is presented at two parallel levels: of a press release and a promotion brochure; the translation re-presents the original to offer an embellished advertising aspect by adding to, expanding, intensifying, and reshaping the original, reinforcing and magnifying the original effect.


Bassnett, S. & A. Lefevere. (1990). Introduction. In Bassnett, S. & A. Lefevere (eds). (1990) Translation, History and Culture. London: Pinter Publishers, pp.1-13

Collier, A. (2003) (6th ed). Principles of tourism : a New Zealand perspective. Auckland: Hospitality Press, 2003.

Shi, A. (2004). Hermeneutics and Translation Theory. [Online]. Available: [2007, 2 September]

Hall, S. & P. Gay (eds.).(1996). Questions of Cultural Identity. London: Sage.

Hatim, B. (2001). Teaching and researching translation. New York : Longman

Lefevere, A. (1992). Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context. New York: Modern Language Association of America.

Gentzler, E. C. (1993): Contemporary Translation Theories, London: Routledge.

McClintock, A. (1997). "No Longer in a Future Heaven." In McClintock. A. et al (1997). Dangerous Liaisons: Gender, Nation, and Postcolonial Perspectives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 352-96.

New Zealand Embassy in China:

Film spotlight spawns hot Kiwi destinations. [Online]. Available: [2007, 10 April]

The Chinese Translation of Film spotlight spawns hot Kiwi destinations. [Online]. Available: [2007, 10 April]

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