. . . the most Challenging aspect of Translation
"The most challenging aspect of translation, particularly when working with a book you love, is learning to be unfaithful to the original. Doing a little violence to a sentence you love is hard, and many sleepless nights can be caused by it." - Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Escritor, Traductor, Periodista)
The New York Times has an interesting series called "By the Book" in which they interview authors about . . . books. In this interview Vásquez also discusses reading translated works. I'm sharing this article with you because it was translated in the NYT América section.
It is interesting to note, that he is a translator but he did not translate his own work. His books are translated by Anne McLean who has a Master's Degree in Literary Translation. Hoy he aprendido una muy interesante palabra inglesa euphonious from a Colombian writer that speaks Spanish, French and English. Cool!
The differences between the texts are interesting. Have you come across a fascinating translated article or book? Have you noticed trends in translations that reveal cultural differences?
This is a point that isn't talked about enough, as far as I'm concerned. One of my long term goals in Irish is to become proficient enough with the language to retranslate "Harry Potter agus an Órchloch" - the first Harry Potter book. I made my way through it a year or two ago, with enormous difficulty, and only realized about halfway through that part of the reason I was having so much trouble with it was that the translation was far too literal - very nearly a word for word transliteration from English to Irish, which resulted in bad, unintuitive Irish. So I'd like to get good enough to have a go myself, just for myself.
Keeping translations very literal can be a good thing when it comes to something like wikipedia or a scientific research paper, but outside of that, it strips the source language of all the richness that comes of writing in that language in the first place.
One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is probably because I became a writer myself, so the way a story is told is important to me. I grew up on Irish folktales that always started "Fadó fadó," even if the remainder was told in English... because, while the literal translation of "Fadó fadó" is something like "In the ancient past," when used in storytelling it means so much more than that.... it's a cross between "once upon a time" and "cast your mind back to that time and place when magic was real, giants roamed the land, faeries had best be humoured, and anything was possible...".... "fadó" as a word means exactly none of that, and thrown into a conversation, just means "past"... but if I hear it in a certain tone of voice, beginning a sentence, I know there's something special about to happen. Something worth paying attention to. Something that, if I'm lucky, will become an enduring memory.
That's the kind of context that we lose when we translate too literally - the culture itself.
Wow thanks for sharing that.
Some times there are ideas, feelings and places that you can't translate, you can only hope to try. One of the books that I'm reading discusses the translation of the book in the prologue. The book (When I Was Puerto Rican) was written by Esmeralda Santiago but it was also translated by the author which doesn't happen often.
I try to read both translated works and books that were originally written in Spanish. I love when a translator uses an idiom with cultural significance to convey the feeling of the original work.
My goal is to read 100 Years of Solitude en español BEFORE the English version. Well I'll only read the English version if I really need to.
Best of luck to you!
I've been thinking lately about my own rusty Spanish, and why some things about it are just completely intuitive, while others are a herculean struggle to get right and remember. The fact that some things are so intuitive isn't a surprise, because I grew up fluent, so things like the phonemes, genders, etc are just there for me... but why, for example, can I remember the days of the week with no effort whatsoever, but I have to think at least a little to come up with the months of the year? The answer - my Cuban relatives taught all of us kids the days of the week the same way they learned them - with a song. Same for vowels when we began to read, and several other such things. So, while I'm not consciously singing "La m con la a, dicé 'ma,'/ la m con la e, dicé 'me'/ con la i, dicé 'mi', con la o, dicé 'mo,'/ la m con la u, dicé 'mu'"... my brain is obviously pulling on that information without me even realizing it. I thought of it again just now because if you translate any of those songs into English, they'd be mindnumbingly boring and sound like a grammar/pronunciation/vocabulary lesson, but they work in Spanish... to the extent that ten years later I ended up singing them for my high school Spanish class, and everything I had a song for, even the most reluctant and struggling learners got right. I suspect most of them could still get those things correct today, 20 years on.
That's an endorsement for the power of music, I suppose, but I think it does speak to culture, too.
Thanks! I just searched that song "La M con la A, dicé . . . " and found it on YouTube. It's funny, studying and enjoying Spanish, Spanish culture (Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, etc.) and I never heard of this song. I bought a great canciones para niños album by Marta Gomez called Coloreando.
BTW, I know the months, the days of the weeks already but do you remember the name of that song? Or at least a verse or two?
In the storytelling tradition, rather than the storyreading tradition, some tellers begin with imaginative ways of asking their listeners to leave the modern world behind, eg:
"In the days when the sun rose in the west and set in the east, and when the rivers ran from the sea to the mountains, there lived ....".
Sí! I often txt mis hermanos en español o otras idiomas just for kicks. My wife doesn't speak Spanish but she understand basic written and some spoken. She thinks/knows my pronunciation is horrible y que no sé la diferencia entre "estar" o "ser" bien. I try and will keep trying. ;-)
Falling with Style.
Oh, the curse of the multilingual :)) It happened to me so many times, usually from my own native language to English or French - most recently Spanish :)
another wrinkle of translating is when to stay true to the culture of the source and its feeling, and when to render it into an idiom that the reader can "get"
My mother, extremely fluent in Spanish, joined Carmen Naranjo's writing group after my father died. She wrote everything in Spanish. After a year, Carmen told her that her poems and short stories made a book. She wrote her own translations into her native English, and the University of Costa Rica published it as "Un ano con Carmen" by Mavis Hiltunen Biesanz. Mavis also spoke Finnish, German and bad French.