https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.

Has anyone ever enjoyed Shakespeare in another language?

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This is a couple days late, but April 23 marked the 400th anniversary of the passing of William Shakespeare. Although highly regarded in the English-speaking world it is known that Shakespeare inspired many creative artists who native languages weren't English. Composers Peter Tchaikovsky and Giuseppe Verdi were known to be greatly influenced by Shakespeare's works. Tchaikovsky wrote two overtures: Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet and Giuseppe Verdi wrote his operas MacBeth and Falstaff. Of course, even native speakers can't always understand all of Shakespeare's English, but I've heard that the Bard's work has been translated into many other languages and that Shakespeare sounds especially good in Russian. So I'm curious to know if anyone on Duo has ever had the pleasure of reading or hearing a translation of Shakespeare. If so, what did you think about it? Could you understand much of what was written or said? Do you actually enjoy Shakespeare in another language other than English? As for myself I only know "Бути чи не бути." That's Ukrainian for "To be or not to be."

4/26/2016, 9:38:27 PM

14 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/MoChuisleMoChroi
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I have seen / read Shakespeare in many languages. (My favorite was a Mandarin Peking Opera adaptation of "Taming of the Shrew".

I must say that while the stories are still enjoyable, regaurdless of the language it is in, translated works are no where near the level of beauty and sophistication of an original work (that goes for literature in other languages as well)

The brilliance of Shakespeare wasnt just in his storytelling, but in his artistry of the English language.

He invented new words, wrote the exact number of sylables for each line, with precise emphasis on certain words. He was a master of the pun (which is virtually impossible to translate).

So no, I do not enjoy Shakespeare in other languages more than the original English scripts.

EDIT, yes I do enjoy Shakespeare performed in other languages, but not because it is Shakespeare, I enjoy it because it is well performed.

4/26/2016, 9:56:07 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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I definitely agree with you! Part of what makes Shakespeare the great writer that he was is his storytelling and mastery of the English language.

4/28/2016, 5:35:03 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/avrichard
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Shakespearean theatre has a long tradition in Germany. There was a translation a few centuries ago which still remains seen as the traditional "official" German language version. I've only seen Romeo und Julia and König Lear in German, but they were both great.

4/28/2016, 9:44:13 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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That's cool! King Lear is especially one of my favorites.

4/28/2016, 5:52:18 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MoChuisleMoChroi
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I didn't know that! I will have to look those up.

4/29/2016, 2:44:40 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/Anna_Elsa_J.

Well, in my native language, Polish there are for example 3 different translations of "Romeo and Juliet" and every of them is translated differently, but all of them are understandable, less or more. The one that I've read (I forgot which one) was fine :) I don't know how it looks like with others :/ But every translation is just a translation and they suck, because it isn't the same, so I think the original is always the best, but here I just guess, because my English is too bad to try to read Shakespeare :/

4/27/2016, 5:06:21 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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Since you're Polish I'll bet you're familiar with Henryk Sienkiewicz. Some years ago I read a supposedly "improved" English translation of "With Fire and Sword" the first book of his "Trilogy." Loved it! I hear his "Trilogy" is highly revered by many Poles. I don't know any Polish but my ethnic roots are Ukrainian/Polish American. Right now Ukrainian and Russian are keeping me busy but it would be wonderful one day to read Sienkiewicz in Polish. Like you said, nothing can really top the original!

4/28/2016, 5:48:48 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Anna_Elsa_J.

Yes, I'm Polish and I am familiar with him, because he's books are must-read in school. I think it's kinda hard to read them for modern day Polish teens, because Polish changed and he tried to write in older Polish than his, so it's a bit hard, but after some pages you'll get it :) What do you mean by "improved"? So, you're part Polish :) Exactly! ;)

4/29/2016, 9:16:47 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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Glad to answer your question! What do I mean by "improved?" Well, I first heard about Henryk Sienkiewicz and "With Fire and Sword" from a local newspaper article in the 1990's. Although it had been written over 100 years ago, this classic Polish novel was basically unknown to English speakers in the West. Why? Because there was no satisfactory English translation for anyone to read. There was an English translation published in 1890, but from what I heard, it was awful! This translation wasn't even made from Polish, but from a 19th century Russian translation which the Russians edited/censored before publishing. In fact, when the American novelist James A. Michener tried to use this translation while doing research for his historical fiction novel, simply titled "Poland," he remarked that this edited translation wasn't very helpful. But the novel got new life in the 1980's when W.S. Kuniczak, a Polish-born American novelist began work on a new translation, this time directly from Polish. It was first published in 1991 by the Copernicus Society of America and for the first time the English speaking world had a quality translation of the entire trilogy. So when I say "improved" I'm just saying that Kuniczak did a great job because when I read "With Fire and Sword" I found it difficult to put the book down. It kept me interested throughout an entire summer spent reading it. The translation was well-received because Kuniczak was able to capture the spirit of what Sienkiewicz wrote in English. There was action, drama, romance and bits of humor. Everything you want from a great story. Of course, since I can't read Polish I can't compare this most recent translation with what you would be able to read, but I guess if I was that impressed by a newer English translation, then I'm sure I would probably enjoy the original Polish even more, although you did say that Sienkiewicz wrote in older Polish. And yes, my grandfather and great-grandfather (father's side) were Polish and emigrated to the U.S. from Lviv and my grandparents (mother's side) were Ukrainian and came from villages around Lviv. The area was under Austrian control at the time. They all came here just a few years before the First Word War.

5/2/2016, 5:58:22 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Anna_Elsa_J.

Now I understand :) I think that they shouldn't translated anything, especially books from another translation and censored ones :/ So maybe you'll learn some polish and you'll read it in original? But it might be hard for you, because it's written in older version of Polish, even for us it's sometimes difficult. This story reminds me one of the Polish translators that made students lives easier translating Shakespeare and some other English-writing authors in version that is readable for us :) My mom's family is also from modern day Ukraine (Zbarazh [I hope I spelled it correctly] and Lviv), but they were Poles living there, because long time ago it was Poland, not Ukrainians. I know that it was Austrian part of Poland, called "Galicja" since they annexed it till 1918, when we became independent again. But Poles living here were kinda lucky, because they were able to speak Polish and don't be afraid about their lives or at least freedom, others weren't that lucky... Btw, why your family haven't taught you Polish or Ukrainian?

5/3/2016, 4:25:40 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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I had a feeling you might ask that question. My parents were both born in the U.S. and their parents either couldn't or didn't pass their languages on to them. My father's parents both passed when he was a child and so he never knew much Polish. In fact, I think I know more Ukrainian now than he does Polish. In my mother's case I think her mother deliberately wanted to speak more English to fit in and my mother's friends at school spoke only English so that may have been a big reason why she was never bilingual. So I was, not surprisingly, your typical American who didn't have any interest in learning a language and "just expected the whole world to eventually learn to talk like me." I also bought into the myth that you can't really learn another language well once you're past childhood. I agree that it's not as easy to learn another language in adulthood but I've read stories of adults who have done it, especially the recent Duo post about a woman who started learning Russian when she was 56 and got to fluency! I think you will find that story if you check on the Russian discussion forum. My attitude changed when I went to a Ukrainian festival and then started to look up a lot of Ukrainian TV shows and music on YouTube. I soon became a big fan of Iryna Fedyshyn. I thought Ukrainian was a beautiful language and decided right then and there that I wanted to try and learn it! Now I am quite hooked on learning Ukrainian, Russian (since most Ukrainians can speak it) and maybe some Polish eventually. You're right. Ukrainian has even more in common with Polish, and after listening to some Polish after lots of Ukrainian I could really hear the similarities!

5/5/2016, 7:25:51 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/avrichard
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Translation is an art all unto itself. I've done a bit of subtitling work before (a German TV show into English subtitles) and it's very tricky to both adequately translate the meaning, but also maintaining the appropriate tone to the audience. Especially things like slang and swearing... You need to get the correct effect to the English audience reading along, that the German audience got by listening.

I have seen some great translations into German though - I have a copy of the first two parts of 1Q84 by Murakami translated quite beautifully into German (from Japanese).

But there are some terrible ones out there.

Or there is also things like the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - which became famous in the USA specifically because of a specific translation that people really liked, including my father. However, it wasn't a particularly accurate translation of the original text, and a lot of it was more or less invented by the translator. Later translations have tried to be more literal, however it has never regained the same level of popularity people still quote the old one.

5/2/2016, 9:29:20 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MaksimOtstavnov

Sheakspeare is indeed a household name for many native Russians, for we have translations by many of our prominent poets, starting with Sumarokov in the 18th century, through Pushkin and Polevoy in the 19th, and to Lozinsky, Pasternak, Marshak, Gnedich and many others in the 20th century. (Unfortunately, partly the explosion of great translations in Russia (and perhaps other parts of the USSR) during the 20th century was due to more severe censorship of original works than of translations of classic works.)

A number of adaptations of the Bard in first-class Russian music includes not only Thaikovsky's but Prokofieff's Romeo and Juliet as well.

As to the question asked, I believe it is a good idea to try to read a translation of a well known work in your own language or the language that you know well to the language you learn starting from a certain level: once you know many parts by heart or close to the original text, you may spare yourself frequent consulting dictionaries. I used to read several English translations of Russian books when learning English at intermediate and upper intermediate levels, and this well paid off.

5/4/2016, 3:38:11 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/GeneM.
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Thanks for contributing to the discussion! And congratulations on finishing the Ukrainian tree!

5/5/2016, 6:24:45 PM
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