Saturday, September 18, 2010

A brief note on translations and translators.

One of my favorite things to read is Russian literature. I love it. However I wish I KNEW Russian, I think it would make the experience much better because then I could just read it in Russian and have no need for a translator. This is because the same phrase can be read multiple ways, and things like simile, metaphor, alliteration, ect. get lost in a translation.

Here’s a quick example.


translates into

"Standing in the light of sunrise shadow is ~"
"As for the shadow which stands in light of the morning glow -"
"In the morning burns that light into stand shadow wa? the and that "
"Shadow stand in the light of the morning glow ~"
"Standing in the shadows in the light of the sunrise"

These are from various online translators, and most of them make complete sentences. But man is the feeling different.

Personally I like the last one the best. But it’s these little differences that can make or break prose and poetry. This is why; if at all possible, the translator should be the writer, or a writer who knows about the culture he/she is translating from.

And then imagine translating it back into another language…it’s like that copier example, where the picture gets more and more distorted as you copy it more and more. Only imagine copying something like the Mona Lisa all by hand, then copying your copy by hand. Things get messed up pretty fast.

So! If you ever read something in translation, make sure to see how the translation is! It may make or break your reading experience.

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