Thoughts About Translation

As I may have mentioned in the past, I am a lover of different languages, despite my inability to pick up on speaking any properly.  I think a lot about this, not only in the context as a writer myself, but also regarding the books that I read (in particular, the numerous Haruki Murakami novels I’ve read within the last year).  I read Japanese novels in their English translation, and yet I wonder and ponder about that in-between state from translating the context from one language to another.

It takes skill for one to be able to translate a text from language to language.  For one thing it helps to be fluent in the language.  For another, I think part of it also helps in really grasping the voice of the author him or herself.  From there, I can only imagine there to be a more fluid process coming about, not only in terms of nailing the logistics of said translation for grammar’s sake, but also in maintaining the voice of the original author (and yet I wonder what percentage of the translation is of the translator’s voice).  I can imagine it being quite a venture for a publisher to find a translator who can get really engulfed in the works they’re translating.  Though I must say that for the sake of Murakami’s works, I think the translators behind them pretty much have him nailed down, as far as getting his voice heard and understood; because at the end of the day, readers all over the world not only connect with his characters, but also scratch their heads over the magical realism they’ve experienced.

I would sometimes hear the craziest stories regarding translations.  For instance, in the French translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, there was a decision made to make Tom Riddle’s middle names Elvis Jedusor instead of Marvolo, just so when revealing his much feared identity, it would easily read as “Je suis Voldemort.”  Back in November, The Guardian published an article discussing the first English translation of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm fairytales, all in its unfiltered, gory glory.

Maybe one of the most craziest of translation stories I’ve heard may also be considered one of the more creative experiences in the songwriting world I’ve ever heard of.  On the soundtrack for the 2003 Disney film, “Brother Bear,” there’s a song on there called “Transformation.”  That song, written by English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, was then translated into the Inuit Eskimo language, before having it performed by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir.  Now if that’s not considered translation at its finest, then I don’t know what is!

The thrill of the translation process is something I’ve only lightly dabbled in.  During my third year of college, I was enrolled in a theatre class that would lead up to putting on a play that reenacted a Filipino folktale, complete with Filipino and modern dances every couple of scenes or so.  When not learning choreography or blocking, we would be in class, learning about the Filipino culture as best we can, and one lesson in particular that especially fascinated me was when we learned how to write in Babayin (pre-colonial Filipino script).  We were even tested on translating Tagalog words from their English format to Babayin and I must say, being of part Filipino descent, I was thrilled when I learned how to write my name in Babayin script.

The act of translating has always fascinated me, and while I may never learn how to do so properly, I admire those who have the ability to do that.  To be able to translate is, to me, equivalent to having a super power.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunesPlease leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 5 reviews so I’m already a quarter of a way to my goal).

Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.



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