Language and Literature

08 May 2015

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The written word is powerful. It is the reason that the invention of the printing press really changed the world. It revolutionised things because it made the written word accessible to the masses as opposed as accessible only to the privileged few. The printing press led to the rise in knowledge and learning throughout Europe and it really revolutionised Europe as the spread of new ideas occurred. Enough of the history lesson, I know that’s not why you guys visit my blog. My point is, the written word is really quite a powerful thing, especially when wielded by a skilled writer.

We all see it every time we pick up a book which really hits us. It may be a book that is written so well you can feel the emotion with every word, it may be a book where the writing is so beautiful that is is a work of art in itself, let alone considering the story those words are creating. The words are carefully chosen by an author and the way sentences are formed and the phrasing is chosen, I like to believe, is chosen to ensure the best effect for what they are trying to convey.

There are translation software websites whose entire business is dedicated to translating things for companies to help make someone's website accessible to a larger audience, but how do they guarantee that they are managing to capture the same essence of a website when translating? There are people whose job it is to translate books, but as an author of the book do you allow them free reign in translating, or do you insist that certain things get translated over? It’s a bizarre concept, translation. And I sometimes find myself questioning when I’m watching translated films and reading translated books if I’m getting the true experience which the author intended?

It is a well known fact that everywhere you go there are cultural differences, surely  some things just do not translate well. This is a lesson I have learnt from watching Korean dramas, sometimes Korean turns of phrase are completely lost on me because that is not my culture. You have to wander if the same is true when translating books? And if it is the case that some things do not translate do you remove that thing, or try and adapt it to fit in the language you are translating to? I’ve read very few translated books, and I wish I had read more, but  haven’t. Of the ones I’ve read I have found some to be beautiful, the writing is excellent and reading them is great, but some things get confused. I feel like I need footnotes, like you have in some classics, as a way of explaining things that don’t make sense to me. I find myself wanting to Google things to explain things to me. I also have to wonder if the translations writing is the same, or if the translators own writing style comes into play? I obviously have no clue at all because I speak English, and even then I struggle, and my grasp of any other language is limited to saying my name, counting, and asking if someone speaks English, so really damn poor. But it is interesting, the concept of translation.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, to be honest. It’s just interesting, it was made more interesting after reading Sandra’s post over at Tea Between Books about her experience with language and translations. It was interesting to learn her experience of reading a book in one book was completely different to reading it in English, which was really interesting to me. Surely, both books were the same regardless of language? Isn’t that meant to be the idea of translations, to make a work accessible to everyone in any one language. If you don’t get the same experience with a translated work as you get with an original is there any point in translating it?

I’m not against translated works of any kind, I’m simply rambling. It’s interesting to think about, and I’m glad I took the time to go off on a bit of a tangent. Have you read many translated works and what is your experience with them? Have you ever compared the translation to the original and noticed a difference or does good writing overcome such simple things as a language barrier?

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