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How to Translate a Foreign Passage?

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2/12/2012 9:57:23 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
As we all know the common Italian aphorism, "traduttore e traditore", the act of translating a piece of text, whether a verse--ballad, jingoism, epic, narrative, and so forth, a novel, memoir, and so forth, written in a foreign language can prove difficult.

There are apparently a few reasons to account for such a difficulty. While issues of grammar may be disregarded (as translators are expected to have a good grasp of such a language), other matters present a challenge: the cultural context (or rather making sure the audience understands it, though one can say that footnotes and other methods of explanation might suffice) that can often lead to issues over adopting or merely directly translating the text and even the constraints of a literary genre--specifically poetry. Poems, on a general level (though this exclude free verse poems and so forth), follow rhyme schemes, often have repeated consonants (to promote a tone for the passage)-in alliteration or silibance, follow beats in patterns of syllables, and so forth. Of course, much of this is lost in translation at times, and the difficulty of translating the poem to retain much of the original's qualities becomes obvious.

For example, one poem that I can think of--as I am writing this very quickly--that presents a somewhat formidable challenge for translators is Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". Filled with nonce words, some of which do not even have definite meanings (such as "vorpel"), the poem requires some sort of flexibility on the translator's part, specifically in creating words, characters, and so forth or combine pairs in portmanteaus.

And then there's the task of deciphering the hidden layers of meaning in a poem and making sure that such layers are preserved as best as possible in a translation.....

So, then, what approach to translation would be preferable, in your view?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau