Hello Culture Enthusiasts,
Welcome to blog 2. We are very happy you stop by to check this week’s topic.
(In other words, why does translation matter?)
“Why are you a translator, your job will not exist in x years anyway?”
Interestingly, many people wonder why translation is important. And this question comes up frequently, particularly now with the prevalence of automatic translators such as Google Translate. However, it’s essential to recognize that human translators play a crucial role in creating all automatic translations behind the scenes.
Despite the advancements in technology, translation remains vital. Without it, how would Americans learn about influential figures in French literature like Jean Jacques Rousseau? And how would we gain insights into the brightest minds from ancient to modern times? For these reasons and more, translation is the bridge that connects us to a wealth of knowledge and diverse perspectives.
What to Consider
Subsequently, the key point is that the significance of translation depends on the perspective. Similar to literature, translation offers a glimpse into the core of our humanity. Beyond introducing a variety of literary pieces, it enables us to explore diverse facets of an author’s thinking and, consequently, various aspects of the human experience (Edith Grossman).
At times, it can mean the distinction between freedom and imprisonment. It can also be the factor determining whether you actively engage in your life and healthcare, especially when seeking a better life due to war or economic upheaval in your homeland. In these cases, translation is the link that opens doors to understanding and navigating life’s complexities.
At times, it can mean the distinction between freedom and imprisonment. It can also be the factor determining whether you actively engage in your life and healthcare, especially when seeking a better life due to war or economic upheaval in your homeland.
In fact, navigating life’s intricacies goes beyond words. Every translator discovers that translation extends beyond mere bilingualism or multilingualism. William Weaver offers an insightful glimpse into his translation process, particularly concerning Carlo Emilio Gadda’s work.
Undoubtedly, the essence lies in employing strategies, principles, and, most importantly, making informed choices between nuanced possibilities. And this process involves deciding between the subtle shades of expressions, such as ‘maybe’ or ‘perhaps,’ as highlighted by William Weaver, or the seemingly straightforward choice between ‘mouse’ and ‘rat,’ as noted by Umberto Eco.
Translation, for many in the field, is a meticulous process of finding the most fitting equivalence amid multiple options. The translator constantly switches between two crucial roles – that of a listener to the source and a speaker of the target – merging distinct perspectives of the human experience into a unified whole.
For the translator is constantly and simultaneously switching between two main roles, that of a listener (of the source) and of a speaker (of the target), merging two distinct perspectives of the human experience into a unified whole.
Translation as Negotiation
Whether you opt for a conventional approach by adhering to the foundational aspects of language, or embrace the language evolution approach influenced by perceived linguistic hierarchies, translation as Umberto Eco aptly puts it, is always a Negotiation.
To excel, one must recognize that “No two languages are ever so similar that they represent the same social reality,” emphasizing the unique nature of languages. Yet, acknowledging the inherent connection between language and culture, where the latter serves as the reference point for the former, underscores the centrality of cultural understanding in this negotiation.
“No two languages are ever so similar that they represent the same social reality” (Edward Sapir)
According to Weaver, “there are no rules, no laws; there cannot be an absolute right or an absolute wrong, though there can be errors.” This ambiguity is likely what attracts many to translation. The challenges are captivating, the multitude of options continuously stimulates your frontal lobe, and the excitement of discovering a perfect fit is unparalleled.
We All Share One Goal
After all, that’s why we go beyond words and negotiate.
Evidently, the outcome is bridging communication gaps to connect global cultures, a task beyond the capabilities of technology and monolingual literary work alone. Moreover, all of this can be accomplished from the comfort of your bed if you wish.
For those passionate about freedom, language, and culture, possessing these crucial skills prompts the question: How do you harness and apply them for the greater good?
For as long as there are various social groups living different cultural realities, the need for human translation will also remain a reality.
Trust your Instinct
Lastly, trust your gut! If I had heeded the advice of those who predicted the obsolescence of the translation field, I would have missed out on the liberating experience of self-employment. Despite well-intentioned warnings, embracing the unknown has shown me the extensive freedom that self-employment can bring. The age-old adage, “you will never know until you try,” holds true in my journey.
Let the warmth of positivity surround you!
Take a moment to celebrate your language and culture by reflecting on
three uplifting aspects.
Cherish the moments of positivity—it’s your own vibrant tapestry of identity!
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Eco, Umberto. Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation. London: Phoenix, 2004.
Grossman, Edith. Why Translation Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.
Sapir, E. “The Status of Linguistics as a Science.” Language5, no. 4 (1929): 207. https://doi.org/10.2307/409588.
“The Process of Translation.” The Edinburgh Journal of Gadda Studies. Accessed May 3, 2020. https://www.gadda.ed.ac.uk/Pages/resources/babelgadda/babeng/weavertranslation.php.
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