By Shpresa Ymeraj
When I was still living in Albania, I remember watching a TV program called “Follow Me,” a crash course on the English language, and I could not get past some idiomatic expressions. “Keep Off the Grass” was one. I translated it word by word, yet I could not understand how it was supposed to mean “Stay Off the Grass” when the meaning of the word “keep” is “to maintain.” This and other examples showed me that words placed within a sentence operate in groups, and when translated separately, may be taken out of context. The way we interpret the world beyond our language barriers depends on translation.
But imagine translating figurative language. While it may be challenging to translate scientific, historical, and cultural data, literary translation is particularly complicated considering the many layers of meaning and the purpose an individual word, phrase, or passage.
A faithful translation recreates the original’s atmosphere by rigorously rebuilding the essential meaning intended. It reflects on the connections within the passage as it does on allusions. Translators must consider cultural context and reflect on cultural, artistic, historical authorial references, considering the time the work is written, thus mirroring the original text in the intended context. When translating colloquial expressions, for example, consider how important it is to portray the region and the time a work reflects correctly, or use a word in the exact denotation, how it affects accuracy.
Learning another language widens one’s perspective and helps one to understand differences and similarities. That is an excellent place to begin. We agree computing is complex, and there is so much more to consider beyond basic syntax rules. As someone who reads and writes in more than one language, I’ve come to understand that translation is also about acknowledging the process of a work written in English from one whose first language may be another.
Furthermore, shared experiences are necessary to understand a text, and thus respectfully translating its meaning. There is no perfect translation, as it depends on each reader’s perspective and interpretation. Still, one closest to the original is one that recreates the same ideas, especially evoking the same emotions and provoking one’s thinking to ponder similar, if not the same, author’s aimed questions.
Experimenting with translation–engaging in the act of communicating with a different language and culture, even at a beginner’s level–is an enriching endeavor, one that will undoubtedly make you a more sensitive reader and writer.
If you are interested in looking at literary journals that feature translations, follow the link: https://pen.org/journals-seeking-work-in-translation/