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The Art of Translation: An indispensable process3 min read

September 10, 2017 2 min read


The Art of Translation: An indispensable process3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Literature has served as a record for the constantly developing and transforming cultures all around the world. Be it the Indian Vedas, the Greek epics, the Latin poems or the innumerable literary pieces in a plethora of languages, we have them well within our reach.

Therefore, it is safe to say that the practice of translating literature from one language to another can be dated back to ancient times. These translated pieces have contributed immensely to the cultural development across the globe by giving a new perspective to scholars as well as the common man. Those practicing the art of translating text from one foreign language to another language help people experience a different style of storytelling.

Umberto Eco, author of ‘Mouse or Rat? : Translation as Negotiation’, defines translation as a change; ‘a shift between two cultures, not between two languages’. True to these words, the process of translation is not as plain and simple as changing the words into their literal meanings in another language. One cannot simply translate ‘j’ai une chatte noir’ from French to ‘I have a cat black’ in English. The knowledge of the respective languages and the understanding of cultural dynamics are absolutely essential for effective translation. Despite following all the widely accepted standards for translating, several translators are unable to keep the crux of the original work intact. The essence of literature is said to be its soul, and if the soul is lost then that piece of work becomes lifeless.

Translation is a never ending profession, especially now in this age of globalization, it has become vital and irreplaceable. The works of Homer, Camus, Kafka, and Dante have been inspiring the masses for eras; movies, TV shows, and animes originated in foreign lands have become a significant source of entertainment. The writings of today’s authors are widely accessible to millions of people over the Internet.

On the other hand, the rapid evolution of translation software (which is more apt for quick word-to-word translations) completely does away with the essence of the literary pieces. Quite often, the concept explained in a particular piece cannot be translated perfectly as it doesn’t leave the same impact in another language as it has in its original form. The plays by Shakespeare are rich in rhythm and wordplay in old English which tends to lose meaning when translated into modern English or any other language for that matter. Another major challenge that translators have to overcome in order to ensure proper translation is that the thoughts of the author are not altered by his/her own biases.

To compose a well-translated piece of work, one needs to scale literary words to the essence of the source text; a very fine and delicate balance many thrive to achieve.

Edited by Shivani Singh

A talk on Literature across Borders and Languages: The Art of Translation will be conducted by Alex Ruiz Falques, Kamala Ramaswamy, Nalini Thampi and Sajal Dey on 17 September 2017, at the Gangubai Hanagal Auditorium, at 9:30 am. Several translation workshops will also be conducted in MCPH from 15-17 September 2017.

The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the organization’s views.

The Manipal Journal is the official media partner for MILAP, Manipal’s first literary and art platform, to be conducted on 15, 16 and 17 September 2017.