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What are your views on this quotation?
Thread poster: Rosina Peixoto

Rosina Peixoto  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 23:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
May 29, 2008

"In a sense, language itself is a kind of translation—the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener, just as translation, in the strictest sense, is the transmission of messages from a source language to a target language".
(Translating Latin American Literature -Thomas Christensen, 2007).


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 19:57
English to Russian
+ ...
I'd say he has a point here... May 29, 2008

...and sometimes things get lost in translation even when we presumable speak the same language!

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Ceywen
Local time: 20:57
English to Spanish
My views on the quotation May 29, 2008

It is completely true.
Language is a "translation" of our thoughts.

Consider this:
You are thinking of... a person you like... Can you describe her/him with words, EXACTLY in the way you are thinking of her/him? How much time would you spend doing this?

When we talk, we often omit information, or change it, or generalize it. So, finally, we are making some kind of translation of what we were thinking. (If not, communication would be very difficult and tedious)

What do you think?


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Maria Antonietta Ricagno  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
Member
English to Italian
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Another quotation May 29, 2008

I would like to add a quotation from 'The Dialogic Imagination' by Mikhail Bakhtin:

'Language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other'.


Antonella


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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I disagree May 29, 2008

Rosina Peixoto wrote:
"In a sense, language itself is a kind of translation—the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener, just as translation, in the strictest sense, is the transmission of messages from a source language to a target language".


Sure, it's all communication, but that's where the similarities end. Speech occurs without thinking. It is automatic. The speaker doesn't wait until he is sure his speech will reflect exactly what he wants to communicate. If he notices or suspects that he has blundered, he can follow up with more speech to clarify. The translator does not have that luxury -- he must carefully weigh his text to see if it suits the intended meaning. Therefore the processes are completely different.

Imagine a translation that is four or five times as long as the original because the translator kepts interrupting himself in his writing to explain or clarify what he had just written...


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
German to English
Language, or speech? May 29, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
Sure, it's all communication, but that's where the similarities end. Speech occurs without thinking. It is automatic.


The quote just says 'language', not 'speech' - so maybe, to be exact, the written language is like translation, and the spoken language a little like interpreting?

We often think of a translation as open to improvement, in flux, just one possible way of translating the text, whereas we see the source text as unchangeable, fixed, the perfect way of expressing a thought. But, of course, the original author of the source text may have changed it several times, or may have found that thought very hard to express - the source text may be make-do, the best way he could think of at the time to express it. He may write another article, book or webpage later refining the idea, just as another translator working on the text later may translate the idea more neatly.
In both cases, the words finally chosen are just a means of getting across a thought; you could use other words - but with translation, where everyone can see that you have changed the words used to convey the idea, that is more obvious.


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Marta Riosalido
Spain
Local time: 04:57
Member (2006)
German to Spanish
+ ...
I agree May 29, 2008

Thoughts are not divided into words, syntax and spelling, but somehow you have to transmit your thoughts in a code that is understandable for others who speak the same language. When trying to convert those loose thoughts in your mind into words, which have to be in a determined order, there are always things that you miss. There are not enough words to describe the feeling of happiness or sadness. Therein we find the beauty of words, we are even capable of determining who is the most skilled writer, the one that touches more deeply our souls because we can find those same feelings inside ourselves.

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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 22:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think that what creates the distance that Bakhtin refers to May 29, 2008

and that is being debated here, is the inherent presence of intertexts in our speech, based on our own life experiences. These intertexts are always there, and though one can interpret whether the majority of the ones communicated have been "read", there is always a space of uncertainty between speech and reception, in which things are mis-interpreted or lost....

(This idea was part of my Ph.D. thesis for Comp. Lit...:) )


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 04:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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The quote says... May 29, 2008

Anne Koth wrote:
The quote just says 'language', not 'speech' - so maybe, to be exact, the written language is like translation, and the spoken language a little like interpreting?


The quote qualifies itself after the dash, in "the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener". Speech, in other words.


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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 10:57
English to Chinese
+ ...
Speech without meaning? May 29, 2008

How do we define "communication"?

Two machines communicate via FTP. Are they communicating? In a sense, yes. They communicate according to FTP.

However, human communication is something else. There are people who talk/speak without thinking and there are people who hear/listen mindlessly. A speech act under such circumstances is no communication at all.

In order to understand the meaning of what we have heard (the message), we have to translate/interpret the speech. There are no two identical listeners and that's why we have many different translations/understandings among us. We just don't do only FTP when listening to a speaker or when translating a text for a client.

It is the message that is to be translated, not the text or the speech and definitely not the "speech act."

Through FTP, we get identical copies. Through speech which carries a message, we won't ever receive identical copies. That is why different people perform different translation jobs. We are simply not identical or similar machines, not just the difference between a MacIntosh and an IBM-Compatible.

Samuel Murray wrote:

Anne Koth wrote:
The quote just says 'language', not 'speech' - so maybe, to be exact, the written language is like translation, and the spoken language a little like interpreting?


The quote qualifies itself after the dash, in "the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener". Speech, in other words.


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
German to English
So it does May 30, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
The quote qualifies itself after the dash, in "the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener". Speech, in other words.

I just read what I wanted to read

But much of what I said above applies to speech, too: there are many ways of getting across an original thought in speech, just as there are many ways of translating it into other languages.

Practically speaking, of course, speaking and translating are less similar than writing and translating. But Christensen didn't say translation was just like speech; he wasn't suggesting we translate subconsciously and without restriction. He said it the other way around: that speech is a kind of translation. I think that's a point worth making; many people see translations as somehow altering and twisting reality, forgetting that we all do that when we speak.

What I would disagree with is that 'translation is the transmission of messages from a source language to a target language' - for me, translation is the transmission of messages from the head of the original speaker/writer to the head of the hearer/reader of the translation. Of course, it goes through the translator's head on the way, and depending on the translator's ability and the limits of both languages, it may very well be changed slightly - but that's the whole point, isn't it? Language, too, is a form of Chinese whispers.


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Reminded me of a message game May 30, 2008

Rosina Peixoto wrote:

"In a sense, language itself is a kind of translation—the transmission of messages from a speaker to a listener, just as translation, in the strictest sense, is the transmission of messages from a source language to a target language".
(Translating Latin American Literature -Thomas Christensen, 2007).


Hi Rosina,

Your quote reminded me of a group game that I once played in a summer camp.

Let's say there is a group of people sitting around in a circle and the first person on one end has to whisper on the ear (so that the rest can't hear it) to the next person a short message, better if it's something that doesn't make sense (for example, "white elephants only fly on Mondays"). Then the person who just heard the message has to tell the next person and so on, until the message reaches the last person in the circle.

Usually the message that reaches the last person is totally different from the one originally told by the first person, which is something that, as a result, usually makes everyone laugh.

But my point is that this kind of game would more or less prove what your quotation says, because any message (spoken or written) can obviously end up being interpreted/translated in many ways, just like a translation text, the source language being that of the message issuer and the target language being that of the message receiver (even if they are the same language).

Saludos,

Ivette

[Edited at 2008-05-30 12:30]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:57
German to English
'Chinese whispers' May 30, 2008

ICL wrote:
Your quote reminded me of a group game that I once played in a summer camp.

Let's say there is a group of people sitting around in a circle and the first person on one end has to whisper on the ear (so that the rest can't hear it) to the next person a short message, better if it's something that doesn't make sense (for example, "white elephants only fly on Mondays"). Then the person who just heard the message has to tell the next person and so on, until the message reaches the last person in the circle.


The game is called 'Chinese whispers'


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Danke, Anne! May 30, 2008

Anne Koth wrote:

The game is called 'Chinese whispers'


I had no idea this game had actually an official name.



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Wenjer Leuschel  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 10:57
English to Chinese
+ ...
Ha, ha, ha! May 30, 2008

They tell also pretty often a Chinese tale! "Cuento chino" as they call it in Spanish.

Anne Koth wrote:
ICL wrote:
Your quote reminded me of a group game that I once played in a summer camp.

Let's say there is a group of people sitting around in a circle and the first person on one end has to whisper on the ear (so that the rest can't hear it) to the next person a short message, better if it's something that doesn't make sense (for example, "white elephants only fly on Mondays"). Then the person who just heard the message has to tell the next person and so on, until the message reaches the last person in the circle.


The game is called 'Chinese whispers'


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