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Off topic: Everything is illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Thread poster: Gordon Darroch
Gordon Darroch
Local time: 01:27
Dutch to English
+ ...
Oct 30, 2003

This is a question born out of pure shameless curiosity: Has anyone got any plans, or even a commission, to translate this eccentric American novel? I just wonder how on earth you'd go about doing it, given that one of the narrators is a translator whose use of English is extremely convoluted. How do you get the full effect of bad translation across without compromising your own translation? I wondered also what people thought of the way Foer uses this technique - personally I got tired of it towards the end, he could have been a lot more inventive, especially if he'd played with the possibilities offered by idiomatic phrases. And can anyone think of any other books which would be absolute stinkers to translate?

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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:57
English to Tamil
+ ...
How about Pygmalion? Oct 30, 2003

I always wondered about this play by Bernard Shaw. How can anyone translate it? It is very much involved with the nuances of spoken English. But the German version exists? Can my German colleagues enlighten me on this point?
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2003-10-31 01:07]


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Ruth Rosenthal
Israel
Local time: 03:27
English to Dutch
+ ...
Translation exists Oct 30, 2003

This amazing book has been translated into Dutch and, as far as I have seen, the translator did a wonderful job.
I read a chapter of the bood in The New Yorker, started reading the Dutch translation, but preferred reading it in its original language after all.


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:27
Member
English
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Mr. Pun & Little Miss Homonym Oct 31, 2003

Hi there,

I don't know the book under discussion, but every night as I read my four year old daughter one of Roger Hargreaves' "Mr. Men" books, I pity anyone trying to translate them into another language.

The humour of the books often comes from dreadful puns designed to appeal to the under sixes. Indeed, PUNS are so quintessentially "English" - that I imagine the books are virtually untranslateable - or would require a great deal of modification into the target language(s).

I understand there are existing Translations into French, but I haven't seen any. Anyone know if they are any good?

Curiously, this ability to regularly pun means that sometimes a translator produces a funnier book in English than the original. I am thinking of the Asterix Comics, which I have read in French, Catalan and English. The puns in English, especially on names, are just so outrageous that the English copies have me laughing aloud... while the French originals merely bring a smile to my lips.

Oh well, back to the grindstone,

Cheers,

Berni


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:57
English to Tamil
+ ...
Talking of Asterix, there is a point Nov 1, 2003

I do agree that to my mind Abraracourcix is not as funny as Vitalstatistix. Getafix is better than Panoramix, to say nothing of Dogmatix in cotrast to Idefix. It is true that my opinion is subjective and I am not able to see anything funny in the above names in the French version. Yet I loved the French originals and I read all of them in French only and the English versions I just had a glance. And one more thing: In the French original of one of the Asterix comics, a Gaul chieftain, who was a Roman lover was described. In his home there was this slogan: "Rome sweet Rome". That's right here this pun is untranslateable.
Regards,
N.Raghavan


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 03:27
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Of course Nov 3, 2003

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

I always wondered about this play by Bernard Shaw. How can anyone translate it? It is very much involved with the nuances of spoken English. But the German version exists? Can my German colleagues enlighten me on this point?
Regards,
N.Raghavan

[Edited at 2003-10-31 01:07]


The My fair Lady-version is of course more popular than Pygmalion, and the translations are all very popular. I do not remember the German, but the Finnish version was as funny as the original, currently again a Swedish version is running on the Svenska teatern in Helsinki.


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:27
Member
English
+ ...
My Unfair Lady? Nov 3, 2003

One problem with Shaw's "Pygmalion" for translators is that English (as spoken in the UK) not only has regional dialects, but there is also a social stigma and certain social expectations attached to such dialects.

If other languages have this element, then the play would present no major headaches. The problem would be for a translator working into a language where the mere fact of speaking in a regional dialect does not automatically shut someone off from the highest levels of society - which used to be the case in the UK and to a certain extent still is.

Felipe Gonzalez was President of Spain for many years, despite having a broad Andalusian accent. Once upon a time, in Britain, nobody would even dream of high political office if they did not speak "the Queen's English".

This was especially true during Shaw's lifetime and he thought it absurd - hence the play. In fact, Shaw was great at pointing out the absurdities in his adopted homeland. He even proposed a phonetic spelling system for English which - to the chagrin of every English learner since - did not catch on.

Demonstrating the absurdity of the English spelling system, he famously noted that by applying accepted rules of English, it was possible to spell the word "FISH" as follows: GHOTI

GH as in RouGH
O as in wOmen
TI as in acTIon

Now... English phonetics... there is another can of worms for the translator

Cheers,

Berni



[Edited at 2003-11-03 08:14]


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