Can “capable of being hurt…” mean a kind of ability?
Thread poster: jasmine394
jasmine394  Identity Verified
South Korea
Local time: 09:55
English to Korean
Mar 29, 2015

"I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to be capable of being hurt. The only way to avoid the pain of vulnerability is by shutting out all emotion and becoming cold, uncaring, heartless and selfish. To love is to be vulnerable – and vulnerability is a precious quality of the best parents and of the best teachers."


Above is a quote from headmaster's newsletter. My colleague and I were translating the newsletter into our native language, and over the phrase"to be capable of being hurt" we had a stark disagreement.

I did not consider the possibility of “being able to” at all, given two definitions of “capable” – i) having capacity or ability, and ii) predisposed to/susceptible to.

I took the second definition to translate it. But my colleague wanted to go with the first definition, claiming that it shouldn't be viewed as a passive attitude.

The problem is, my language does not have that expression “be able to be hurt” except a kind of perverted use, say in literature. So what we actually did is that we treated the phrase “capable of being hurt” as if it had been “be able to endure, or handle hurt”.

I already submitted our translation. I just let my colleague make a final choice because she was virtually a reviewer (She spent most of her school years in an English-speaking environment).

But I have been in agony all weekend. I am afraid that I changed the original text to a different style of writing.

So I just want to ask which definition English speakers would first use for the word "capable" here before thinking about the meaning more deeply.

Any comments would be highly appreciated, but please hurry up! Maybe adjustment would be allowed within about 12 hours from now.

*************************
If you need more context, in a story the headmaster quoted, a rabbit toy just wants to be real without knowing what it would mean. But the rabbit only knows once it becomes real, it won't mind pains from being real much, even though being real sometimes involves pains.


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:25
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
allowing yourself to be hurt Mar 30, 2015

Complicated.
It may be argued that exposing your weaknesses and allowing yourself to be hurt is in effect a sign of strength and it also means that you take the other party seriously.
If you don't take someone seriously, they cannot hurt you emotionally. They are simply "an unimportant person". This may be of benefit in some environments, but I think in this context the intention is to highlight that exposing weaknesses allows the child to relate to you and form a bond which will have a beneficial effect on their development.

Predisposed to being hurt is somewhat different, it implies that you are easily offended and prone to misunderstand comments as being hurtful when they were never intended that way.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Like me Mar 30, 2015

dianaft wrote:

Complicated.
It may be argued that exposing your weaknesses and allowing yourself to be hurt is in effect a sign of strength and it also means that you take the other party seriously.
If you don't take someone seriously, they cannot hurt you emotionally. They are simply "an unimportant person". This may be of benefit in some environments, but I think in this context the intention is to highlight that exposing weaknesses allows the child to relate to you and form a bond which will have a beneficial effect on their development.

Predisposed to being hurt is somewhat different, it implies that you are easily offended and prone to misunderstand comments as being hurtful when they were never intended that way.


As a person who appears self-assured but is easily hurt, I would think that "capable of being hurt" is not a very felicitous way of saying it, because it implies some sort of "ability". "Vulnerable" is good.


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:25
Romanian to English
+ ...
Ability Mar 30, 2015

I think it is an ability, too, which is a little more than just vulnerability (a natural characteristic), in that one does not suppress (an act, or I should say action of will) this vulnerability deliberately.

In your particular context, the toy was not physically/technically capable of being hurt. "Capable of being hurt" is the opposite of that. While vulnerable does express this very thing, I see vulnerability as something involuntary. The toy's choice of becoming real is a matter of decision, too. Oh well. Vulnerable is a good translation, I second Tom's comment.

[Edited at 2015-03-30 11:36 GMT]


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Neptunia
Local time: 03:25
Italian to English
interesting problem Mar 30, 2015

I would go with the first definition. Revealing the capacity to be hurt is another way of saying the headmaster's concept. It is curious that there is no easy way of saying it in Korean. The solution you chose seems almost to be the opposite and is more akin to stoicism than vulnerability. If it is too late to change it, don't be hard on yourself. The headmaster sounds a little overly dramatic and sentimental to me and perhaps that is what made it hard to translate.
On this subject, what comes to mind is teaching my 2 year old to be gentle. When he whacks me in the face I say, "ouch! that hurt" and he usually responds contritely with a gentle pat and kiss to make me feel better. Meanwhile, he shows no compassion and gets wilder and wilder with his grandfather because his grandfather just laughs and shouts when they play roughly. I think the headmaster is talking about emotional pain and not 2 year olds, but the basic idea probably still applies.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:25
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Don't lose sleep over it Mar 30, 2015

I would go with definition #1, being able to feel hurt but not necessarily easily hurt. However, the difference between the two is not so great that you need to lose sleep over it. I expect parents will understand the intent.

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Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:25
Dutch to English
+ ...
to cope Mar 30, 2015

My feeling is this means you are capable of exposing yourself to being hurt; that might mean opening yourself up to criticism, which always hurts at some level, whatever some might claim! So it is an ability, yes.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 09:25
Chinese to English
Unusual English Mar 31, 2015

The first point to make is that you shouldn't worry too much. This English is unusual. It's quite easy to understand, but it's definitely an unexpected combination of words.

I agree with your colleague that the first definition is what's being used here. It's talking about something you can do - encouraging teachers (and parents?) to actively adopt a stance of vulnerability.

If the Korean word for "capable" doesn't allow for this kind of usage, then use a different word in your translation! If I were translating this into my source language, I certainly wouldn't use the word for "capable". I might go with something like: maintain an open attitude of willingness to be hurt or maintain a sensitive, easily-hurt posture.


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mariealpilles  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:25
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
capable of being hurt Mar 31, 2015

Capable = which can be hurt, i.e. is able to assume the hurt and deal with it. In a way it is an ability as a parent to know that you are going to be hurt as a person in your deep feelings, but that you have the mental Tools to deal with that hurt.

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jasmine394  Identity Verified
South Korea
Local time: 09:55
English to Korean
TOPIC STARTER
Able to be hurt... Mar 31, 2015

First of all, thank you all for your comments. And I'm sorry for my late reply. Actually, long before my question was posted here, I'd found my problem (http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2992276&p=15129823#post15129823). Moreover, since there was little disagreement among their replies, I was able to revise my translation swiftly.

My problem was simply that I did not know "able" could mean "susceptible to action or treatment". So I read "having capacity or ability" as something like an active skill. Figuring out my mistake, I felt incapable. It is weird that I haven't noticed the usage of "able". When I said that "to be able to be hurt" could not translate well into Korean, this was merely because I only had actual skills in mind.

But anyway with "susceptible", I read it as "permitting an action to be performed; capable of undergoing something", and actually I did not consider "predisposed". I am sorry that I carelessly copy-pasted the definitions.

So in my first draft, my translations for "to be vulnerable" and "to be capable of being hurt" actually meant the same. A Sino-Korean word that sounds formal for "vulnerable", and then just plain words which are nothing more than the paraphrase of "vulnerable".

That's why my colleague wanted "to be capable of being hurt" to be interpreted as an active attitude like "be able to endure or handle hurt".

Reading replies, I realized that I caused huge confusion merely by using wrong words. I am terribly sorry.

But thanks to the comments here, I began to understand the viewpoint of the reviewer (rather than my colleague). In that text vulnerability is defined as a precious quality. I haven't thought about it deeply, trying to figure out the cause of our disagreement.

But I would prefer literal translation especially in this case... And I will let it go according to the advice of some people. I spent too much energy on it!! Once again, your replies were really, really helpful!

[Edited at 2015-03-31 11:18 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 06:55
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Capable of feeling hurt Apr 2, 2015

The critical word here is hurt, and not capable. The usual meaning of hurt is to cause a physical injury, but here it has been used in the sense of emotional pain.

So if you think of the sentence as using emotional pain, instead of hurt, you will get the meaning correct.

And the correct verb would be "feel" and not "being". Read the sentence as follows:

I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to be capable of feeling hurt.

In other words, the above sentence is equivalent to:

I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to be capable of feeling emotional pain.

Alternatives to "feeling" would be "experiencing":

I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to be capable of experiencing emotional pain.

Another way of reading this sentence is this:

I think that’s what it means to be “real” as a parent or a teacher – to be vulnerable, to have the ability of experiencing emotional pain.

[Edited at 2015-04-02 03:45 GMT]


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jasmine394  Identity Verified
South Korea
Local time: 09:55
English to Korean
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks. Apr 2, 2015

Balasubramaniam L.: Thank you for your clear explanation.

[Edited at 2015-04-03 11:50 GMT]


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