On the threshold between possibility and Impossibility
Thread poster: laxica

Local time: 15:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 23, 2009

A rumination for your consideration...

I once heard that the locus of our work is the threshold between the possibility and the impossibility of translation. I find it very compelling to consider the idea not only that such a place exists, but that it might be a place of knowledge. Certainly any multi-lingual, multi-cultural person lives life on and around that threshold, criss-crossing it so many times that perhaps it even disappears from consciousness. Then there are also those of us who make up a small army of mercenaries who are sent out each day in search of that threshold between translatable and untranslatable. Dutifully we brandish our dictionaries like machetes and hack away at the impossible, attempting to push the threshold further and further back until the impossible is cleared away and everything becomes translatable. All the while perhaps we wonder whether it is not a futile endeavor, whether any of our day’s labor has not been false. To recognize that one exists on the threshold between possibility and impossibility is to concede that it is always both possible and not possible to translate. All translation is interpretation and a danger lies in taking the translation as real, as a replacement for the original. A translation however, can be a thing of beauty, and just because some thing may be untranslatable does not make it unknowable.


Alexandra Taggart  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 02:24
Russian to English
+ ...
Walking straight forward or taking a detour Jan 24, 2009

That which is in the translator's sense is an "equivalent" does not make any problem. That which is an "abstract" finds it's way through the intellect. That which is a kind of a proverb, saying or slang phrase may just take your time. But I am very concerned about some words (things) which are not translatable at all. Turning your head sideways in English means "no" but in Bulgarian means "yes. How would you put it:"She shook her head sideways in agreement."? For instance, Russian question:"A?" According to some contexts it may vary from"What?" to "Leave me along", but in itself is just an emotion. At the beginning of the sentence this "A"(a single word) will make you a real problem, English simply does not have it, this "A" directs the whole sentence in a way which makes translated sentence too long.
My examples here are symbolic.


Local time: 15:24
English to Spanish
+ ...
the road not taken? Jan 24, 2009

Fascinating examples. And I very much like the metaphore of "walking straight forward or taking a detour." For some reason I think it recalls Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I've always thought he was talking about life, but why couldn't it apply to the art of language as well?

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Words lead one to another forming pathways, and indeed it is often the road less traveled that makes all the difference in crossing the threshold between possible and impossible.


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On the threshold between possibility and Impossibility

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