How does translation change the world?
Thread poster: Roomy Naqvy

Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:01
English to Hindi
+ ...
May 17, 2001

How does translation change the world? To find an answer to this question, one should look at the great Tamil translator Attipat Krishnaswami Ramanujan, or known to all his friends, students and admirers as A K Ramanujan (1929-1993). Often the uninitiated confuse him with an another man with a similar sounding surname, the mathematician.

His contributions are immense. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest authorities of South Asian folklore. He did two extremely important things. Ramanujan was essentially trilingual. He knew and could speak fluently, English, Kannada and Tamil. English was the tongue of his profession and the language in which he lived. The other two were his father and mother tongues. He grew up with all three. He wrote poetry in English and translated into English. Ramanujan translated from what is widely known as Sangam literature in Tamil. Though technically, it is not Sangam literature. He also translated from Medieval Kannada poetry into English. What exactly happened was very interesting. No one knew of these literary traditions before Ramanujan translated and thus effectively introduced them to the world.

This is how translation can indeed change the world and make it better. For those who may have had an occasion to buy Collected Poems of A K Ramanujan published by Oxford University Press, New Delhi in 1995/96, would understand how he was able to introduce new genres into creative writing. In Tamil poetry which he translated, there lay a completely new poetics. It was a poetics completely different from what the world had known earlier. Essentially two genres were posited in this tradition, akam and puram. Akam [pronounced ‘aham’] symbolized the poetry of love, of domestic spaces, spoken by women, which did not mention any name of place, thing or person. Puram poems, on the other hand, were poems of war, of public life, of valor, spoken by men, where names of places, things and people were mentioned. In this particular book, his Collected Poems, Ramanujan is able to use these genres creatively in his own poems. Doesn’t that sound fascinating enough?

Ramanujan had many honors to his name. But this is not the place to glorify him. I just wanted to make a good start to this forum.

How did I venture into translation? This is a question I often ask myself and I have only one reply. It was because I worked on my M.Phil. dissertation on the poetry of A K Ramanujan in 1996.

Roomy F Naqvy

P.S. To know more about Ramanujan, just sample the following urls [a couple of his poems] [small bio-sketch and a notable poem “Some Indian Uses of History on a Rainy Day”. The poem shows him at his ironic best.]

If you need more information, do let me know.


[ This Message was edited by: roomynaqvy on 2001-05-17 08:54 ]

[ This Message was edited by: roomynaqvy on 2001-05-17 08:56 ]


Fevziye Gündoğdu
Local time: 23:31
Turkish to English
+ ...
Jun 10, 2001


This is a very interesting topic for any translator, especially in the field of literary traslations. I stopped and scrutinised my interest in languages after I have read your -shall I say- paper. I write poems and stories in Turkish, my native language.

Ever since I have learnt English, I have been reading translated literature work with a different eye. Some of them really disturbed me. At first I didn\'t understand the reason. Later on, I have realised that there were two big traps in translation. You should read the text that you are translating like a native speaker of that language. You should feel that you live in the same context. Think the same way. And when you have understood what is written in the text, now you should come back and be a part of the culture that the language that you are translating into belongs to. Even if this is your native language, you may sometimes continue to think in the other language. Maybe, you should be like an empty curtain onto which the text is reflected. For this, one should know both cultures very well. Especially in poetry. Well, in poetry there are other things like sound, rhyme, etc. Here, you should be a poet an re-write the poem. I sometimes translate my own poems. And feel that somebody who has no idea of my philosophical and cultural background and somebody who cannot hear the melody hidden within shouldn\'t touch them.

Also, why I have started translation as a hobby is a good example for this topic. It is not just converting a text from one language into another. It is much more challenging than that. It is discovering a brand new world in each translation.

Fevziye Deniz Gündoðdu

[ This Message was edited by: on 2001-06-14 05:10 ]


eurotransl (X)
German to English
+ ...
Jun 17, 2001

Yes, that\'s an interesting topic.

Translation, as they say, is the \"second oldest trade in the world\" icon_wink.gif, and our world would not be what is today, were it not for translators.

There are many examples of books, etc. that were not very popular in the original, but they gained wide popularity in translation.

Even in the more mundane world of entertainment (and TV), we see this happening. For example, does anyone still remember the old British TV series \"The Persuaders\", starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis (1972)? The likely answer will be NO. But ask any German about the series, and they won\'t shut up about it (German title: \"Die Zwei\"). Fact is that the translator(s) behind the German version of that series did an excellent job and created a gem. To this day, the series is still running on several channels in Germany - but you don\'t find it in English-speaking countries anymore.

When speaking about the influence of translation, one should not overlook the contribution of interpreters, in particular conference interpreters at international organisations, etc. I am convinced that this planet would have been nuked a long time ago if had not been for translators and interpreters.


Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 3, 2001

I must say that mon brave Roomy is most grandiloquent if not eloquent...but that is merely my opinion! Economy of words is as important to me as my household budget...I may have a penny or word to spare, but in either case, if well spent I am content!




United States
Local time: 15:31
Italian to English
+ ...
in every way Jun 5, 2002

Everything that is said and one everywhere in the world carries the potential of translation. Translators carry everyone\'s hope for that \"5-second soundbite\" globally. Believe me, in the 25 + years I have been translating, I\'ve met many who under-rate the profession but no one who doesn\'t envy it.


John Kinory (X)
Local time: 20:31
English to Hebrew
+ ...
The importance of translating Jun 13, 2002

Perhaps it\'s possible to sum this up by saying that translators enable us to appreciate other cultures, however imperfectly. Isn\'t that immensely important?


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-06-14 18:12 ]


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