The master linguist: the problem with translating Ibsen

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alex suhoy  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:00
Member (2012)
English to Russian
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*** Nov 1, 2014

The real problem is that a translator needs to be just as talented as the writer.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
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Russian to English
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Yes, absolutely. Nov 1, 2014

From what I remember Ibsen wrote in the old type of Norwegian--hard to understand for people today. I read one of his plays in the original, but the language is much harder to understand than contemporary Norwegian. I had to often check the English version.

I saw a magnificent performance of Ibsen's Peer Gynt directed by Ingmar Bergman himself a few years ago--probably the best perfoprmance I have seen in my life.

[Edited at 2014-11-01 20:21 GMT]


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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
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Norwegian to English
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Ibsen's language Nov 1, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

From what I remember Ibsen wrote in the old type of Norwegian--hard to understand for people today.


Norwegians have no problem understanding the language in Ibsen's plays.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
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Not really. I know someone who teaches Norwegian. Nov 2, 2014

He told me that many people, and certainly most of the younger generation in their 20s-30s would have serious problems understanding Ibsen in the original form. (A person originally from Norway)

I really trust him.

[Edited at 2014-11-02 07:33 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
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Danish to English
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It is very close to Danish Nov 2, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

He told me that many people, and certainly most of the younger generation in their 20s-30s would have serious problems understanding Ibsen in the original form. (A person originally from Norway)

I really trust him.

[Edited at 2014-11-02 07:33 GMT]


This surprises me. The biggest problem I have with reading Ibsen is finding the time!!

I would expect Danish readers to be able to mange quite well with a version like this one:
http://www.nb.no/nbsok/nb/c1b87a41f1ed1db0ba09468964459bd4.nbdigital?lang=no#49

The speech referred to in the article is on pages 205 - 206.

Og da jeg stod helt der øverst oppe og hang kransen over tårnfløjen, så sa' jeg til ham: Hør nu her, du Mægtige! Herefterdags vil jeg være fri bygmester, jeg også. På mit område. Ligesom du på dit. Jeg vil aldrig mere bygge kirker for dig. Bare hjem for mennesker.

-- and from the Norwegian I read and see on TV I would have thought Norwegians could cope with it quite well too. The pronunciation might prove difficult for some people if they heard it spoken without being able to see the text - I can't say anything about that. (I have difficulty with any spoken Norwegian, like many whose ear is tuned to Danish...)

The IDEAS and the whole setup might be difficult - but then so are the ideas in a lot of modern works, depending on the reader's background and upbringing. Ibsen certainly offers us plenty to think about.

THAT is why translating the plays would be so difficult - deceptively, the language, sentence by sentence, is straightforward enough.
That, of course, is where genius is to be found.



[Edited at 2014-11-02 22:35 GMT]


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:00
English to Spanish
... Nov 2, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

I saw a magnificent performance of Ibsen's Peer Gynt directed by Ingmar Bergman himself a few years ago--probably the best perfoprmance I have seen in my life.


Are you sure it was directed by Ingmar Bergman?

Ingmar Bergman died in 2007, at the age of 89.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
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Absolutely. Nov 2, 2014

It could have been fifteen years ago--the time passes so fast.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
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What about the Nynorsk and Bokmal? Nov 2, 2014

Which variety were his plays originally written in? I mostly speak Swedish, but I understand some Norwegian--regular contemporary newspapers, but this play wasn't that easy. I have it somewhere. I'll take a look again.

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
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Norwegian to English
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Reading literature Nov 2, 2014

Norwegians read Ibsen in high school. They also read Holberg, who wrote in Danish. When I was in school in Norway, we read Ibsen's Vilanden and Holberg's Erasmus Montanus. We also read a couple of Swedish short stories. No one in the class had any problems with the language.

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
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Norwegian to English
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Danish spellings, Norwegian pronunciation Nov 3, 2014

Christine Andersen wrote:


Og da jeg stod helt der øverst oppe og hang kransen over tårnfløjen, så sa' jeg til ham: Hør nu her, du Mægtige! Herefterdags vil jeg være fri bygmester, jeg også. På mit område. Ligesom du på dit. Jeg vil aldrig mere bygge kirker for dig. Bare hjem for mennesker.

The pronunciation might prove difficult for some people if they heard it spoken without being able to see the text - I can't say anything about that.


Don't be mislead by the Danish spellings, it is pronounced like any other Norwegian.

When we read Danish texts out loud at school, we pronounced the Danish as if it was Norwegian.




[Edited at 2014-11-03 00:18 GMT]


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Swedish to English
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15 years? Nov 3, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

It could have been fifteen years ago--the time passes so fast.


I'm no expert on Bergman, but to my knowledge he only directed Per Gynt in Malmö in the 50s. In later life he mainly directed his own plays and films.

As a (dare I mention the N word?) Swedish speaker who doesn't even pretend to translate from other Scandinavian languages, I have no problems understanding Ibsen in original.


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Hege Jakobsen Lepri  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:00
Member (2002)
English to Norwegian
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Not really. I know someone who teaches Norwegian. Nov 19, 2014

LilianNekipelov wrote:

He told me that many people, and certainly most of the younger generation in their 20s-30s would have serious problems understanding Ibsen in the original form. (A person originally from Norway)

I really trust him.

[Edited at 2014-11-02 07:33 GMT]

That's called functional illiteracy and it is not true that most 20-year-olds are functionally illiterate.
As a former student and teacher of Norwegian, I don't recognize that description at all. The difficulty is the similar but less acute to that of a an English mother tongue reading Shakespeare.
We all read Ibsen in both middle - and high school, and even my daughter who grew up in Italy and Canada (but now studies in Oslo) for the most part, didn't have any trouble understanding Ibsen after getting past the different spelling.


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The master linguist: the problem with translating Ibsen

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