Bless -- cross cultural renderings?
Thread poster: David Eunice

David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 11:02
Japanese to English
Feb 19, 2010

My occupation involves translating Japanese to English.

Religious terms often cause problems.

For example, how equivalent is Christian worship to what
Japanese people do at Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines?

Recently, in a context-free list of phrases for
tourist information, the phrase "Itadakimasu"
came up.

There is no functional equivalence for this in English.
It is said by a person who is about to eat.

Itadakimasu, which is polite form of a verb meaning
something like 'receive (from a superior)', acknowledges
receipt, and is a glossed as 'expression of gratitude
before meals'.

It is not functionally equivalent to saying grace.
It is not functionally equivalent to "bon apetit",
which is addressed to someone is about to eat.

By saying "Itadakimasu", a person acknowledges receipt
of food and signals that he/she is about to start eating.

The least bad 'one size fits all' translation I could come up
with was "Bless this food", which contextualizes the phrase
as concerning food and acknowledges some kind of
'grace' in getting it.

Anthony Pym 2010 Exploring Translation Theories.
The translator is an equivalence producer, a professional communicator
working for people who pay to believe that, on whatever level is pertinent,
B is equivalent to A.


Zounds! The problem is that our English language
has been filtered by Christianity since before the time
of Shakespeare.

For example, German 'Gesundheit' invokes blessing,
a wish for protection, but this has been translated, or
taken up, as "Bless you" in English.

I have already throroughly discussed the J--E issues on
another list. What I am particularly interested in right now
is the cross-cultural concept of "blessing", the verb "to bless",
and the notion of blessings.

Disregarding religion, the act of blessing basically endows
something or someone with the [power of] goodwill. Functionally,
it can express gratitude and benign intent.

Do other languages have a non-Christian idea of "bless"?

And, for example, in the 'godless' years of communist Russia, did
people express the idea?

What ever language pair you deal with, how do you deal with
this notion?


What kind of ideas from a source end up as 'casual' bless in English?
And how do you render bless, either as a specifically Christian
or as a casual phrase, from English into the target language of
a non-Christianized culture?

What kind of cultural and conceptual problems are involved?

Note, I am not really interested in the religious meaning per se.
The kind of thing I mean by casual bless, is something like
"Touch wood". In Christianized cultures, people still do this
two millennia after the source culture declined and 1000 years
after the free market of mischievous pagan gods was replaced
with a god monopoly.

Bless me! What a long message.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:02
Spanish to English
What an interesting subject Feb 19, 2010

I can't contribute much as a Spanish translator, but the words you describe before eating in Japan sound similar to what the Muslims say before eating.

I've always felt that our concepts of other religious practices are tainted by translation. The Spanish came to Mexico, a totally unknown part of the world to them and understood that the Mexica had all kinds of gods. I just wonder if what the truth of the matter was.


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David Eunice  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 11:02
Japanese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Is expression in all the Christianized cultures inextricably bound? Feb 19, 2010

Lesley Clarke wrote:
I can't contribute much as a Spanish translator,


Don't the Spanish have any non-religious ways of verbally
'spiritually' empowering things?

On a another tack, I remember the oath "Ostia!" in Barcelona
and was amused to find for sale from stalls on the cathedral steps,
next to light-up statues of the Virgin Mary, little figures that embodied,
or perhaps, disembodied its meaning. Once the Christians get a grip,
everything is related to the Church.

Lesley Clarke wrote:
I've always felt that our concepts of other religious practices are tainted by translation. The Spanish came to Mexico, a totally unknown part of the world to them and understood that the Mexica had all kinds of gods. I just wonder if what the truth of the matter was.


I don't think that there is any doubt that they had complex religious beliefs.
But there already s a huge problem in translating the word 'god'.

I generally have recourse to 'manifestation' of the [e.g., compassionate] Buddha
for naming images before which supplication is made.

I was reading something recently about how lamb of God was meaningless
to people in and around the Arctic Circle. One translation solution was
to use seal instead.

[Edited at 2010-02-19 05:43 GMT]


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Marian Vieyra  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:02
Member (2007)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Prayers before meals Feb 19, 2010

Growing up as a Catholic in Northern Ireland, we used to say the following words at school before lunch:

In English
Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

In Latin
Benedic, Domine, nos et haec tua dona quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

We also had:
"For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful".

The above was specifically to show gratitude for sustenance (no matter how terrible the meal!).

As someone pointed out before, religious practices can be "tainted" by translation.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:02
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
From my own perspective Feb 19, 2010

David Eunice wrote:
Itadakimasu, which is polite form of a verb meaning something like 'receive (from a superior)', acknowledges receipt, and is a glossed as 'expression of gratitude before meals'.


Is gratitude an essential part of it? Or is it just something customary to say before you start eating, i.e. something that people with good manners typically say, without necessarily thinking about the religiosity of it.

The least bad 'one size fits all' translation I could come up with was "Bless this food", which contextualizes the phrase as concerning food and acknowledges some kind of 'grace' in getting it.


But would non-religious English speakers say "Bless this food"?

For example, German 'Gesundheit' invokes blessing, a wish for protection, but this has been translated, or taken up, as "Bless you" in English.


In Afrikaans, it is "gesondheid" (health).

Do other languages have a non-Christian idea of "bless"?


The word "seën" (bless) in Afrikaans usually has a religious meaning, except perhaps in "count your blessings", which in Afrikaans no longer means "be thankful for what God gives you" but "you should not complain about misfortune".

There are two Afrikaans birthday songs, and one of them has "may the Lord bless you and keep you alive for many years" in it. These words would normally make the song a religious song, but the birthday song isn't regarded as a religious song, non-religious people sing it as heartily as the religious people do.

The words "bless you" have been taken over in informal Afrikaans as "blesjoe", and can be used in the place of "gesondheid" (gesundheit) when someone sneezes. It sounds a bit like "bless you" but it has no religious meaning.


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Bless -- cross cultural renderings?

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