21 February 2009

Translations and audience effect

At the Panrehiyong Forum Pangwika [Regional Language Forum] in Legazpi City, Philippines, last Thursday (19 February), teachers of Bicol University read a poem with each line written in or translated into three languages (Spanish, Filipino, and Bicolano). It was not clear to me (listening as a non-Bicolano) which were the original lines and which were the translations, but it was clear from the reading that the mood or tone of the lines changed with the language (of course, it could have been the three interpreters who were reading alternately). A thought: does a translation change the tone of a text? Translations are supposed to produce in the target-language audience the same effects they produce in the source-language or original audience, but perhaps they really don't.

1 comment:

  1. Does a translation change the tone of a text? Bad translation would; competent ones would use all the linguistic tools (viz., figures of thought, speech, language and the tonal energies akin to the tone of the intentions of the original text -- sounds that capture the sense, text and context that achieve the content) that are available in the translating language.

    One case of a good translation I have come across (where I am also convinced that the translation is actually superior to the original one) is that of Philippine poet Jose F. Lacaba's translation of Max Erhmann's "Desiderata".

    (See "Ka Pete", a blog where Mr. Lacaba publishes his translation of the popular Jesuit-student moral guide. The translation, "Minimithi" preserves the tone, and it certainly produced an even more significant--because it is in contemporary Pilipino--effect on this reader.

    Follow the blog on: http://kapetesapatalim.blogspot.com/

    In this case, the translation matches the earnestness of Erhmann's prose poem, but, I dare say, surpasses the tonal serenity and even vigour of the original.

    One might draw the conclusion that Lacaba is, after all, the better poet. I would not gainsay that. -- ALBERT B. CASUGA