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 Class Forums - Spring 2013
 PHIL 200-001 - Sokrates and Plato
 Lost in Translation
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Danielle Ross

4 Posts

Posted - May 08 2013 :  6:59:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've always been a big fan of words and their meanings, as well as wordplay and word analysis.

It's been bugging me that no matter how well translated, any texts from any other language will never be exactly the same in English. We'll never get the full effect of the text in its purest form, the way the author intended it to be when he or she wrote it.

The Symposium specifically keeps coming to mind. Even the title isn't quite accurate. In English, the title gives a feeling of an intellectual gathering, for educational purposes. But what transpires is a drinking party. They speak about Eros, translated as love, but what they really mean is sexual desire. And those are just a couple of the mis-tranlations we discussed in class.

I feel like if I ever wanted to get the full effect of the text, I'd have to read it in the original language.

Jessica Shadowen

7 Posts

Posted - May 08 2013 :  7:14:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I completely understand what you are saying, and I always wonder about texts that are translated. I always wonder if the translator has translated the original text correctly, but even if the words have been correctly translated, we can never get the full meaning in the case of any text written very long ago, because the times are so different and the context in which the person wrote the piece could be completely different from the context in which we read it.

Thanks for bringing this up. I think about this all the time and you have a very valid point.

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
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Alejandro Tapia

5 Posts

Posted - May 08 2013 :  8:24:21 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I, too, completely agree with what you've said, Danielle. I have often wondered if important texts and literature were ever meant to be translated. Many words and phrases completely lose their impact/meaning even if uttered in what are merely different dialects.

Language, as a whole, is a difficult thing to grasp, especially when you're bilingual (as I am). My grandparents, on both my mom’'s and dad'’s sides, cannot speak one single word of English, yet their grandchildren, including me, can fluently speak and understand the dominant language of this country. I write and speak English so well, that if you did not know who I was, it would be hard to figure out my nationality. However, the first language that I learned was not English; it was in fact Spanish. English was brought into my life when I first attended pre-school. Because they were well into their teens when they arrived in America, it was not easy for my parents, aunts, and uncles to be taught this country'’s governing dialect. On the other hand, all my cousins and I can both speak and write English fluently.

There are certain words that do not translate correctly between Spanish and English, and I'm pretty sure that this is true of all other languages as well. For example: let's take the word 'yellow'. When said in English, it is the name of a bright color, right? Right. But if someone were to go to Chihuahua, Mexico with a banana in his hand, and were to say it was 'yellow' (in English) in front of the locals, they would give him the weirdest look. 'Yellow' is pronounced the exact same way as a Spanish-speaking individual would say 'hielo', which is not a color at all. In Spanish, hielo is ice, which of course has nothing to do with the color yellow.

As you can see, translation is difficult, and more often than not, words lose their meanings. We cannot capture the exact same thing when talking about the same thing in two or more different dialects. So all in all, I agree with what Danielle said about her feeling that if she ever wanted to get the full effect of a text, she would have to read it in the original language -- the language in which it was written.

[Lightly edited to enhance readability -TT]
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Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1535 Posts

Posted - May 09 2013 :  8:48:18 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
But Alejandro, your example (the one involving that banana) isn't an example of translation. Presumably one who speaks Spanish could say that the banana is yellow -- in Spanish, i.e., using the Spanish word for the color yellow. This, I think is where the question of precise translatability might get asked. Do the English word "yellow" and the Spanish word for that color, whatever it is (not speaking Spanish, I have no idea what it is), have exactly the same meanings -- the same connotations, the same emotional values, and so on? And even if they do, could one always find, for any word or phrase in English, a word or a phrase in Spanish with exactly the same meaning?
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