WTF from High School



  • For some strange reason in my english class we are going over literary

    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">techniques in poetry, like assonance and alliteration. Both depend upon the spelling of the words used. Yet we are looking for them in poems that have been translated (Seafarer, Wanderer, The Wife's Lament, etc). All Old English poems that were writen in Latin, translated to French, then to Middle English, then to Modern English. Yet we are asked questions on the writer technique in a version of the poem he/she didn't write. First thing lost in translation is poetry. Mind you, we've already learn these terms and practiced them etc in english poems, yet we are using them now on translated poems. Makes no sense to me, then again, much of the how a school is run doesn't either.</font>



  • Sounds to me like you can not assertain the intent of the original author, but you can apply this to the translator.  With that attitude this then becomes valid.

     



  • First thing lost in translation is poetry

    I bet Alexander Pope would have slapped you silly if you'd said that to his face. 



  • You are absolutely right; there is no point in discussing the poetic merits of poetry that has been translated. You can enjoy the ideas, narrative, characters etc, but its poetic content is certainly lost, or at least different in the second language. There is no second way to say EXACTLY the same thing, so something must be changed. For example, you can translate "The cat sat on the mat" to "The feline pet was seated on the rug", which pretty well means the same, but is utterly different in many ways, particularly poetically ( ahem! ).
    With translations you CAN usefully discuss the possible intentions of the translator, and how 'well' something is translated ( very subjective ). But it's a poor cousin to the original. I would suggest your teachers are wasting your time.
    My qualifications? Masters in French and German literature from Oxford University.
    "Wann kommen wir uns drei entgegen, in Donner, Blitzen oder Regen?"

     



  • [quote user="malfist"]<font face="Times New Roman" size="3">All Old English poems that were writen in Latin, translated to French, then to Middle English, then to Modern English.</font>[/quote]

    All Old English poems that were written in Latin?  That doesn't make any sense.  They're either in Old English or they're in Latin. :)

    (The former, by the way.  The original Old English source texts for these are available; no need to go through that chain of languages--hell you can translate them yourself if you learn OE.)

    Trying to find assonance and alliteration in the translated versions is pretty silly though, agreed.



  • In some cases a pun or other wordplay works just as well in English as in the original language.

    The following should be in German, but it works just as well in English because the words that start with "s" and "f" in German also start with "s" and "f" in English.

    When Goethe submitted "Faust" to the publisher, the publisher objected to this line in the Walpurgisnacht section:

       The witch farts, the goat stinks.

    "You can't use that word."  "What word?"  "Fart!"  "What's wrong with it?"  "You just can't use it, that's all!  Write an f and dashes or something."

    So Goethe replaced it with f---s and said to himself, "I probably can't use that other word either" so it was published as:

       The witch f---s, the goat s---s.

    Making the "censored" version dirtier than the "uncensored" version.  In translations, I've seen both "The witch breaks wind, the goat doth stink" and "The witch f---s, the goat s---s."

    Sometimes translators can produce equivalent wordplay in the translation.  Sometimes they can't.  Sometimes they do better wordplay than the original.  Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has among the best wordplay ever written in English, but Vladimir Nabokov's translation into Russian is said to outdo it by far.

    In any case, you're looking for wordplay in the poem as translated.  Deal with it.  Just make sure it's clear that the translator is responsible for the wordplay, whether he's preserving it in the original or making it up.  Otherwise when you see Caedmon you'll be like "Hey dude!  I loved that pun you slipped into that Hymn" and he'll be like "WYF!!!"

     



  • I pointed the problem out to my teacher and she got rather mad, we don't call her la diabla (from el diablo) for nothing (she's also the spanish teacher).



  • [quote user="malfist"]I pointed the problem out to my teacher and
    she got rather mad, we don't call her la diabla (from el diablo) for
    nothing (she's also the spanish teacher).[/quote]

    If she's the Spanish teacher, maybe you should call her something in another language...

    P.S.
    Speaking of Lewis Carroll, check out the book "Godel, Escher, Bach" by
    Douglas Hofstadter for some interesting "translations" of the poem
    "Jabberwocky".

     



  • [quote user="vr602"]

    You are absolutely right; there is no point in discussing the poetic merits of poetry that has been translated. You can enjoy the ideas, narrative, characters etc, but its poetic content is certainly lost, or at least different in the second language. There is no second way to say EXACTLY the same thing, so something must be changed. For example, you can translate "The cat sat on the mat" to "The feline pet was seated on the rug", which pretty well means the same, but is utterly different in many ways, particularly poetically ( ahem! ).
    With translations you CAN usefully discuss the possible intentions of the translator, and how 'well' something is translated ( very subjective ). But it's a poor cousin to the original. I would suggest your teachers are wasting your time.
    My qualifications? Masters in French and German literature from Oxford University.
    "Wann kommen wir uns drei entgegen, in Donner, Blitzen oder Regen?"

    [/quote]

    I vote for that being a good translation, even  if the words are slightly changed!.  My qualifications - O level German & a twisted mind, so don't be too harsh on any errors below. 

    "Es brillig war, die schlicte Toeven
    Wirten und wimmelten im Waben
    Und alle muemsige Burgoven
    Die Momenrath ausgraben" 



  • [quote user="KattMan"]

    Sounds to me like you can not assertain the intent of the original author, but you can apply this to the translator.  With that attitude this then becomes valid.

    [/quote] I'd take it further, and say you cannot ascertain the intent of the original author.  "can not" means it's possible not to do.


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