2.16.2006

Hard to easy

Sometimes I have to translate stuff with words I don't know or content I'm not familiar with. At those times, I wonder what I'm doing and if I'm going to survive. But I get the project done and feel good about it, though tired out. I recently completed such a project that wasn't rocket science, but it was a challenge. Then I got another assignment and thought, "piece of cake!" because it was content that I was familiar with and contained words I'd learned already. Because the previous assignment was more difficult, it made me appreciate the easier one, and I could do the work with more confidence.

That's the great thing about translating: it can be painfully difficult, but once that challenge is overcome, it feels great and you can see the growth, as if you're training for a race and are building endurance. Which is why translating Spanish, Portuguese, and French seems relatively easy when compared to Japanese; a lot more brain power is required to translate Japanese's complicated concepts. I'm not saying that translating anything is easy, but translating certain languages can be hard on the brain because syntax, culture, grammar, vocab, etc. have to all be translated to communicate effectively. Translating between the "Western" languages doesn't require a huge leap, but traversing the language world from West to East can require a lot of baggage and tools.

2 comments:

Arrogant Polyglot said...

You know, MJ, that's quite a challenge in deed. I worked as a technical translator for 4 years, French - English; and I can only imagine how much less difficult it is to work between two language that have several cognates. Yes, of course, Japanese possesses several English borrowings, but even the orthographic system itself presents a tremendous challenge.

So from the French translator, you have my vote of confidence that translating from Japanse must be far more difficult, especially syntactically. On a cultural level, I think it's difficult to translate certain concetpts between any two languages. For example, although the French are well versed in US television, the show Friends has apparently lost much of its cultural humour. I mean, how does one translate 'Smelly Cat' into French? :)

Oh yes, this little discussion takes me back to my first semester as a graduate student, when I took MLCS 600: Translation Theory. Nabokav, and Vilnet, and Nida oh my!

mj said...

Technical translating from European langues is definitely difficult, but translating even relatively simple Japanese is a challenge. Lately, I've just been studying Japanese, not translating it. :)