Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Translation

Something occurred to me last week, which everyone knows, but few people seem to understand...

I was talking to one of my classmates about India, Hindi stuff. He had been married in an Hindi ceremony in UP to a Buddhist girl, and I watch alot of Hindi movies and was in love with a Sindhi girl for six years (sina na mangguaguaiya ha'). Somehow we ended up talking about Hindi, the language after he asked me the word for "soul."

I guessed it was "atma," and then ran through a list of other words which I know, (which is actually several hundred). After incorrectly saying that "Ishq" was the word for ocean, instead of love, I realized something. The sentence structure which I was using to translate between the language, to bridge them together, was this, "_____" is the word in Hindi for "____." I wasn't saying, "this means," I was saying "the word," which means alot more than most people would probably notice. It means that I am structuring the languages I am talking about in a certain way, making assumptions about 1 to 1 translation ability, which does a disservice to both languages by giving one, whichever controls the decision to chose words, or the decision to make it a very concrete translation or transitition. In this instance, English was prevailing, because I was using it as the superior language, to chose which words in Hindi get to be said, as being "the" translation.

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