Monday, January 22, 2007

Lost in Translation

In Hebrew we (I say "we," but I didn't actually take part) had an interesting side discussion on the instructor's standards for a "good understandable English translation." As should have been expected, there were several different opinions on how to deal with language specific idioms (the example, I seem to recall was something like "עלה לישראל” ["he went up/ascended to Israel"]) Even among well qualified and experienced translators there would be many differing opinions, depending on what theory or philosophy of translation one holds to and what the target audience is (our instructor only mentioned the question of target audience, but am giving her the benefit of the doubt that she is aware of the differing philosophies of translation). The instructor favored translating the above phrase as simply "he went to Israel" or "he moved to Israel" to avoid any confusion on the part of the reader. Some of the students seemed purely concerned because they were used to merely copying a very literal translation from a dictionary, weren't used to be expected to make judgment calls on their translation and didn't want to lose points for a slightly wrong word choice, while another classmate seemed genuinely concerned about being true to the original Hebrew source and not losing any of the Hebrew "flavor". This struck me as a very Buber-Rosenzweig way of looking at things and I wondered to myself if he is familiar with either their work or that of their disciple Everett Fox. Perhaps instead of wondering I should just ask him?

Surely enjoying such theoretical discussions a sign that I do belong somewhere in academia. Or maybe it just shows that I'm weird (or both maybe!)

The background image on this page is a Hebrew translation of the verse from Bob Dylan's song  It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), from which the title of this blog is taken. Translation courtesy of Yoram Aharon of Hod-HaSharon's page--found via YudelLine-- which has many Dylan lyrics in Hebrew.