The Truth about Translation!

While reading the book 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei by Eliot Weinberger and analyzing its different aspects, I got a better idea of what poetry really is, from not only English but different languages as well. I’ve always referred to translation as the change from one language to another depending on how someone interprets what is being said. Which I’m sure is a common definition of translation to many. Whereas many people might think of translation as change or conversion to another form, appearance, etc.;transformation:”     Neither definition is wrong,  because translation simply is, “The process of translating words or text from one language into another.”

But what I have recently learned is the translation of poetry is always misunderstood, and the true meaning of the content is then lost. Who knew that translating could be so difficult when trying to capture the exact meaning and tone that is trying to be used.


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In 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, there is many different examples and proof of poetry being misperceived. Something I have always noticed when translating from one language to another is, the word they may be using in the beginning of the sentence could end up in the middle or even end of the sentence. In chapter 21 I found Le Clos-aux-Cerfs  by Francois Cheng beginning with “Montagne deserte” and then being translated as “Deserted Mountains.”(65) That is exactly what I mean when I say a poem could start with a word and then get swapped around to the end. I assume Montagne means mountains and deserte means desert or deserted where as it became translated as “deserted mountains.” The thing about that is it could’ve been originally written as desert mountains, but we never really know because it isn’t a language we could easily translate ourselves. Because words can get swapped around, it loses its meaning in the process which gives the reader a different perception of what it is really trying to be said.   It’s sad knowing that poetry has lost its sentimental value over time, while people translate it into there own language losing the original meaning.





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