To translate my life

 

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TRANSLATE, this is my word, I live it since  30 years. I am the translator, the person in the back, who brings worlds together. 

The word “translate” comes from Latin and means “carrying across” and it describes it so well. “Carrying across” means to reach over, it means connecting people and countries.

The connection part has transferred into my everyday life. I am the peace seeker, the one who always reaches out. Not being able to understand each other, is against everything I stand for. I am here to carry across, I cannot help it, it’s in my blood.

There is the saying “lost in translation.” This quote is the warning and the red flag for every translator of the written word and every interpreter of the spoken word. Nothing should get lost in translation, not the word, not the meaning, and not the style.

One misinterpreted word can change the meaning of an entire sentence. One wrong sentence can start a war. Words have power, keeping that in mind keeps one humble.

Language is an art, it’s like music, we all seem to have our own tune.

Translating the written word works like a spell. For a short while, we become the person who wrote the origins and we try to think and feel what he or she felt when they wrote it; we study the style, and then we raise a magic wand, and we transform the piece into another language.

Being the bridge between languages, I always thought it was a great way of making a living. The trust people put in me was the biggest reward and a heavy burden at the same time.

I turned people down; I refused to translate an article about WWII that contained wrong information. I never lifted my pen when I felt I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) do the job.

Using language is a fun way to make a living. I semi-retired in my late 40’s when I felt burned out and when I was tired of traveling. Today I work with my hands, use my imagination and let my mind wander. It needed to be set free after so many years on a short leash.

 

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Translate

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19 thoughts on “To translate my life

  1. You reminded me of a speech Churchill made when addressing France. His translator made a faux ami, and the meaning intended wasn’t the meaning heard. Not good when addressing an ally in war time! Can’t remember the details now, unfortunately.

  2. Many very smart and “technical” people visit the town where I live, Oak Ridge, TN. Some of the best and brightest people I have met who live here are the translators who work with those very smart and “technical” people at the nearby Dept of Energy facilities. One of these ladies, who has lived in the US for a very long time, after emigrating here from Japan just after WWII, I believe, introduced herself in a Reading Shakespeare Out Loud group that I belong to, stating that the translations she had read in Japanese were not nearly the same as those that we read in English in this group.

  3. That’s interesting to read and it feels entirely right. The spoken word and its misinterpretation is important to me too. 🙂 There a blog ‘Lost in Translation’. Do you follow Paula? She’s a translator too. Happy Sunday to you!

  4. There was a sentence in here that resonated with me – “Language is an art, it’s like music, we all seem to have our own tune.”
    In my career, I found that even people speaking the same language were often not communicating effectively which put projects at risk. I too became a ‘translator’ between departments and on large projects when it became evident that what was said, what was heard, and what was intended weren’t the same thing.

    Your comment about “The trust people put in me was the biggest reward and a heavy burden at the same time” feels familiar. A good translator has to be intrinsically trusted – not only in skill, but also that there is no personal agenda to influence or mislead.

    Great post, Bridget. I wonder which came first – whether your empathy made you a good translator, or that your skill as a translator made you so empathetic?

    • “I found that even people speaking the same language were often not communicating effectively,” oh my isn’t that the truth.

      Your last question floored me. It’s a good question, one that I can’t answer. Perhaps a mix of both. Like a seed that you water and with time it grows.

      I just noticed that I have no idea what your career was (or is).

      • I think you’re right … the potential for ‘something’ exists within us and our experiences can nurture that ‘something’.

        As to your implied question, I am a CPA by training, but spent over half of my career in data management, including privacy and IT security. Most people assume I used to be a teacher 😉

  5. What a lovely skill. I remember another post from you about translating and the care that the task took to honor the original work. It’s so much more than just swapping sentences! I was blog-chatting with another translator this morning and she too was talking about the importance of staying true to the original creation in children’s books too. For those of us who are monolingual, you open up the world. Great quote from Calvino. 🙂

    • I have read very good translations and really bad ones, even from famous books like “The little prince.” The new translation into English is horrible, the old one excellent.

      I have been invited to work in countries, were I didn’t understand a word and needed a translator myself. I remember how nervous it made me, not knowing if what I say would be transformed the right way.

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