Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wonders of Language and Literature

     Lately I’ve been seeing tweets and mentions of books being translated into other languages. Then I ran into this sight called Smartling, which is a company that translates websites. These two things made me start thinking (dun dun dun), about how language and literature are related.

So, here’s what I’ve been thinking, and I’d love to hear your thoughts too!

Can a value ever be placed on something so precious as literature?
From the beginning of time, literature has had an important purpose. In early forms - petroglyphs on cave walls, telling stories and history of civilizations we never would have record of otherwise. Writings on slabs of stone, scrolls, paper, and novels among others. All have been penned by scribes, shepherds, kings, Indians, poets, philosophers, teachers, writers, etc., all authors, and all with a message to communicate.  
The most important recorded words ever - The Holy Bible, written by forty authors from three different continents, and in three different languages. The Bible is read and kept close to the heart of so many people all over the world. It has been translated into so many languages and reaches into the hearts of those who hold it dearest, with the God who is everlasting and a love eternal, and informs all who read it whether or not they believe its message.

There are so many genres and subgenres that are important to the world of literature - classics, fiction, nonfiction, YA, historical, mystery, fantasy, and every other genre imaginable. Getting everyone in the world to fall in love with one type of book is like forcing everyone in the universe to eat the same toppings on their pizza - impossible!

This, of course, brings to mind a question. How much is lost during translation and what is most important to preserve when translating?
(Just an example of how many  families, branches, and leaves, of diverse and related languages there are. I loved studying them in Geography)!

Essentially, books are a way for an author to convey a message to an array of people. The author may write a book with the hopes that certain messages make their way to the reader, but what the reader gets from a book depends on the readers perception. When we go into a book, we bring our hearts, minds, circumstances, experiences, and beliefs with us, and those may vastly change what we get from a book.

To me, these are the most important parts of Literature - how the reader connects to a story and its characters, and the message they get from it - these are so important, and are at times life changing. I would be devastated if this wasn’t preserved from language to  language, but I’m sure translators know what they’re doing;)

Wonder of Translation
Take for example the word hello. I think everyone knows how to say hello in at least one other language most commonly Hallo - English, Ciao - French, Hola - Spanish, and Hao - Japanese (and Buna is Romanian by the way). Just by knowing how to say one single word in another language, that creates a small amount of communication right? A small bond? If you can say a few more words, then you can form a slightly stronger bond right?

But imagine if you could share a book! As I witnessed when I traveled to Romania last summer on a mission trip, Language can create a barrier, but the one thing you have in common can bring you together - whether it be faith or a book!
When a book is translated into various languages, people from all over the world can connect to each other in ways unimaginable. The events of a story, the circumstances of the characters, the journey traveled between those pages will stay in a reader’s heart forever, connecting readers through an invisible bond of literature. Not only does this book give them something that they can talk about (you know, if they spoke the same language or had a translator), but it helps them understand that maybe they aren’t so different after all. There is something that connects them!
The more languages, the more people that message reaches, and the wider the pool of communication of said book opens. Then starts the criss crossing, climbing, tunneling, traversing of the seven seas and the highest mountains until eventually an unseen bond is entwined between every single reader. Even though they may never meet face to face, they have a friendship deep inside - the book they have in common.

  Now it’s your turn to tell me what you feel are essential to preserve when translating a work of literature, and why it is important to translate it?