Monday, May 24, 2010

Your lips are moving, but all I hear is Blah Blah Blah...

I spent this past weekend in Warsaw visiting my friend Emilia who I lovingly refer to as my "Polish Guardian Angel." We met when I lived in Poznan. She was a mentor of sorts, picking me up at the airport, moving me into my dorm, showing we around the city etc. etc. Thankfully now, my polish is good enough that I can ask for a lightbulb if I need one. Anyway, in the few months I spent in Poznan, she became a close friend. So I knew that I could not leave Poland without seeing her this time around. We talked all weekend about random stuff. Hearing her talk about her job and current pursuit of a translation certification, got me thinking about translation in general. At first I thought that it couldn't be that difficult. If you know one language and learn another, then you can translate. Of course on a day to day basis and in normal conversation this is true, but what do you do when a word in English simply does not exist in Polish? How does one translate a sentence like "I hereby bequeath to you etc. etc."? According to Emilia, 90% of the time you can literally translate words, but that doesn't always mean it will make sense. Her job focuses on documents pertaining to law. (She's a big John Grisham fan and is very interested in law translation.)
Even simple things like watching a movie in interesting. There is a theater here in Krakow that is located near the main square that my friends and I frequent. For one thing it is cheaper and secondly it is in a renovated mansion, so it doesn't have that corporate feel. I lovewatching movies with Polish subtitles because I find it interesting how certain words and phrases are translated. Like a verbal pause for example. In english during a conversation someone can say "Look, I'm really sorry" or "Listen, I'm really sorry." We have multiple choices, however in Polish, I noticed they mostly use "SÅ‚uchaj" meaning "listen." This is a very simple example, but the point is how difficult and interesting translation can be. How something said is lost because it doesn't translate the same way from English to Polish, so the non-english speaker doesn't quite get it, or vice versa.
I hate sitting in class and struggle to communicate what I am thinking. Of course my professor doesn't exactly help that situation, but that's an entirely different story. Of course it is a lack vocabulary knowledge, but also there are times when I want to say something, but there just isn't a way to say it. Especially with idioms. I once asked my professor if there is an equivalent to "biting my tongue" and she didn't quite understand. I'm sure there is an expression of sorts, but we just couldn't seem to reach an understanding of what I was looking for. Basically, I have an appreciation for translators around the world.

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