- What makes poetry translation different?
- Challenges of poetry translation
- Literary problems
- Aesthetic problems
What makes poetry translation different?
Literary translation is by nature quite different from other kinds of translation. This means although we may encounter some similar problems as while translating other types of text, we also inherit a whole host of new ones!
The main way in which literary translation differs from other types of translation, is the presence of aesthetic and expressive values : the aesthetic to enhance the beauty of the language, and the expressive to help convey the emotions and ideas of the author. These values should be carried successfully into the TT wherever possible in order to produce a valuable translation.
Challenges of poetry translation
Poetry translation is a field that I am particularly interested in. This also includes the translation of song lyrics. When examining some of the potential problems that can be faced when translating poetry, we can categorise these into two main categories, Linguistic Problems and Literary or Aesthetic Problems
Linguistic problems include collocation, which by definition means a familiar grouping of words, especially words that habitually appear together and thereby convey meaning by association.
Care must be taken to carefully analyse the ST in order to accurately translate the deep underlying meaning of a phrase or clause into the TL. This often relies heavily on the context, and the translator's knowledge of social or cultural factors which may have been in effect at the time of writing.
Examples of Collocation:
"I'm an incredible man, possessing an iron will and nerves of steel--two traits that have helped me become the genius I am today as well as the lady killer I was in days gone by."
(William Morgan Sheppard as Dr. Ira Graves, "The Schizoid Man." Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1989)
Another linguistic problem that can be faced when translating poetry is obscured (non-standard) syntactic structures. Obscured syntactic structures may appear intentionally in poetry as part of the expressive function of the text. Care must be taken when translating to find the underlying meaning and the author's intention and convey this as accurately as possible in the TL.
Literary or Aesthetic Problems
We have a whole other category of problems when we consider factors such as poetic structure and the aesthetic values of a poem. There are various factors to consider, including but not limited to:
- Poetic Structure
- Metaphorical Expressions
- Socio-Cultural Influences
It is important when translating poetry to consider all these factors and how they come together to give meaning to the poem and convey the author's emotions or intentions in the SL. The challenge is for the translator to find appropriate equivalents in the TL which produce a finished translation which accomplishes the same aims as it does in the original language.
It is important to understand the poem's structure and style and the author's intention before translating. The pyramid at the top of this post on the left is a useful illustration of the various elements of poetry which need to be understood in order to produce a faithful translation.
Above all, the skill required by a literary translator is the ability to grasp the author's intention from the ST and accurately portray this in their own language in the TT.