God Didn't Say That

Bible Translations and Mistranslations

The Artificial Strangeness of Word-for-Word Translations

Related to my previous post, Douglas Hofstadter discusses (on page 380 of Godel, Escher, Bach) translating a Russian novel into English. He wonders:

[B]ut if you translate every idiomatic phrase word by word, then the English will sound alien. Perhaps this is desirable, since the Russian culture is an alien one to speakers of English. But a speaker of English who reads such a translation will constantly be experiencing, thanks to the unusual turns of phrase, a sense — an artificual sense — of strangeness, which was not intended by the author, and which is not experienced by readers of the Russian original.

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October 1, 2009 - Posted by | translation theory | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. In his scholarly works, C. S. Lewis combatted the opposite problem (rendering continental medieval or renaissance quotes into contemporary English may [would?] have made such sound more “modern” than their insular counterparts) by translating everything that wasn’t Middle English into such.

    Comment by Bob | October 5, 2009 | Reply


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