Most of my Russian-speaking friends have encountered this situation: online at an hour it would be far more proper to be asleep and receiving a FB message (text, email, chat or any of those forms in instant communication) from me cheerfully titled something along the lines of “ASAP Translation Help Please!!!!!!”.
Now, they all of developed their techniques of dealing with this. However, one remarkably common response is the question: if you have so much trouble with translating, why do you keep on doing it?
A truly excellent question. But isn’t there something wonderfully addicting about translating? Not in just the obsession that arises when one thinks about the humongous difference between articles “the” and “a” or the existential meaning of words such as “privacy” but at what lies in the essence of the whole process. You are really just trying to do one simple thing – convey an idea across two languages, and everything that that entails.
When I first encountered translation, I thought it was a very routine process, kind of like filing. You got a sentence in Russian, you open a dictionary, look up the words and rewrite them in English. I was young and very very wrong.
People with much more knowledge than me have written extensively on what translation actually is. All that I can say is that trying to find a way to carry the meaning of something from language to another is a process that is often very frustrating, thought-provoking, and, if you manage to succeed, incredibly rewarding and fun.
For more posts on life as a comparative literature major, click here.