[tlhIngan Hol] Translation help

De'vID de.vid.jonpin at gmail.com
Thu Oct 19 08:37:13 PDT 2017

On 19 October 2017 at 15:51, SuStel <sustel at trimboli.name> wrote:

> On 10/19/2017 9:19 AM, De'vID wrote:
> “2. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin.
>> Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”
>> cha’. yIn Hegh je Soj ‘oH ‘ej QaDqu’ghach lujqu’ghach ghap Dev ‘oH.  QeD
>> DabuSHa’be’qu’.
> "It is a matter of..." is an English expression. I feel using {Soj}
> follows this a bit too closely. What does it *mean* to say something is a
> matter of life and death? Express that.
> I think *yIn Hegh je Soj 'oH* hits it on the nose and is quite good. This
> isn't just an English expression; Klingon's idiomatic *Soj* *matter,
> concern, affair* is exactly this.

I think this example illustrates why it's so important to translate from
the original language.

The couplet in Chinese is:

"(It is) the ground of life and death, the road to existence and perdition."

First, I expect the translation to preserve the couplet structure of the
original. That is, this pair of sentences should be expressed using a pair
of sentences in Klingon, such that they have identical grammatical
structure and parallel nouns (life/exist, death/perish, ground/road).

Second, the English translation already loses the ground/road parallel of
the original (matter of/road to vs. ground of/road to). A road is something
which sits on the ground, and allows movement on the ground. "Road" also
means "path" (in the abstract sense of a course of action), while "ground"
also means "basis" (something which is a support of or necessary condition
for something else). The phrase "a matter of life and death" is a familiar
English expression (it even has a dictionary entry:
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/matter-of-life-and-death--a ). It doesn't
merely mean "the subject under consideration involves life and death", it
means "this is an issue of urgency".

The English translator has decided to be a little loose with the
translation here, and used an English phrase with a built-in meaning
already known to an English-speaking audience, but which isn't a literal
translation of the Chinese. This is fine; it's a matter of aesthetics. But
the Klingon {Soj} is too literal a translation of the English. It says that
life and death is the issue under consideration, but doesn't carry the
sense of urgency of the English, nor the original meaning of the Chinese.
The meaning here isn't merely that war is a topic which concerns life and
death, it's that it is a topic which is of *fundamental* (in the Chinese)
or *urgent* (in the given English translation) importance when dealing with
life and death, and that sense is (in my view) missing in {Soj}.

But anyway, translation requires an understanding of both the source and
target languages, which is a reason why translation isn't a good way to
learn a language.

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