Friday, November 20, 2009

Reading to Translate

Part of what we have been doing in this long first term of my MA course, is considering what it means to read as a translator. It is both incredibly obvious and bizarrely surprising that the act of reading can be completely transformed by the purpose for which one reads. Of course, this is no new news. We all learned it in the first week of first year at university (if we hadn't already), when we discovered that reading for an essay necessarily did NOT involve becoming absorbed in the book from cover to cover, as one might read a novel.

But the fascinating thing about reading to translate is that in the process of the reading you discover things about your own "readings," not just of the text's layers of meaning, but of the world, people and things. And becoming aware of the way you read the world can change the way you look at things even when you're not "literally" trying to translate them from one language to another.

Even for those of us who are not translators, it could be fascinating to attempt, for a day, to place ourselves in the shoes of translators, and read people, situations, things, ourselves, as if we are trying to translate them…be it into another language, another landscape, another culture, another person's worldview.

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