Lost in translation, or not

The beauty of writing and reading in two languages

I’m English but I also speak French fluently. On many occasions, reading translated comments or subtitles on the television or at the cinema has provided a few laughs and/ or head-shaking.

I love the fact I can pick up any French book and read it without any problems. It does open the mind to read authors whose mother tongue is not the same as yours. I also find it influences my own writing at times as I might  find another turn of phrase as I think of an expression in another language.

I was very interested therefore to read the interview of an Italo-British author. It struck me how she explained how either language was best fitted for different purposes.

There are subjects I find easier to write in english and vice-versa. When a personal tragedy affected me, I found release by writing about it in French, which is how the French writing adventure all started. I had never written in French before, nor had I thought about it. It just poured out of me, taking me by surprise.

Here is a sample of this interview.

ITALO-BRITISH AUTHOR SIMONETTA HORNBY SPOKE WITH DW ABOUT WRITING HER LATEST BOOK IN HER ADOPTED TONGUE OF ENGLISH – AND TRANSLATING THE ITALIAN VERSION HERSELF.

She originally went to England at the age of 17 to study the language. There, she met and fell in love with an Englishman, whom she married at 21. Hornby has lived in England since 1969 and has worked as a children’s lawyer in London for the past 30 years. “There’s Nothing Wrong with Lucy” is the first novel she’s written in English, her second language.

Having completed the English manuscript, when it came to publishing the book in Italian, she decided to re-write it herself rather than have it translated.



There were bits of dialogue which didn’t fit in Italian so I stopped it. And descriptions were different. I remember I was describing the sky in St. James Park. In the English sky I was talking about the color of the sky. In Italian I had to talk about the clouds, not the color of the sky. It’s extraordinary. But when you think of it, logically, it’s right because language is harmony and some words are more harmonious than others in a language or in a particular sequence.

You just have to use different words. That is the richness of a language. A language is the soul of a nation, of people. The language is not just the way of identifying a shoe or a microphone or a finger, it’s just a way of expressing yourself.

Are there any things that you discovered about either of the languages in this process?

I think I discovered that each of them has its own beauties. And I discovered that I feel more at ease with English because it’s crisper, it’s shorter, it’s more to the point.

You can read the whole article here:
 

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14797751,00.html

 


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2 thoughts on “Lost in translation, or not

  1. Great post Elle.
    I am Italian and have lived in the UK for over 16 years. I wrote my novel in English, but a friend of mine offered to translate it into Italian. I would never have had the courage to do it myself – huge task translating a 90,000 words novel. But I am the person who checked the final text in Italian and made the necessary changes.

    I tried to keep faithful to the original language (English), but there were some sentences which didn’t sound so good in Italian, so I had to change them, hence changing the meaning, sometimes.

    When it comes to conveying the sense of humour in my story, English is better at that than Italian. It’s crispier, shorter and to the point, exactly as you say in your final sentence 🙂

    • Thank you, lovely to see you here.
      Interesting. I love writing in both. French came as a shock, but freed me when going through grief, and I love the contrast. I really feel going from one to another has influenced my style.

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