It's Too Complex for Me

| | Comments (4)

“Spanish, unlike English, has two words for the general concept of will: albedrío and voluntad, both of which refer to faculties of the mind and heart as they were envisioned dating back to classical times…Albedrío is allied more closely with judging the relative value of an action, whether by reason or emotion, and voluntad is a more elementary impulse toward or away from something.”


-From Theresa Ann Sears’s “Freedom Isn’t Free: Free Will in La vida es sueño   Revisited,” page 281in Romance Quarterly’s publication, Fall 2002 Vol. 49.4


The complexity of language always amazes me.  Just this morning at Otterbein Methodist Church, Pastor Aimee talked about how there are four words for love in Greek, and now Sears tells us that there are two words for “will” in Spanish.  These complexities make it very difficult for one to truly create a perfect translation. 


In Advanced Study in Literature, we read a play entitled “Translations” by Brian Friel that also discussed the complexity of translation, and even satirized the means by which it is completed, as well as its accuracy, at times.  I think this happens a lot.  I have read poetry by Pablo Neruda in an English anthology where the translator attempted to keep his rhyme scheme, but in the process of doing so, changed the entire meaning of the line.  I read another translator who translated word for word a Spanish story into English, which made the English difficult to understand for people who actually understand English. 


In my opinion, there is no truly accurate way to translate a work, unless one who is fluent does it for one’s own understanding. However, this would not, of course, really be translation.  I know I would never want to take on this difficult job.


Take a look at what my classmates have said about Sears's essay.  


Yes, I know what you mean. In American Literature, Dr. Patterson said that translating would be even harder than writing a completely new poem because we were going over a translated poem. I think that it is unbelievable how much is lost in translation.

Jenna said:

It is amazing all the different connotations words have and they have even more when they are translated. I do not think a translated version can ever fully give justice to a work. Language is so intricate and when we translate it, so much can be lost. We still get the main idea in a translated work, but the words take on a different meaning.

Bethany Merryman said:

Last semester I took a Latin American Literature in translation course and I often thought about the translated differences. Was I truly getting the story as the author intended? I believe translated novels and literature should not be studied closely when it comes to author intent because it wouldn't be accurate. I am sure other schools of criticism would be similar.

Greta Carroll said:

Sorry for how late this comment is Erica. I thought I posted it a while ago, but apparently it never showed up.

Erica, I liked you quote and points. And I liked your point about the complexities of language, however, the difficulties increase from just there being multiple words for one idea in other language and picking the right one. Sometimes there is no word for a concept in another language. A good example would be that at French Universities all students get their own rooms. They don’t have roommates. Because of this there is no real word for roommates. I was taught a word in French in high school for roommate, but my professor here told me that if I used that word in France, no one would know what I was talking about. Or for another example, there are no cheerleaders in France. So try explaining what cheerleading is to a French person and they’re not going to have any idea what you are talking about because they have no cultural equivalent. The more I sit here and think about it, the more things I can think of like this. And since you were talking about translation issues, what is a translator supposed to do in a case like this, when a word and idea that exist in one language don’t even exist in another? How can you retain the same meaning in the original as in the translation? It is simply impossible.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.


Recent Comments

Greta Carroll on It's Too Complex for Me: Sorry for how late this commen
Bethany Merryman on It's Too Complex for Me: Last semester I took a Latin A
Jenna on It's Too Complex for Me: It is amazing all the differen
Angela Palumbo on It's Too Complex for Me: Yes, I know what you mean. In