Do you prefer literal translations or translations which put the meaning of the text above the form?
Translation is a tricky business of balancing form and content. Which do you think is more important? What are the merits of each approach? Do you know of any other approaches to translation?
I'd rather prefer literal translation because most often, than not, putting the meaning of the text above the form would lose the grammar.
Translation ... is perhaps, one of the most difficult, of human undertakings.
Because, it is among impossibilities ... to "convey" the Sprit, in Translating such,
as Poetry ... or, Litany.
I have seen people floundering on the shores of Expression, attempting,
Translation of Urdu, English or Greek Works, into any other
language, such as, Latin, or Sanskrit ... and vice versa.
Because, the Temptation ... in the Translators ... is to include, personal Perception, of Truth ... as, the Reality" ... is very strong, and
needs more than just a strong Will ... to keep the Translator, from "tainting" ... Reality.
Anyway ... In literature ... my prejudice, Favours ... the Meanings ...
But in Law; I stick ... To The Word ... Stated.
It depends on my purpose. If I'm reading for enjoyment, I want a translation by a great writer in my language (English) that conveys the meaning.
If I want to understand the meaning myself, and I do not know the original language, I study multiple translations, including at least one literal one. (I do this with the Tao te Ching.)
Translation of poetry or verse adds additional complexity. Rhyming in Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish) is very different than rhyming in English. Poetic meter in Greek is very different from English. Some of the best translations of poetry translate into a different form, but one appropriate to the language the translator is writing in.
To truly understand something written in a different culture, time, and language, we have to be willing to grow. There's an ancient Zen saying: Reading about Zen is like scratching an itch on your foot - through your boot. Zen cannot be well grasped without doing some meditation. Poetry is best understood if we try to write some, and painting if we paint a bit. Then we can translate the great art and wisdom of the world into our lives, and not just into our thoughts.
literal translation, because the form is dependent on so many variables, mood, tone, tense....
Each has its merits, and it depends. For an important text upon which you might base your life (say scripture or philosophy), a literal translation might work. For a literary text, a looser translation, or even an adaptation, might serve. For a text with informational value (say, a news story or commentary), a paraphrase translation can be quite valuable. (Paraphrase was commoner in Greek and Roman antiquity.)
Translation means to "carry across" (i.e., to a different language) and yet, in carrying across, the text itself changes since words with their connotations and denotations can never match. There's also the underlying culture that you carry across. There are words, phrases, jokes and concepts (and world-attitudes) which just can't translate literally, and when you do, the underlying idea is entirely lost. How do the you translate the comedy of Aristophanes (see William Arrowsmith) or Moliere (see Richard Wilbur) to modern English?
Poetry dies when translated literally--see any of the literal Loeb edition translations of Greek and Roman poetry. Look at translations of Dante or Virgil or Homer. Wouldn't you want to experience some of the thrill of these poets?
Finally "imitation" (which is not given nearly enough respect today) was a very common form in antiquity and the 18th century--one thinks of Virgil imitating Homer and Theocritus; Alexander Pope imitating Horace, and Samuel Johnson imitating Juvenal.
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