Dec 17 2012

Translations and Original Languages

Published by at 9:56 am under Poetry Chaikhana Misc.

Unlike today’s poem, most of the poetry featured on the Poetry Chaikhana was not originally composed in English. I periodically receive requests to include the poem in its original language, as well as in English translation. We have people on the Poetry Chaikhana mailing list quite literally from all over the world, and those who can read Farsi or Hindi or German, naturally want to read the poem in the original language.

I love the idea of creating a resource in multiple languages, one that invites discussion of which translations are the most accurate and which are the most poetically satisfying, and where the best point of balance is found.

But this isn’t as easy as one might hope. For one thing, most of the sources available in the West don’t include the original versions, except sometimes when the original was in another European language. Academic books are better at this, but they are harder to find and often quite expensive. It’s true that these days we can order books from publishers all over the world, so I can easily purchase original language books, but that too presents problems. How do I match up the original poem with the translation if I myself don’t know the original language?

Also, how should I handle other scripts and lettering systems? I can’t assume that everyone will have the necessary fonts to read them on their computers. And for those who would like to sound out the words but are unfamiliar with the writing system, should I also create an intermediary transliteration?

These are all questions that I’d like to eventually find good answers to. For now, however, the Poetry Chaikhana will continue to focus on English language versions of the poetry, but with an open invitation for your comments on translations and original language.

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