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16 July 2013

Translation and Interpretation

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You always hear about someone who learned a language just to be able to read an author in the original language because the translations did not satisfy him, they did not reflect the author’s message, they lost the meaning of the words or his music. And we all know the saying “traduttore, tradittore”, the translator is a traitor, not saying the same thing but adapting the meaning to a new environment.

Translators are often faced with the impossibility of translation, no matter how much effort is made or how well they know both languages. There are always unattainable nuances, or they are forced to use a larger number of terms, or use complex expressions because the target language cannot possibly represent the reality.  Very often we consider the problems of translation in literature, and especially poetry, where in addition to the desire to capture the content, there is also the aspiration to maintain the ​​same sound or a universe of images.

Sometimes you have to resort to etymology, looking for the origin and evolution of the terms to avoid succumbing to “false friends”, those words that have the same origin but have led to totally different meanings and contexts, with nuances that have been changing, and we raise questions about the vision of the reality of the speakers, who are the owners of the language and change it but never do so individually, and count on language as their primary mode of thought.

Philosophy is another area where language is the only tool that builds knowledge; there are no empirical proofs or support materials but even so the concepts have to be worked on, they have to be given form and has to be interpreted what philosophers thought in the past has to be interpreted. Hermeneutics tries to go one step further and not only translate, but interpret, clarify and make understandable not only the meaning but everything that surrounds it, reducing the distance between the sender and the receiver of the message, making the texts speak or rather express and convey their message, like Hermes, hence its name.

And not only texts can be read, translated and interpreted, but also cultures, which can only be understood if we are able to non-judgmentally uncover and assume universes that are different from our own, and this approach to the world will ensure we avoid succumbing to narrow visions and will facilitate understanding.

 

Alicia Sánchez Soriano

BBVA Innovation Center, Madrid (Spain)

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