Style in Translation

Masonic Temple

As a lark I tried to write a French version of the latest iMurder story. Well the beginning of the anecdote is: a commenter here requested a French version (I guess the yahoo/google translate method wasn’t so hot), and I threw the idea around with a friend who does French translations. Well, “threw” is a generous word, more like we had about 2 messages pass back and forth on gmail about it. Me: need help, my French sucks. Her: translating is hard, and she usually just does French->English. Me: Foolish to try! Her: Don’t be discouraged, I’m excited. (thanks Mary!).

So I got in a complete time warp today trying to translate my own writing into French. It was great because for a few hours I completely forgot about the Kim Family– something I have been kind of compulsive about- and also because it made me realize odd elements of my style.

When you write in a foreign language, you pedantically and methodically work on each phrase and word, in a more minute and conscious way than writing in your native tongue. It made me slow down and focus more on what I was really writing. When I was learning piano pieces, my teacher had me memorize them backwards, starting with the last measure and then includign the second to last, and the last, then backstepping this way through the entire piece. It helped me see the entire work in a different light, and in a way take it apart and diagram it. So that’s what translating did for me, in my last chapter of iMurder (22, I believe).

Yes, so stepping through and slowly translating helped simplify my style quite a bit. Also, when you’re translating you really don’t want there to be unnecessary fluff in the prose (more work) so it also helped me trim, trim, trim. My favorite translated bit so far is “un Goth mec” – a Goth Guy – heh heh. Ooof, do Ineed a French dictionary or WHAT.