Lost in Translation

When I was originally developing my warped ideas with J. I had the idea that at some point I should do a podcast. It stemmed from my ongoing frustration with the limitations of Google Translate. At the time I was receiving emails in Spanish and my limited high school training wasn’t up to the task of colloquialisms. The message would be cut and pasted into Google Translate with varying degrees of success. I thought that reading some of them along with a stream of consciousness commentary would be entertaining.

Of course, this got me to thinking and that is often a bit frightening. It was a twisted path that ended pondering literature and just how different it reads in the original language. The belief that writers choose their words deliberately is an argument I have had with every teacher and professor that wanted me to debate symbolism. So much of what we read has been translated. Anyone who has studies language knows there is almost never a direct translation, especially in abstract concepts like sky, wind, love, or home. I started to wonder how different many books would be if they were read as intended.

That took me back to Google Translate. And my apologies to Google, I know you are doing your best. This is a direct translation. Word for word. Wouldn’t that make for an interesting podcast? However, if we wait for me to find motivation, purchase equipment, learn how to use it, and actually post we will all be collecting social security. Maybe I’ll get there, but why should you have to wait?

So here is a passage of Proust. The passage in French, then the same passage as in the English printed version, and last the direct translation, per Google, of the French to English. I think it’s best to read them aloud. If you, like me, can’t speak French Google does have an audio function. Enjoy!

Original French:

Mais à l’âge déjà un peu désabusé dont approchait Swann, et où l’on sait se contenter d’être amoureux pour le plaisir de l’être sans trop exiger de réciprocité, ce rapprochement des cœurs, s’il n’est plus comme dans la première jeunesse le but vers lequel tend nécessairement l’amour, lui reste uni en revanche par une association d’idées si forte, qu’il peut en devenir la cause, s’il se présente avant lui. Autrefois on rêvait de posséder le cœur de la femme dont on était amoureux; plus tard sentir qu’on possède le cœur d’une femme peut suffire à vous en rendre amoureux. Ainsi, à l’âge où il semblerait, comme on cherche surtout dans l’amour un plaisir subjectif, que la part du goût pour la beauté d’une femme devrait y être la plus grande, l’amour peut naître – l’amour le plus physique – sans qu’il y ait eu, à sa base, un désir préalable

English Print:

But at the time of life, tinged already with disenchantment, which Swann was approaching, when a man can content himself with being in love for the pleasure of loving without expecting too much in return, this linking of hearts, if it is no longer, as in early youth, the goal towards which love, of necessity, tends, still is bound to love by so strong an association of ideas that it may well become the cause of love if it presents itself first. In his younger days a man dreams of possessing the heart of the woman whom he loves; later, the feeling that he possesses the heart of a woman may be enough to make him fall in love with her. And 50, at an age when it would appear—since one seeks in love before everything else a subjective pleasure—that the taste for feminine beauty must play the larger part in its procreation, love may come into being, love of the most physical order, without any foundation in desire.

Google Translate English:

But at age already a little disillusioned with approaching Swann, and where we know just be in love for the pleasure of being without requiring reciprocity too, this rapprochement of hearts, if not as in early youth the goal towards which tends necessarily love, still has united however by such a strong association of ideas, he can become the cause, if present before him. Once we dreamed of possessing the heart of the woman we were lovers; Later we feel has the heart of a woman is enough to make you love. Thus, at an age when it would seem , as especially seeks in love a subjective pleasure, from the love of a woman’s beauty should be the greatest , love can be born – love the most physical – not that there was, at its core, a preliminary desire

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