Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lost in Translation

Recently, a church member from China moved in to the boundaries of our Ward (congregation). She used to attend a chinese speaking Ward in Oakland, but now doesn't have transporation to get there on Sundays, so has been coming to ours. She doesn't speak very much English, so I offered to translate for her during church. When I was a teenager, I used to translate for a deaf couple in our Ward, so I do have alot of experience translating. But as I found out today, my chinese is a little rusty, so this was much more difficult. There are also some missing words from my chinese vocabulary, so at times I found myself having to explain something that I didn't have the vocabulary to say. In addition, while I might be able to say the word needed, I don't have a variety of synonyms at my disposal, so my translation to her was a little boring. I found that some of the teachers and speakers repeat themselves a lot, or say the same thing in other words, so at those times I just didn't say anything, or found myself repeating the same thing again. Because chinese and english grammar is different, it is a little difficult to start translating a sentence until after you have heard the whole thing. Sometimes I found myself beginning to translate, then found I had worked myself into a grammatical "hole" of sorts. I would have to back track and reword the sentence. For example, In english we might say, "I found myself smiling as I went to the store yesterday". One would be tempted to start translating that word for word. But in Chinese grammar, the time element (yesterday) comes at the beginning of the sentence. So you can see how I would start out translating, then have to go back and reword the sentence to make sense. Anyway, this is a tiring process, and is made even more so by the realization that I have lost some of my fluency. I guess my days of translating for the deaf aren't far from my memory either because I found myself using my hands extensively while I translated. LOL I translated Sacrament meeting, then I taught Sunday school to the adults, then I translated the women's meeting for her. My son can't understand how just talking could do this to a person, but I'm exhausted.

2 comments:

Twist's Tales said...

I'm right there with you Sis. I have been translating meetings into spanish for about 25 years now. Translating and everyday conversations still don't give you every word a speaker will use. I read scriptures rather than translate when I can. I hate to translate poems or stories, but because I'm the most fluent, I usually translate for the High Council speaker.

Dr.Psycho said...

I agree...translating is exhausting...