A Fish In Your Ears

During my Spanish studies I’m reading (and listening as audiobook) the Harry Potter books in Spanish. While comparing with Russian and original English versions, I’m revealing many small but significant differences in each of three. They are resulting from the differences of languages itself, from the different linguistic pictures of the world. Too many examples to demonstrate one or another especially remarkable.

That’s why when I’ve seen in the bookstore this book about translation difficulties — in Russian, of course — I could not pass up. To be honest, I passed up deliberately — to buy on Amazon the original English version and read it by first, and then to compare with the Russian one.

Hoy leo el libro y caigo en la cuenta que será por mi el libro predilecto. Сорри ))

At Monday this week I had a very interesting conversation with a Colombian professor who was participating in the Interparliamentary forum. He had made his conference speech in Spanish, but his Russian is close to native-speaker’s level, and that’s why we could communicate with each other (my own Spanish in on «poco-poco» level, unfortunately, as well as English in conversations). We discussed the difference in languages. I told him about my Spanish studies, and he agitated me to continue. Yes, he said, English is the main language of the European world, but it evidently lacks complexity and refinement comparing to Spanish. That means that you can’t express in English many deep riches of Spanish conscience, all the more understand Spanish-thinking people viewing them through English optics.

That was for me an additional motivation to explore the theory of translation.

Muslims don’t recognize any translations of Quran as a sacred text at all, it’s just a «summaries of meanings» for them; the only original Arabic text is approved. In such responsible areas it’s inevitable: you can’t tolerate any losses or distortions of meaning. Translation is distortion par excellence, because all words in their languages are unique and have their own «matrix of meanings/contexts».

But that definitely means that every time when you study a new language, you at the same time change little by little your own way of thinking. And you can’t predict even the direction of changes.

How dangerous.


About Алексей Чадаев

Директор Института развития парламентаризма