kaigou: pino does not approve of where the script is going. (2 pino does not approve)
[personal profile] kaigou
It's crazy, the things you never realize about language, when it comes to translations. How do brains work on two tracks at once? What lies in the heads of all those people at the UN who can listen, real-time, to one language and simultaneously speak the same meaning in a different language?

Hell, I can barely manage it for a word, maybe a single phrase, and then my brain breaks. But more than that, slowly working my way through corrections is really making me think (which, okay, is a something I like) about what words and phrases mean.

For instance, the phrase: I feel bad when... In French, this has been translated as je compatis -- which really means, "I sympathize."

Immediately, I recall the phrase a lawyer/linguist friend used to tell me: "I empathize but I do not sympathize." In other words: I feel your pain, but I don't feel sorry on your behalf. What does it mean to say, "I feel bad"? Does it mean sympathy -- as in, a feeling of shared pain/upset? Or does it include an element of regret, as though one is responsible for it: I'm sorry this happened to you.

You feel bad on someone's behalf without actually feeling responsible for the situation, which is what I'd consider empathy -- but the distinction between the two words (sympathy and empathy) is one that's frequently lost on many readers. Both are mentally translated (it seems to me) as "I feel bad", hence the ambiguity.

Talking it over with CP, and I suggested "I'm bothered when..." but as he pointed out, "bother" has a connotation of annoyance. In other words, "I'm inconvenienced when..." and that's not the same at all. Then we thought of "I take it personally", but that implies that the situation is causing one to be on the defensive. Just what are you taking personally? If it's "I take it personally when a friend is upset," does this mean you're feeling yourself guilty for their upset, or are your personal feelings because you're upset on your friend's behalf?

So perhaps simply, "I get upset when my friend is upset." I suppose most people would say that's sympathy (it's actually empathy), and then we're back to the beginning. Though CP suggested taking it down to the actual meaning: do you share the upset, or are you upset only by extension?

Perhaps "I share my friend's reaction..." is less ambiguous. Hm. I wonder what that is in Spanish.

Date: 19 Feb 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
Oddly enough, last night I happened to wander into the section of Wikipedia which offers proverbs in other languages and their translation. Some sections are pretty small. Checking on the big Spanish section, you often see one Spanish phrase provide several variants (sometimes from different countries) and there can be subtle differences between several sample translations, very much like the English ambiguity in "I feel bad". It's clear that these differing shades of meaning can all apply to how the phrase gets used. The really interesting part were the connections that seem unfamiliar, that are not linked like that in English.

Date: 19 Feb 2011 05:54 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
Of course the problem with learning it instead from being immersed in speaking and hearing it, is being immersed in making all those odd mistakes...
Interesting blog I came across last week is called "Ask a Korean". I haven't yet pulled together an actual question to pose there, as vague nebulous stuff looks pretty silly when diced and sliced with that kind of wit.
Back to the point, he had a post talking about the problems with current models of acquiring a new language as an adult, and how by brute force memorizing/hard work he became proficient in English at a college level in two years from pretty much nuthin'.

Date: 19 Feb 2011 07:30 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
My sympathy is with you on the difficulties!

Date: 19 Feb 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
soukup: Stephen Fry with text  "and I mean this in a pink, slightly special way" (pink)
From: [personal profile] soukup
Here's a nosy question about language-learning and memory which you can feel totally free to ignore if it's too weird and/or personal:

I'm so curious about what it was like to learn French purely by immersion and without knowing how anything was spelled, because when I say I'd be helpless without my alphabets, I'm really not kidding. Do you think it's possible that not being familiar with the spelling/phonetics was part of what made it hard for you to speak that language? In other words, do you remember words better when you feel like you can link them to a phonetics system?

Date: 19 Feb 2011 03:17 am (UTC)
leorising: (english lurks)
From: [personal profile] leorising
And then there's, "Tu es tres sympathique," which means, "You're nice." Sympathetic=nice. Buh? Sorry, I'm too tired to parse this tonight, LOL.

Date: 21 Feb 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
leorising: (ichc  rilla lulz)
From: [personal profile] leorising
I've been a little slow with this, but:

Let us not forget das Gift, which means "poison". Think of the cultural dissociation when non-English-savvy Germans get off the plane and see the airport Gift Shop...!

Or how we went around the first week of first-year French saying, "Blessez-vous" when someone sneezed, only to find out blesser means "to wound".

Fun times with language. :D

Date: 21 Feb 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
leorising: (ichc  rilla lulz)
From: [personal profile] leorising

Date: 19 Feb 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Except that the translation of 'I feel bad when... ' is 'Je suis desole(e) quand... ', not 'Je compatis quand... ' and the word for word translation of 'Je suis desole(e) quand... ' is 'I am sorry when... '

'Je compatis quand... ' on the other hand, is closer to 'I sympathize when...' or 'I empathize when... ' if you prefer, the distinction is just not that clear in French either.

Just my two cents.

Date: 22 Feb 2011 08:24 am (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
I don't remember how I translated it off-hand, but I think I would go with a literal translation (me siento mal cuando) just to keep the ambiguity. (I do remember the phrase in English being very ambiguous when I answered the poll. I answered positively -- I feel bad when people feel bad, in general -- though the feeling wouldn't change at all my behaviour towards fanfiction. I.e. they have a right to feel as they feel and I empathize, but I have a right to write fanfic, so I wouldn't let their feelings encroach upon my freedom to act as I please in this matter.)


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

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"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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