Sunday, June 10, 2012

37. We Live, We Learn

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“Constable (banging on a locked door): Is you or ain’t you in there?
Man [investigated by the police](from inside his flat): Aren’t you-
Constable: What?
Man: Dumb!”

How would you translate all this into your mother tongue without changing the meaning of the joke? Do I really need to insist on how difficult it is to translate?

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Despite the endless difficulties that arise, people still try to come across the best formula. Let’s take for granted that we do find the ideal equivalent in the target language. But does the gag really sink in? Sometimes the difference is downright flabbergasting, and the listener feels compelled to pretend that (s)he ‘got it’ and, as a rule, (s)he dissolves into fits of laughter – but it all comes out so patently false that the one who tells the joke cringes helplessly into silence...

Surely something like this has happened to you at least once. Well, some would say ‘not that it matters, really’ – but I don’t know about that: we’re humans, and these are things we are used to facing every day.

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Although we have to respond to such different stimuli – what is more, to meanings coming from other linguistic codes - there is still something left within comprehensible limits. It is the notion of ridicule that serves us as dictionary, even though we may play different roles: some of the times we are the joker, that much is true – yet on unexpected occasions we become the target of other people’s jokes. Be as it may, something is certain: people’s emotions and feelings are equivalent, whatever the translation we give them.
Cultural patterns have been a case in point for more than four decades. All things considered, people who socialize on a regular basis make recourse to what has been labelled the negotiation of meaning. Once the protocol has been acknowledged, the ‘actors’ adjust their positions within the interaction in order that both parties implied may take advantage of a win-win situation.

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Lost in Translation: What went wrong?

a. ‘My Dutch business associate came to see me at my office and, before the meeting, I tried to do a bit of small talk, so I asked him about the weather in Amsterdam. He said it was cold and windy at this time of the year and then I said, “I have been in Amsterdam for two days only.” He began to laugh and asked me, "Where are you now, then?"’ --

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b. ‘Why didn't he understand me? I said Francisca Delgado Street number 11 and he kept asking me to pronounce it correctly. So I repeated, more slowly fran-cis-ca-del-ga-do... In the end I had to call someone else to talk to him.’--

c. ‘I used to drink a lot of hot chocolate when I was young. Now I used to drink coffee and everybody tells me it's bad for my health. I'll have to get used to drink decaffeinated coffee and sleep more instead.’--

d. 'I stopped to eat chocolate because I was getting really fat.’—

From a blogger’s expectations, needless to say that I’ll be waiting for feedback! 
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