Today I hit a wall while working on my translation. For the past two days I have been typing up what I have translated so far and attempting to render it into idiomatic English. This part should have been easier but it is even more frustrating than translating the text. With this process, I am stuck trying to explain certain words and phrases that just do not exist in English. I have been working on the same few pages almost all day simply because the sentences are not turning out the way that I want them to. They seem like they do not make sense but then I have to remember that it is coming from a text that is from a long time ago and not everything is going to make sense or even sound right. Hitting walls may be a part of research but it doesn't mean that I enjoy it.
I never thought that I wouldn't have the words to express myself in English. Since I hit about the halfway point in my translation, I have decided to go back to the beginning and start reworking it so that it makes sense. What I have completed is a more literal word-for-word translation, and my goal for the next week or so is to come up with the text in more idiomatic English. This is where I am having problems. The problem with translating is that there is not always an exact to change a word from the source text to the target text. A sentence that I am currently working on is talking about bravery and valor. In French, the word is courage. When you say courage in English, it is normally applied to courageous acts rather than the way that it is implied in the text that I am working on. In the text its meaning leans more towards valor or bravery in regards to the person's entire life. If I were to just write courage in English in the translation it would almost be as if I was shafting the people that the story is describing. The text is describing their life of bravery and great deeds, but the limits of the English language would almost reduce their life work to just one action. That is just one of the many problems that I deal with on a day to day basis with this translation.
When I started taking French, I remember that my favorite part of class was when our teacher would make us look up words that we didn't know. Since it was only a first year class, there were TONS of words that I didn't know so I spent A LOT of time in the dictionary. Today, while I was sitting in my windowless room in the library surrounded by 6 sets of different dictionaries, I thought back to that day.
Don't get me wrong, I am loving this project, but I am sick of dictionaries. I never thought there would be a day when I would look in multiple dictionaries just to find one word. It doesn't happen in English that often. Normally the first time that you search for a word you find it. I was looking for a definition of one word and I found a question mark in the dictionary. A question mark. As you're reading this you are probably thinking the same thing that I am. What in the world does a question mark mean? Does that mean that the word doesn't really exist and they just put it in there for laughs? Or maybe it means that even the editors didn't have a clue what the word meant and were hoping that no one would pick up on the fact that they didn't know.
In one of my first meetings with my advisor she told me that this project was going to make me want to throw books out windows (hence the reason for the windowless room that I use in the library) and I remember just laughing it off and going, "Oh, I LOOOVE books, I'll NEVER want to throw one." Boy, was I wrong. I have contemplated chucking a few of these dictionaries into a very dark hallway where no one could find them, but I have refrained because I wouldn't want the librarians to get angry :)
Well even though I have a love/hate relationship with the dictionaries that I am using and the fact that they had the nerve to put a question mark instead of a definition, my translation is going pretty well. I just finished my 22nd page today and celebrated by having a granola bar. This project is helping me learn a lot of things about myself. I have learned that 8 hours a day in the library is WAY too much for anyone and I commend the librarians and anyone else that can do it. I also learned that I may not have as much patience as I thought when it comes to uncovering the meaning of some words. At the beginning of the summer, I didn't mind spending time just thinking about how words could be used in different ways. Now, I find myself skipping over some phrases and putting footnotes at the bottom of the page so that I can think about it once I home. Finally, this project has made me think about graduate school and what I plan on doing when I graduate here from RMC. My first goal was just to get a job teaching, wait a few years, then go back for my Master's degree. This project has shown me that I love a challenge and love studying things that relate to France. Thanks to this awesome expereince I am thinking that I might go straight to graduate school after graduation.
Whew, this was a lot of writing. Until next time :) Also for your enjoyment, I put a few photos of some of the dictionaries that I use.