Lost without translation

indian_languagesIt is interesting how regional authors take great pride in their work getting translated into Russian, German and other European languages – which entails them to limited readership. The same authors hardly put any effort in more and better translations from one Indian language to another. Due to cultural similarities, there is certainly higher reader potential in regional languages. However, there hardly is any work getting translated from, say, Kannada into Gujarati, or from Marathi into Bangla.

This, however is not entirely the author’s fault. Translation, in the modern context, has two major problems. Firstly, is a very difficult task – much more difficult than writing an original text. It requires immense skill and sensitivity. One might ask – which language should a translator be better at – the language of the original text or that of the translated one? Well, I believe, his knowledge of the latter is of greater importance simply because he is ‘writing’ in it, while reading the other. The second problem, for a translator in our society, is a serious lack of incentive – both in terms of money and respect. Society does not seem to acknowledge that a translator is at a much higher moral ground than the author of an original-work, simply because he goes beyond personal motives and devotes his valuable time for a greater literary goal.

The scenario with English, however, is better, and requires a separate discussion. There are some good translations from Indian languages into English, and in some cases, from English into another languages, with due incentives and acknowledgement to the translator. While these translations are much appreciated, the need for translations within Indian languages can not be avoided. We cannot but envy the English literary world, with the number of organizations backing it – government and non-government alike. Within weeks of a work from a major writer in, say, Spanish or Turkish, there is a translation – often so skilfully written that the ambiance and context of the original does come across beautifully. Unless this happens within Indian languages as well, emergence of India as a strong cultural and literary entity seems to be a distant dream.


One response to “Lost without translation

  1. Translations are so important. It’s like a rebirth of an existing piece of art.

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