The biggest surprise about this course has been how surprising I have found it! I learned more than I ever imagined I would. I always thought I would hate translation and that I would much prefer interpreting and just get frustrated having to work at a computer. But I have found translation to be an incredibly creative and rewarding task. I have loved getting to "craft" my translations, to get to keep going back till it was just right. Doing translation work has not only improved both my German and my English, but has also increased my appreciation for the rich complexity of German grammar and vocabulary. I love German all the more for doing these translations. I also learned about just how hard translating is. One cannot simply know two languages well and do a translation. It takes time, practice, help from other people and resources, and training.
The newspaper article translation was interesting for me, because I learned about a contemporary topic in Germany, as well as being a good introduction into translation.
The tourism text translation challenged me to think as if I was not a native speaker of English reading it and to translate about events and places that I did not quite understand. I had to do much more research than in the other translations.
I thought the business text translation would be the hardest and least creative, when it turns out for me it was the easiest and where I felt the most creative. I was able to truly take what the German was saying and put it into English. I could change up word order, sentence structure, and add/change sentences.
The literary prose translation was my favorite to do, because I ended up really liking the story. I learned that through translation, one can appreciate and love a text more, and that translating a text does not necessarily take away from enjoying it. In fact, it can increase one's enjoyment of a text.
The poem translation, I found to be the least creative. I had to constantly worry about the original syntax and dictation of the poem. I could not add or take away without changing the "art" of the poem.
Meeting the Learning Goals of the Course as a whole:
1) Strengthen your command of German and English vocabulary and grammar
-I learned so many new German words! Just taking the time to actually look up every word has benefited my vocabulary. Often times in other German courses I am told it is okay to not understand every single word, as long as I get what is going on. But this does not work in translation and does little to build my vocabulary. I have even used words I learned by doing the translations for this course in other courses, either in writing or reading comprehension. For example, Schulpflicht I word I learned by doing the newspaper article translation, came up in the book, Jugend der Arbeiterin by Adelheid Popp which I read in my Austrian Literature: Vienna 1900 class. My English vocabulary has also improved, including understanding more in depth the connotation certain English words have, such as how I translated Hier liegt Max... as "here lies Max.." in the literary prose translation. At first I thought it was a good translation until I realized you would see that on a gravestone! I also learned about Germany, geography, German/Swiss culture and politics.
2) Deepen your awareness of how language functions and is received
-Since starting to learn German, I have become increasingly more aware of how language functions, about how grammar and vocabulary works. I often thought of language as a chess game. Vocabulary words are the pieces but grammar principles are the rules. One is useless without the other. This class has only strengthened this understanding. Language functions as a means to communicate not only ideas, news, and concepts, but also emotions and experiences. From the factual information included in the newspaper article, tourism, and business translations to the emotions and experiences found in the literary prose and poem translation, language is the tool we use to communicate with one another. Our word choice and sentence structure assist us in this task. How do we express to people our unique experiences, who cannot hear the inflection in our voices or see what we have seen? What if these people do not live in our culture and/or live years after we have died? We express through our vocabulary and grammar. As a translator, one must bring the unique ideas and experiences of the author to readers who not only do not share the author's language, but also come from a different culture and perhaps time.
3) Improve your reading comprehension in German
-Deconstructing German sentences has been the most helpful practice in improving my reading comprehension in German. For example in the business text translation, I often found myself, either alone or in class, taking apart, bit by bit, Schachtelsätze, box or multi clause sentences. This technique has allowed me to better understand German not only for the use of translation but also in general reading comprehension of German, either reading on my own or for another course.
4) Build familiarity with search and research tools, many of them online
-When I first started this class, I knew I would have to use such tools as online German-English dictionaries, such as dict.cc and probably an English thesaurus for the poem translation. I quickly learned that I would need many more tools! German-German dictionaries, websites about specific German concepts, such as the Saxon school system for the newspaper translation, and the library to learn about such topics as real estate and economic concepts for the business text translation. I found myself using a thesauruses for more than just the poem translation. I also found that a " search or research tool" can be a knowledgable person or just someone to proofread your translation.
5) Develop a working understanding of the translation process
-At the beginning of this course, I imagined translation as this very lonely, static job, but I was so wrong! Translation is a dynamic, ever changing art. It can be lonely at times, but it also involves often consulting classmates, professors, and friends to help with the process. I learned that translation involves constant proofreading and editing, research into topics one does not know much about, and making decision after decision all of which you must be ready and willing to defend with true reasoning behind it beyond "it just sounds right." I learned to neither under or over estimate my English speaking audience and their knowledge of German and German speaking countries. It taught me the importance of deciding who my audience was and the importance of keeping the audience in mind. I learned that I had to choose what was most important to me in a translation, fidelity, coherency, or skopos? I could keep all in mind, but not all could be the most important. Did I want to bring the culture closer to the audience or the audience closer to the culture? I had never thought of these questions, and I found myself having to answer them through my translations over and over again.
To conclude, this course has taught me about how to both stand behind my decisions while also being open to being wrong and learning from others. It taught me to work independently and in a group and how to not be an expert in something and yet to keep going and to trust my abilities. It taught me how much fun, artistic, and adventurous translation can be underneath its tediousness.
Photo from: https://www.fis-web.com/translations