Voices from Russia

Sunday, 7 August 2016

7 August 2016. Adventures in Translation Land… Y’all Come and Be Welcome!

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Literally, “Милости прошу к нашему шалашу!” means “Ask grace upon our humble hut”, or more idiomatically, “Welcome to our humble abode!” This is idiomatic colloquial Russian at its best. It’s always informal and jocular, usually used as a cheerful invitation to share a meal. In English, the direct equivalents would be “Y’all come and be welcome”, “The door’s open wide, do step inside”, and “Sit a spell and take a load off your feet”. Translation is an art, not a science… it’s NEVER boring…

One last thing… the image is a pot of Ukha… the famous Russian fish soup, best made with freshly-caught fish from one’s own hand over a fire at camp at the lakeside in the shade…



Saturday, 9 July 2016

9 July 2016. Further Adventures in Translation Land

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The literal translation of Не лей колу в рот! Выпей бабушкин компот! is “Don’t put cola in your mouth! Drink Grandma’s Compote!” is just jangly and no damned good as a catchy jingle (as it is in Russian). Therefore, my Englishing of this sentiment is:

Don’t drink cola; it’s bad.

It just drags you down!

Drink Baba’s Kompot, it’s cool.

You can beat the whole town!

That, I think, expresses exactly what the original poster had in mind. THAT’S what translation is all about… getting the essential idea from one language into another… yes, sometimes things do “get lost in translation”, and the brevity of this was one such…


Update 22.15 9 July 2016:

A friend sent me the following:

Don’t drink cola; it just drags you down!

Drink Baba’s Kompot; it’s the best in town!

Why didn’t I think of that one? God has blessed me with friends, not with money… which makes me very rich, indeed…


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

29 October 2014. Something to Show You “How” I Translate

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The original in Russian


00 happy easter 01. 08.10.14

My Englishing of the text


There are two “schools” of translation… one is “formal equivalence”… that is, “word-for-word”. Often, this produces a jangly foreign-sounding text that’s off-putting to most readers. Ergo, most of us in the translation trade (for it is NOT a “science”… it’s more like cooking, baking, carpentry, and woodcarving… the particular piece of work in front of you dictates your response), the preferred method is “dynamic equivalence”… that is, you seek to implant in the translation the impact and “flavour” of the original. This requires what I call “facility”… NOT “fluency”… fluency refers to being able to speak and understand a particular language. Facility refers to having the knack to break a language’s “code” so that one can transfer the ideas intact into another language (I’d argue that these are two separate and unrelated abilities). You can see that I took “liberties” with the above text… I’d argue that such were necessary to export the nuances of the Russian.

This should give you a concrete example of how I work. I’ve been at this for some seven years now… in November, my eighth year begins. I’ve learnt much… I’ve come a long way. However, as I always say… “Love built this house. Love of life, love of the truth, love of my fellow-man, and love for Almighty God. May my right hand wither if I forget that”. Thanks for coming… God willing, I’ll be at this post for some time yet (I’m only sixty… that’s not as old as it used to be). Be good and may God bless…


Thursday, 11 September 2014

11 September 2014. Translation… Is It a Science or Is It an Art?

01 lets talk


Here’s a colloquy between a Cabineteer and me:

You translated “skačet” as “dancing” and not “jumping (up & down)”.

It’s derogatory in both senses… I was hesitating between both… my Russian dictionaries (I consulted several) gave me “galloping”, “prancing”, “dancing”, “springing”, and “jumping” for скачка. It even has uses for “horse racing”. None of the intended meanings is complimentary. I take it as an insulting “aside” whatever you choose. It isn’t common usage in real formal Russian; perhaps, it’s something that took on another meaning in the Galician pidgin dialect.

I always understood it to mean, “To jump up and down”. I think that their lingo doesn’t have this word and they had to borrow a word from Rusin! When they chant it, they do jump up and down. In Prešov, the people who’re in favour of the patriots told them to keep doing it, to keep on jumping, “It’ll help keep you warm in the upcoming brutal Russian winter!”


Translation is an art form… it has aspects of science to it, to be sure. I consulted my Russian sources on this, but it’s clear that it has taken on different meanings in informal and colloquial non-standard dialectical usage. This is the kind of thing that I encourage in my Cabinet… it keeps me honest and to the point. The person involved knows the non-standard usages better than I do (I’ll admit that I’m best with standard formal Russian), so, it’s something that I’ll attend to in future. Translation is an art… and artists do draw from life (that’s what plein aire is all about). As such is so, when life “talks back”, it behoves the translator to listen to it!


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