Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lost in Translation

There is a certain charm to literal translations of these terms from Spanish.

en la sala de estar
in the parlor, in the living room
(literally, 'in the room of being.' How cool and philosophical is that? I want a room of being).

la sala de profesores
the staffroom
(Room of the professors. Where professors gather to exchange lofty ideas, or, a la 'White Noise', throw rolls at each other).

la sala de espera
the waiting room

('Room of waiting' sounds very existential. Also translates as 'The Room of Hope' or 'The Room of Fear).


Steve Imparl said...

Sweet stuff! Being something of a language geek, I have long been interested in the challenges of translation.

One could write entire books about the art (and some would say science) of translation. Does the translator want a literal translation (as those you have provided) where one sees a word-for-word matching from the source language into the target language> Or should he focus on communicating in the target language the idea that was expressed in the source language?

Of course, we could have a good discussion over a few beers about exactly what idea the Spanish speaker was trying to express. Since ser is also rendered in English as "to be," what would writing en la sala de ser do to the phrase?

(I'm suspecting that this is so unidiomatic that a native Spanish speaker would never use it. Moreover, estar and ser connote different temporal senses of "to be." Estar expresses a more temporary state of being, while ser points to something more permanent. (I think I have that right; it's still easy for me to mix up those two verbs.))

At this point, I am now wondering why the Spanish equivalent of "living room" employs estar, which suggests impermanence.

Robot Boy said...

Steve, thanks for the thoughtful post. You're right on about ser and estar. Maybe 'the room of hanging out' would be a better translation.