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Translation problems

Pierre Lauwers

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On another thread we encountered the translation between languages problems.

This is a complicated matter, because it is spoiled by historic and even moral

questions ("What, you do not know?", or reversely "pedantry of the polyglotts"

and so on.


I shall try to explain the question somewhat.


There is a huge difference between to be born in an english-speaking area, one of the

first languages in the world and an international one, and to be born in a frankisch-speaking

area with about 1,000.000 native speakers that are located in three different countries,

in a country with three official languages, none of which is frankisch! Are you still there,

ladies and gentlemen ?


When you live in such a context, you soon grasp several languages, before going to school,

but you get a holistic, global knowledge of them. This means you do not master the french

like a french, the dutch like a dutchman, the german like a german.


I myself for example write preferably in french, because it is this language I learnt at school,

and so it is in this language that I make the less faults. In dutch or german my level is comparable

to the one I display in english, that is, rather poor. BUT....as for reading now, I prefer the german

so I'll choose a book in that language if given the choice. While speaking or writing in french I will

often use a german or dutch word when I do not find it in french; as a result, like many belgians,

I do not "have" any "reference language", rather a mix of several ones.


Now let us take the example of an historic text that should absolutely exist in english and

french versions:




Second part:




....This is the kind of text we belgians have no merit to understand; we grasp it globally, the

phrases being constructed exactly like in our own "Muddersprooch", "Moedertaal" etc.


But now what if we tried to translate it into another of the languages we use ? This will never

reach the level of a parisian, a londonian, a berliner native. So the job won't be perfect.


Second point: this would need aproximately one year on a 4-hour a day basis with the nose

in the paper. Who would pay for that ?


So I often tends to refer myself to such texts I have, while it should be translated first if we

would want my readers to be able to control by themselves what that funny Pierre Lauwers

writes on the forums.


Over to you now, the discussion is widely open.


Peter Lauwers

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My background is the polar opposite (to my regret) of Pierre's: born in the English speaking world, unable to make myself understood in another language until I went abroad and had to. This teaches you (gradually) the limitations of the dictionary - there is an official translation of every word, but most have slightly different connotations in each language. Until you realise this, there are many misunderstandings and you start to question your own sanity. Only when you understand the connotations to you start to learn the 'people' as well as the language.


Perhaps Pierre can comment on the (general) usefulness or otherwise of the only multi-national organ dictionary I know of, by his fellow-Belgian Mr Praet? The English at least is often questionable. It is difficult to get hold of, but should be very useful...




PS Pierre, you hardly need to read the German version of Orgelprobe when you have wonderful Dutch one of Mr Lustig... :(

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"the only multi-national organ dictionary I know of, by his fellow-Belgian Mr Praet? "



I do not use it. As you said, word-to word translation does not work.

So there is a dutch version of the Orgelprobe ? I'll Google that...


....Indeed, an this since the 18th century already:





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