For the final project, I selected two traditional fairy tales, Rapunzel and The Frog King, and two reviews of modern takes on the same fairy tales.
I began the project with machine translation, using the google translator toolkit to give a rough translation of each text. I then went through the texts paragraph by paragraph, dissecting the machine translation and refinining it. Machine translation worked best with the two fairy tales because of their simple sentence structure. Translating the two articles, which contained more complex ideas and sentence structure, presented more of a challenge.
One of the most troubling issues I ran into was how to translate the text. What tone should I take? Would a literal, albeit clunky translation be the most accurate, or should I seek to capture the spirit of the text? With all four of the texts, I eventually decided to try for a natural-sounding English translation, with a more traditional fairytale tone for the two fairy tales, and a more professional tone for the two articles. This meant dividing up long run-on sentences and occasionally adding information to clarify different points.
The first text I translated was the fairy tale Rapunzel. Right off the bat, I was presented with a problem: how should rapunzel be translated? Research revealed that rapunzel is a type of lettuce, called corn salad or lamb’s lettuce. So I could translate rapunzel into either of those. But then it would no longer be clear why the girl is given the name Rapunzel. And just leaving it as rapunzel would be confusing for younger readers, who might not know what sort of plant rapunzel is, or that it’s even a plant at all – a problem I remember having a child. The best solution seemed to be leaving rapunzel untranslated and adding in more information, clarifying it as a type of lettuce. At the beginning of my translation, I attempted to give a more literal, word-for-word translation, keeping the run-on sentences and occasionally odd phrasing. However, this soon became awkward and clunky, and I decided to try for a natural-sounding translation instead.
A similar problem as that in Rapunzel awaited me in The Frog Prince, namely, the title, and how to translate it. The literal translation of Der Froschkönig is not The Frog Prince, but The Frog King. Although The Frog Prince is traditionally the English title, and the frog is referred to as both a prince and a king in the story, I used The Frog King as the final title. In this case the desire for an accurate translation overrode the need to adhere to traditional English precedents. It could also be argued that The Frog Prince refers to the story where the princess breaks the spell by kissing the frog and The Frog King refers to the story where the princess breaks the spell by throwing the frog against the wall. For the most part the translation of the text was simple. The exception was the word ‘Wasserpatscher’ which is something the princess calls the frog. Online dictionaries failed to supply a satisfactory translation, but some searching revealed that ‘auf wasserpatscher’ refers to hitting the water with flat, open hands. ‘Water-slapper’ rather than than the suggested ’splasher’ seemed to be the more accurate translation, and is the one I went with. However, ’splasher’ could have worked just as well, and neither choice would have affected the story.
As I moved onto the translation of a review of the movie Tangled, I was once again confronted with the problem of how to translate the title. It seems to be a consistent theme here. As I was translating the review into English, I went ahead and used the English title for the new Disney movie, Tangled. The German title, Rapunzel – Neu verföhnt, is – as near as I can tell – a pun. ‘Verföhnt’ means that the hair drying was a failure, and seems to be a pun on the word ‘verfilmt.’ This would never have translated over into English. Overall this translation was more difficult than the previous two, with more complex sentences to decipher and more complex ideas to convey. Additional research was require so that I could understand some of the terms – for example, that non-photorealistic rendering referred to a specific technique.
The final translation, a review of the movie The Princess and the Frog, required yet another alteration of the title, from the German ‘Küss den Frosch’ to the English ‘The Princess and the Frog.’ The issues that arose when translating it were similar to issues in the previous article.
Overall, translating the four texts was a challenge, but an enjoyable one. It required research into the cultural context of the fairy tales – their origins and how the details of the stories have changed over the years – and research into the more recent history of the modern adaption of fairy tales. As with previous assignments, the more information and knowledge I had about the context, the easier it was to get a satisfactory translation.