Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Joys of Translation

Remember the good old days of translating songs and arias (roles too) word by word with a dictionary? Those days are long over, with useful sites as the Lied and Art Song Texts Page and the Aria Database (temporary offline 01/01/06). Other sites translate foreign texts automatically. Here is a translation of Heine's Du bist wie eine Blume from Google Language Tools:

You are so hold and beautiful and pure like a flower; I schau ' you on, and nostalgia creeps me in the heart inside. Me it is as if I the hands on the head to you to put are, praying that God receives you so purely and beautifully and hold.

Er. Um. Well. Hardly qualifies as poetry. Computer translation programs still have trouble with some words as well as archaic vocabulary and constructions, not to mention proper syntax. Some words the Google service couldn't translate:

  • hold=dear
  • schau'=look

I still prefer the Old School method of using a dictionary. Translating art song and opera texts is different than translating technical prose in that the texts we use were created by the hands of poets and librettists and need a similar gentle hand in translation. And what better way to learn a language with all its intricacies and flavors?

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