Monday, 27 October 2014

Translating something for real, asked by a friend

Terrifying and humbling. I peer at my dictionary, looking for the exact spelling of the word somewhere in the long paragraphs of slight variations. I hope there are no typos in the original I have been emailed. Do I have just enough familiarity with modern Arabic poetry to know the rough way that the thoughts are laid out? Do I know the starting text well enough, against which/because of which the piece was written?

I need to look at that starting text in Arabic to see if any of the words are being reused here. I need to use every trick I can think of to get my best version in English before I approach someone to help me with the remaining queries/question marks. I don't want to look a total fool to the person I ask.

I could look up some of the writer's other work online, see if it has been translated, are there any key words or concepts which are likely to be buried in this one?

Why does the very word Arabic lead others to assume I have much of it between my ears? If only they knew the dreadful lack of certainty. I have vague 'oh, I have seen that word before' happy thoughts, but they are not precise, just half recognitions.

There are words which come up which I know I have never, ever seen before. That is a nice feeling, because it implies that the others are somewhere in my continuum of familiar.

I'd forgotten how hard I can work if I want to.

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