The Art of Writing

Translation Time

If you’ve finished some poems this may be a good point to experiment with translations.

All languages carry some embedded thinking in their metaphors. For example, many of the phrases we have in English for change involve water, rivers and sea going. The phrase remember that we are a island people  – we ‘open floodgates’ arrive at ‘watersheds’ throw ‘three sheets to the wind’ and show our ‘true colours’.  Translated literally into Arabic or Farsi, these metaphors will be exposed and often seem very strange – they may well change your poem about politics into one about sailing. That’s why it’s fun and funny to translate a poem into another language via Googletranslate, then translate the translation back into English – the metaphors are altered and given back to us, and the other language often adds something in. Translation into Basque and back, for example, will usually add in the word ‘stone’ and surprisingly often, ‘goat’.

If your students have written poems using the Surrealists’ Game, why not try translating them using Googletranslate as your helper? You can do this as a partnership with your international school, asking ‘is that what you mean?’ with individual students. Or you could just do it on your own with your own students poems, putting them into Arabic and back. You may well find phrases that you want to keep, and you will definitely have fun.

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