It takes many years to become a truly skilled translator, but to be so it is not only about translating the words, the structures, the culture, the jokes, the rhymes, and matching the number of lines in the poems, but making sure that the translator does not translate anything that may well make perfect sense in one language but would be totally lost in another. The most difficult part is to come up with a piece of translated text that looks as if it was originally written in the English language, and often translators come to English natives to do that job. A good example of difficult translation is in jokes, where word play is common. The joke Why do you never go hungry in the desert? Because of the sandwiches there! could be completely lost when translated into another language. The joke depends on the word play on ‘sandwiches’ (food between slices of bread): Because of the sand-which-is there! Get it?


Adam Mickiewicz, a poet regarded as Poland’s greatest, produced many epic poems of several pages which have been translated into English. The skills of the many translators who have attempted to express his works in English are challenged as they have to not only try and retain the rhyming structures, but have to remain in the spirit of the original if not the exact wording. Marcel Weyland, an Australian, has produced the most recent English translations for the US and British markets.


Of course, many of the examples featured in this unit are based on Polish translations, for which I am sorry if you are not a student from Poland, but perhaps there are similar mistakes made by other translations.

Examples of typical errors index   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  Home page