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Lost In Translation

I was doing some  translation works lately.A short Amharic text that a client asked me to translate into English.Not an easy task.The text was filled with words that defy easy translation.Like this word ‘adjirit‘.So how do you you say it in English?

Capturing the context and its Amharic sense would be of some help.The text was referring to a young woman who was a little smart in a playful and flirtaceous way.

Thus, it was the word ‘naughty‘ that came to my mind first but …you know…it sort of fail to carry the flattering sense the Amharic has.With a help of a dictionary, I came across this funny sounding word ‘minx‘ which is defined as a girl who is playful or cunning and doesnot show proper respect.So I settled for it.Was it closer?

And there was another word, rather a phrase, ‘bet yaferaw‘.You know when the good old folks say ‘Come and let’ share bet yaferawn‘.This time the English equivalent didn’t come easy.Don’t they say good translation is not easy?

I gave the whole thing and I turned the TV on and I started wathing MBC 4 on Arab Sat.Rachal Ray was on and she was preparing her usual ‘delicious’ meal and on that day  she was readying her ‘Pot Luck ‘ meal.Wanting to know what it mean,I looked it up in the dictionary and, to my amazement, it was the word that I was looking for, Bet Yaferaw. Rachal was the last person to come to my rescue but she did. Should I say bless her !

Take a look at this Amharic folk poetry translation.It is not mine.It is some one else’s.But it has a healthy dose of creativity that I wish to emulate.

Abayin Teshagro Abay Alewey?

Motina meleyet anid aidelem wey?

motina meleyet min anidaderegew?

mot yishalal enji kurtu yetawekew.”

‘After you cross Abay

Is there another Abay?

And separation and death

Are they  not the same ?

Separation and death

Who says they are the same ?

‘Tis sure and done

For the heart does not languish

In the agony of prolonged hope.’

Wow.I am smitten.

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Categories: Personal Tales
  1. February 9, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Translation is not an easy thing. Especially when you have to translate some things across different cultures. What is there in one culture may not be there in another culture and some times, there is no vocabulary for it !

    To tell you what I know about Pot Luck, it is not Bet Yaferaw. I recently had a pot luck party at my bosses house. All that we did was every body brought his own food and we made a buffet in her house ( obviously, I took Injera and people were excited!). The point is you make a big party with out leaving the burden of preparing all the food on one person – Hamsa Lomi land sew shekimu Le’hamsa sew gin werku . . .yibalal bager bet . . .

  2. Seifu
    February 9, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    you had a funny encounter! Good luck translating …hey by the way I came across Mengistu Lemma ” tizita” poem on http//www.poetrytranslation.soas.ac.uk/poems/index.cfm?lang=8&poet=29&poem=43&version=orig

    and the translation was made by Kumlachew Dagne Chekol. The translation was just stunning, very eloquent.
    Go to the link and read it.

  3. February 17, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Boy, translation is hard! Being married to a non amharic speaker, I have to translate things to him. Sometimes, I just throw up my hands and give up… too hard to get some meanings across.

  4. Abebual
    February 25, 2007 at 11:44 am

    You remind me one of the old but real saying. A Poet dies two times in his life (though the book says his, I think we should add her). One is when he is dead forever (laymeles), the second is when his poem translated to another language.

  5. February 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

    I know the feeling translation can be testing I usually go for nicotine and caffine inspirations when stuck:
    Adjirit would probably go with a phrase and context does matter here
    Bet yaferaw would go with ‘what was available’ or ‘accessible at home’ I know it might kill the poetry affect. Can’t understanmd poetry anyways.

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