August 7, 2016

Translation and its discontents: On Austregelina Espina-Moore's novelas cebuana, 2


One thing I appreciate in the translations of Austregelina Espina-Moore's three Cebuano novels was Hope Sabanpan-Yu's effort to add a translator's introduction or preface in each of them. Personally, I would like these introductions to appear as afterwords because most of the time they spoil too much of the story line, but the reader always had the option to read them for later.

Sabanpan-Yu discussed several translation issues in her preface to Where a Fire Tree Grows. The aspects she talked about included the tradeoff between literalness and fluency in translations and the dangers inherent in "naturalizing" or "domesticating" (vs. foreignizing) a text.

Since Cebuano is culturally and linguistically different from English, it makes sense to try fluent translation but without the alienating aspects of this particular type of translation. It also makes sense to translate literally especially when the goal is to emphasize the uniqueness of Cebuano. The language can be both creative and acceptable to English readers when translated literally. Because the translator "cannot possibly preserve all the features of the original" (Gutt 382), I allow myself to be guided by Jiri Levý:

In translation, there are situations which do not allow one to capture all values of the original. Then the translator has to decide which qualities of the original are the most important and which ones one could miss out. The problem of the reliability of translation consists partly in that the relative importance of the values in a piece of literature are recognized. (382)

Elements of the Cebuano language text such as syntax, phonology and diction, have to be brought into English, the target language text, otherwise it will no longer be translation but adaptation. I refer to syntax as the set of rules governing the manner in which words are combined to form sentences in a language. English is an S-V-O (subject-verb-object) language while Cebuano is a V-S-O language.

The translator then highlighted these issues by describing some of the strategies she used to deal with syntax, phonology, and diction while quoting sample passages from the novel. She presented (i) the original Cebuano text, (ii) its corresponding literal translation in English, and (iii) how she finally rendered her translation by analyzing and weighing the aspects of translation she wanted to preserve. However, the strange thing about this preface was that the passages she quoted in the preface differed from the actual translations contained in the text.

I could only presume that the preface was written before the translation was finalized and that the revisions made in the final translation were not used to update the quoted passages in the preface. If this assumption is correct, one unintentionally stumbled upon the process of editing or revising translations, with the versions in the preface taken as drafts and the version in the text as final. Here are some instances, with the original language first presented, followed by the "draft" (quoted in the preface) and the "final" versions (contained in the actual novel) of the text.

Mouna ka pagka propesiyonal kanako sa lima o unom katuig.

You'll become a professional five or six years earlier than I.

You'll be a professional five or six years earlier than I.

***

Si Jun ug si Lily namasilong sa sibay nga hulatanan sa bus duol sa escuelahan. Hapon kadto, sinugdanan sa Agosto. Nagbunok ang ulan ana sa usa ka panamilit tungod kay nanghinapos nang mga adlaw sa tingulan.

Jun and Lily took shelter at the bus stop near the school. It was an afternoon in early August. The rain poured down a farewell because the rainy days were ending.

Jun and Lily took shelter at the bus stop near the school. It was an afternoon in early August. The rain poured a farewell because the rainy days were ending.

***

Mainit, pilitpilit sa asin sa singot ang ilang kamot nga nagunitay.

Warm, their hands entwined, sticky with the saltiness of sweat.

Warm, sticky with the salt of sweat, their hands clasped.

***

Taudtaud, mahitungod gani silag tinukod ni Mr. Gonzales mohunong ug motanaw paglibotlibot. Human sa pipila nila ka nakitan, nangutana si Jun kon unsay ilang hunahuna.

Later, whenever they came across a construction of Mr. Gonzales, they would stop and look around. After they had seen a few, Jun asked what they thought.

Later, when they came across a building constructed by Mr. Gonzales, they would stop and look around. After they had seen a few, Jun asked what they thought.

***

Mao tingail nga ang mga tawo nga namasiyo sa Luneta niadtong hapon sa Mayo mohangad gayud, ngadto sa estatuwa ni Dr. Jose Rizal, ang hero sa Pilipinas – yutang tabonon.

Which is why the people who were strolling at the Luneta that afternoon in May had to look up, to the statue of Dr. Jose Rizal, the hero of the Philippines – land of the brown race.

Which is probably why the people strolling in the Luneta that May afternoon looked up, to the statue of Dr. Jose Rizal, hero of the Philippines – land of the brown race.

Whether or not the assumption that the final version is the one contained in the text was correct, I think that the small or not-so-small deviations from the quoted texts in the preface were an improvement.

No comments:

Post a Comment