What is Translation? Reading “The Giving Tree” and think about what is translating a story.

Hello everyone. I’m a high school English teacher, and sometimes I have an opportunity to have a class for people who are not high school students. It is like a open school kind of thing. Since I live in a small town, some town’s people who wants to study something at a night class in my high school sometimes come and take a class this season. In this time, I hold a class of “the art of translation”. Of course I’m not a professional translator though, there are some people who really love to hear something they don’t even know.

So, what is translation then? I read a book written by a pro-translator and she said “becoming some other people or thing” is a translation. A translator needs to be a J.K. Rowling, and should see the world of the magic. Have a relationship with a person in the world of 200 years ago. Anyway, we need an imagination. Translating is providing an interpretation. Original material is just one, but there are so many interpretations. Original will not be faded, but translation will do fade. Suggesting that I interpreted this story like this is a translation, and to do a better translation, we ought to read materials deeper. Translator is firstly a reader anyway.

Anyway, the most of them are second hand information of a professional translators. Then, I set an assignment for them to translate, a kind of picture book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. The story is very simple though, it has been loved by so many people around the world. The translator of a Japanese version, Haruki Murakami leave a message on the last page, and he says that everyone should read this book again and again, for this is a kind of mirror in a nature that reflect yourself.

The story is really simple. There are a boy and a tree and they loved each other. However, as the boy grew older, he began to say that he wants money or wants to build a house. Every time he says such things, the tree give him apples to make money, and trunks to build a house. And lastly, the tree became a stump. Then, the boy who became really old came to visit the stump. The tree disappointed with the fact that she can’t give anything, but the man says “I don’t need anything” or like that. Then, he sit down on the stump. The tree felt happy to be sit, and the man felt happy because he could rest on it. This is a brief summary.

To be honest, I felt really sad reading the story. Many people would read a mother in the tree, and I feel so sad to wonder how much things I have taken away from her. However, if I became a father, maybe such kind of interpretation could change.

It is allowed to have a various interpretation. There is no only one answer. This is why I like literature. Sometimes this kind pf person is thought to be a very lazy guy though, please enjoy some literature in this season.

Thank you for reading!


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