Lost or translation?

December 17, 2004

I am taking a break from grading and writing (one section graded, other has its exam this afternoon) to do a little more work on the reading packet for next semester.

Along the way I had a random thought - if you have partial knowledge of a foreign language, say something like my own knowledge of French where I can read Le Monde and get the gist of the articles but will miss the subtleties and nuances, are you better off reading in translation or struggling with the original?

I ask because the evil angel on my left shoulder thinks that I should have the kids read le declaration des droits des hommes while the good angel on my right shoulder would rather that they read the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

I think the good angel will win this one, if only because if the evil angel won he would want me to follow his policy on the other readings, and my Russian is not good enough to make sure I had a correct copy of "The Overcoat."

Still, it is an interesting question: struggle with the original or read someone else's interpretation of the original. Perhaps I should re-phrase it to "at what level of fluency are you better off reading the original over the translation"? Yes, that captures the crucial middle territory.

Posted by Red Ted at December 17, 2004 08:51 AM | TrackBack