This is a guest post by Sonya Matsui.
Sonya Matsui is a translator, writer, and editor, and has been working as an English teacher in the Israel school system for the last sixteen years.
As a part of the curriculum in the Israel school system, students have to prepare a project in their high school years. Much to my chagrin, the project often consists of not much more than pages taken from articles in the Internet, without a taste of personal language and expression.
Once, I received a project with enough mistakes to convince me, beyond a doubt, that the writing was entirely the effort of my student.
The young lady had chosen to write about sports, and described, in her own inimitable style, the excitement of a football match. My favorite sentence, which I cannot forget, was that “Two actors running after the ball, and one of them get a sabotage in he head.”
Where did the “actors” come from? “Player” and “actor” in English are translated by the same word in Hebrew – the girl just chose the wrong one… As for the sabotage, again, there is one word in Hebrew for both sabotage and a wound.
Using dictionaries or online aids in order to translate is a tricky and sometimes dangerous thing to do. Will Rogers is often quoted as having said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” – how true for us, who ply the open seas of verbiage, attempting to reach translations which convey the same meanings and mood in two different languages! In order to achieve this goal, one must be aware of the level and tone of words in both languages: how different it sounds to refer to someone as having been a miserable kid or an unhappy child.
Lots of luck when you get to expressions such as “raining cats and dogs” …..