Hair vs. Horse

FullSizeRender(2)  Translating from different languages can be very difficult. Even after studying French for years, I still make small mistakes that can take on a whole new meaning. While practicing on the app duolingo, I translated this whole sentence incorrectly because I misread the “e” in cheveux as an “a”. This changed the word “hair” into the french word for horses. The word for greasy and for fat is the same, “gras”, depending on its use. Learning a new language is difficult due to all the words that are spelled the same or very similar but have completely different meanings. English also has plenty of words like that, homographs. Due to all the differences within a language, getting a perfect translation with the exact original meaning is near impossible.

In the reading of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, line 44 for both translations, Hera is described as “one who knows prudence” by Tyrrell, but in the Nagy translation she is described as “one who knows the ways of affection.” The word choice here may seem insignificant but they do convey a different message. Calling her prudent describes Hera more as a cautious or wise person while the latter seems to take away from her having good sense and just paints her as a wife. Another simple change in words in in line 144 where Anchises is “seized with love” in the Nagy translation while only “passion seized Anchises” in the Tyrrell translation. Yet again it is a very small almost imperceptible difference, but it conveys the message that he is only feeling a physical reaction than actual love in the second translation.

Every translator has their own perception of the story and will influence it by their thought process, although translating will never be perfect, it is necessary to understand people from all around the world and can unite cultures which, at first glance, appear completely diametrically opposed.