We’ve come to the point in the semester where we are finally getting down to the nitty gritty of a language: the words themselves. Not just how many words are counted in a specific excerpt, which has been demonstrated by our Word Clouds, but word choice itself and what it really means. This is where we run into some issues. Mainly, the occasional but glaring differences between the original Italian version of I Promessi Sposi and its English translation.

As a class, we have begun to compare translations with our assigned portfolio chapters and have found some interesting discrepancies. Some are small, such as the use of one particular word in my chapter, “sentenza,” as compared with essentially every synonym you could possibly ask for in the translated text (sentence, verdict, decision, observation, etc.). However, some are more important. For instance, we discovered that in certain chapters, the character Lucia’s (Lucy) name has been used more in the Italian version than the English one. Additionally, the Archbishop Federico Borromeo was not mentioned by first name at all in the English version, but several times in the Italian text. This may seem like the inconsequential tossing around of synonyms and proper nouns, but are the readers getting the same message or feeling from both texts? Are we subject to the influence of the translator’s discretion more than we have ever believed?

It is often said in foreign language classes that there are some words, phrases, and meanings that just cannot be translated exactly. To this, I wholeheartedly agree, and maybe this is the problem. However, it is impossible and ridiculous to always expect texts to be read in their original languages. I personally have never even thought about the possible differences between one book and the other, although they are intended to be the same thing. We have more investigating to do, but it seems as though the words and sentiments that sometimes slip through the cracks of translation not only lose the significance of the original text, but can also create something entirely new.  


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