Login | Register
 
Message Board | Latest Posts | Your Recent Posts | Rules

Thread: LOTR in Translation

Is this discussion interesting? Share it on Twitter!

Bottom of Page    Message Board > The Lord of the Rings > LOTR in Translation   
The first time I read the Lord of the Rings, it was in spanish. At that time I wasn't aware that English was the language it was written it because the translation was so good! When I read it in english upon coming to America, I thought it was equally wonderful. However, it had a very different "feel" to it. For the last two years I have lived in China. I have the LOTR in chinese now, and they are also good, but again have a different feel to them.
I know that the translation of any literary work looses some of the meaning and style the author had. Translators cannot perfectly capture Tolkien in another language.

I am just wondering if anyone else here has read the books in another language, and what do you think? The great thing about the LOTR is it has fans everywhere around the world. Do you think that in order to be a true "Tolkien fan", or "LOTR fan", you need to read them in their origional language?
Hey there Smile Smilie I have only read the books in Norwegian (I'm from Norway ) but I feel the need to read them in English as wellSmile Smilie so I will definitely buy them and start all over again Read Smilie
I never get enough of Tolkiens work anywayHappy Elf Smilie
Quote:
Do you think that in order to be a true "Tolkien fan", or "LOTR fan", you need to read them in their origional language?

No.
Quote:
Do you think that in order to be a true "Tolkien fan", or "LOTR fan", you need to read them in their origional language?
No, but you should take a peek at it in English to see if your translation had any flaws. I've heard there are some translations that are not very good; however most of them are quite accurate.

Besides which, both Amarië and Tolkien have often told us that Bilbo and Frodo wrote their stories in the Red Book of Westmarch, using Westron,the common language of Middle-earth and that the English version is Tolkien's translation of that ancient tome. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie
I agree that translations do tend to lose some of the original flavour. But you don't necessarily have to have the English version to be a true fan. I mean, it is true that if you've never read the English version, you'd miss out on a lot of details and you'd probably have a different idea of Middle-Earth in your mind, but you can still be a Tolkien fan, because honestly, everyone's interpretation is different so we'd never be in unison anyways.

But back to translations. I've heard that the Chinese translations are terrible. I wonder which ones you've got. My friend says that the Taiwanese version is better than the mainland version, so it really depends. I don't know much Chinese myself, but I have often heard that Romance and Germanic languages translated into an Asian languages (and vice versa) are quite awkward. I can surely imagine that. I know that Chinese is based on characters that are grouped together to form words and sentences. Japanese (partly) and Korean are phonetic, but their sentence structure is similar to that of the Chinese. The use of words and characters in all three languages are very loose. Different characters may be grouped together in the most appropriate way to achieve the author's "meaning". Thus, some phrases, though same when translated into English, actually have a different "feel" about them. For example, "open heart" in Chinese means happy, while "joy like" also means happy, yet they create a very slight difference in the "feel" of the word. This slight difference is often lost in translation. Similarly, the various tones of English prove a great difficulty for translators because it is hard to make it sound as formal as Tolkien's style when you are trying to get meanings straight, especially in Asian languages, where the sentences are usually a jumble of different words. The translator would find his translations get the point across, but lacks the bible-like tone Tolien writes in.
I've heard the Russian and Swedish translations are awful, with lots of mistakes, for instance Legolas mentioned he has children, etc.

I've read LOTR in French, Dutch and partly German and everything's the same as in English, barring of course the names of some characters/locations.

Right now I'm looking for a version in Afrikaans, for I think this is the most beautiful language in the world, the language of the country where JRRT was born.
Cloveress, what you said about the chinese translation thing is true. I have the Mainland version, and it is pretty different. I think the best example is the title: "The Lord of the RIngs". In chinese, it is “魔戒“ pronounced "mo jie". 魔 means: devil, magic, demon, conjure, etc... 戒 means ring. So the title is basically "Magic Ring", or "Devil Ring", no reference to Lord, or anything. Then, the individual book titles like FOTR, TT, ROTK, are completely lost. They just say Devil Ring 1, Devil Ring 2, etc..
But besides those kind of things, you can still read the book and enjoy it.

I had a question. I heard Elvish (the language Tolkien wrote) is an actual language people could read and write. Is it such a developed language that one could, oh...maybe translate The Lord of the Rings into it? Is it possible to have LOTR in Elvish? Just wondering.
Quote:
I had a question. I heard Elvish (the language Tolkien wrote) is an actual language people could read and write. Is it such a developed language that one could, oh...maybe translate The Lord of the Rings into it? Is it possible to have LOTR in Elvish? Just wondering.


No, that's not really possible. Elvish actually refers to a group of languages, the two most attested being Quenya and Sindarin, but even these are not near complete enough for such an endeavor.

Tolkien was often changing his mind and revising matters large and small; and also, he worked at the internal history of the languages. Generally speaking, languages change over time, noting (for an obvious example) the version of English in which Beowulf is written compared to Modern English. Tolkien imagined that the Elvish languages changed over time too, some more than others, as the Elves migrated and branched away from each other in Middle-earth (producing dialects and different tongues), or came into contact with other races and languages.

So JRRT worked on a language and its history, and we end up with both an internal history (the legendary history within Middle-earth), and an external history (Tolkien's changing conceptions throughout his life). And he was not against changing his mind to suit his changing taste, as he was not trying to finish a given Elvish language so that he, or anyone else, could speak or write it fluently, like Spanish or Italian, or similar. From the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship:

Quote:
'(...) Since Tolkien never fixed his languages firmly or described them completely enough to provide any such comprehensive and corrective model (that never being his goal), and since thus even Tolkien himself was never able to speak Quenya or Sindarin fluently or casually (that too never being his goal), it is consequently a further inescapable fact that no one has or ever will be able to speak Quenya and Sindarin, any more than anyone will ever (again) be able to speak, say, Etruscan or any other fragmentarily-attested non-living language.

This is not to say that it is impossible or meaningless to compose sentences that so far as anyone now can tell conform to the exemplars and statements that Tolkien did make to a very high degree (for example, by relying only upon attested elements and derivational mechanisms, attested grammatical devices, and attested syntactic patterns that can reasonably be thought to belong to the same conceptual phase), but that is a far cry from being able to speak these languages, and cannot even justify a claim of "authenticity", since for any but the most trivial compositions it will remain exceedingly unlikely that Tolkien himself would have produced or countenanced the result himself.'

Elvish Linguistic Fellowship


For full context see E.L.F. org

And I see that we now (I notice) have a new forum for the Elvish tongues.