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ALBERT B. CASUGA, a Philippine-born writer, lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, where he continues to write poetry, fiction, and criticism after his retirement from teaching and serving as an elected member of his region's school board. He was nominated to the Mississauga Arts Council Literary Awards in 2007. A graduate of the Royal and Pontifical University of St. Thomas (now University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Literature and English, magna cum laude), he taught English and Literature (Criticism, Theory, and Creative Writing) at the Philippines' De La Salle University and San Beda College. He has authored books of poetry, short stories, literary theory and criticism. He has won awards for his works in Canada, the U.S.A., and the Philippines. His latest work, A Theory of Echoes and Other Poems was published February 2009 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House. His fiction and poetry were published by online literary journals Asia Writes and Coastal Poems recently. He was a Fellow at the 1972 Silliman University Writers Workshop, Philippines. As a journalist, he worked with the United Press International and wrote an art column for the defunct Philippines Herald.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

LOL Literatures in Other Languages: Translations and audience effect

21 February 2009
Translations and audience effect

At the Panrehiyong Forum Pangwika [Regional Language Forum] in Legazpi City, Philippines, last Thursday (19 February), teachers of Bicol University read a poem with each line written in or translated into three languages (Spanish, Filipino, and Bicolano). It was not clear to me (listening as a non-Bicolano) which were the original lines and which were the translations, but it was clear from the reading that the mood or tone of the lines changed with the language (of course, it could have been the three interpreters who were reading alternately). A thought: does a translation change the tone of a text? Translations are supposed to produce in the target-language audience the same effects they produce in the source-language or original audience, but perhaps they really don't.
Posted by Isagani R. Cruz at 4:20 AM

Albert B. Casuga said...

Does a translation change the tone of a text? Bad translation would; competent ones would use all the linguistic tools (viz., figures of thought, speech, language and the tonal energies akin to the tone of the intentions of the original text -- sounds that capture the sense, text and context that achieve the content) that are available in the translating language.

One case of a good translation I have come across (where I am also convinced that the translation is actually superior to the original one) is that of Philippine poet Jose F. Lacaba's translation of Max Erhmann's "Desiderata".

(See "Ka Pete", a blog where Mr. Lacaba publishes his translation of the popular Jesuit-student moral guide. The translation, "Minimithi" preserves the tone, and it certainly produced an even more significant--because it is in contemporary Pilipino--effect on this reader.

Follow the blog on:

In this case, the translation matches the earnestness of Erhmann's prose poem, but, I dare say, surpasses the tonal serenity and even vigour of the original.

One might draw the conclusion that Lacaba is, after all, the better poet. I would not gainsay that. -- ALBERT B. CASUGA

26 February, 2009 09:16

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