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Robert Frost said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  When something is translated, phrases tend to get rendered down, curtailed, simplified.  Still, even in translation, some new voice is asserting its own flair, knuckling its own spin into a basic meaning.

One morning earlier this week, avoiding the lessons in my Chinese text book, I stumbled onto a daily affirmation site, and I tried to translate a bit into Chinese.  I asked Mandy to check it over, and then I posted it and asked people to translate, just as an experiment.  

This was the original passage, which I kept to myself. 


I am patient, loving, caring, and understanding. I am surrounded by patient, loving, caring, and understanding individuals. In all situations, I remain balanced. I am balanced and as a result, my relationships are balanced.


If I try to translate it into French, I don’t think much is lost, but Chinese is a language family or two further removed, and radical surgery must be carried out.  (No doubt a more faithful representation could be produced by someone proficient in Chinese; then again, the point is not to make a perfect translation but to see what happens when imperfect people translate). 




The re-translations: 


I've got a good heart, filled with patience, and so have others. If we can get all the stuff out of our heads, no matter what happens, we can get along with others.      ——Belle


I am a patient and good person. People around me are good people as well. Whatever happens, I just let it be, so I get on well with other people.  –AJ


I’m patient and kind-hearted.  People around me are also ready to help.  No matter what happens, with a kind heart, I am constantly in friendly relationships with other people.  –Iris


I am a patient and good person. People all around are good too. No matter what happens, I do not care about it very much, so I can get very well with others.  –Caroling


I'm patient and kind-hearted, and so are people around me. No matter what occurs, I spare it no mind. That's the reason for my harmonious relationship with others.  –Nancy

I am patient. I am a good person; the people around me are good people too. No matter what happens, there is no panic, no worries, so I am amiable with people.


 I have patience; I am a good-hearted person.  The people around me are also good-hearted people.  Regardless of the issue at hand, I don’t get distracted by such thoughts, so I get along well with others.  –Julien Cordry


It’s interesting how many ways "let it be" may be said: “I don’t get distracted; I don’t worry or panic; I spare it no mind; I don’t care about it, etc.  Elle introduced an interesting word “amiable”.  I notice that despite some changes in meaning, the slightly altered meanings don’t lose much and in some cases become more potent.  It may be that the process of recreation—in which slightly altered meanings and alternatively colorful forms emerge—is to be embraced.  In my view, a new elegance is added in the following translation, based on simplicity, and it may stand superior to the original:


I have patience with good hearted and well intentioned people.  With these, I live in harmony.

                                                                                      —Mathew Charles Wood

Feel free to add new translations in the comments!

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Comment by Elliott.B on August 1, 2012 at 18:41

Rest assured, u will be care by a lot of good people, and you have my support. Thank you for joining me thinking group.

Comment by John Rutledge on August 1, 2012 at 14:45

Nice new icon, dude.

Comment by Fin MacDonald on July 31, 2012 at 7:19

Interesting to see Cynthia's translation!  Amy sent me an English translation yesterday: "I'm patient and as kind-hearted as people close to me are. Whatever is around the corner, I clear my mind to live in harmony."  I really like the last sentence.  Stronger and more clear than the original.

Comment by cynthia ding on July 28, 2012 at 19:11
我是耐心的,博爱的,体恤的,善解人意的。我周围的人也是如此。任何时候我都不偏不倚。我是中庸的,结果也是公正的。朋友之间都是和谐的。if without any context,i will do literal translation like this,happy to share.
Comment by Fin MacDonald on July 25, 2012 at 6:15

AJ translated the Chinese for me again.  If I were to do it again, I would try this one: 我有耐心,关爱心而且善解人意。我周围的人也是有耐心,关爱心和善解人意。无论何时,我都保持一颗平常心,所以我和周围人相处融洽。 

Comment by Martin Tsui on July 24, 2012 at 23:44

To me, a Chinese, Caroling‘s is the very best.

Comment by Richard Roman on July 24, 2012 at 17:07

Brilliant post Fin! - I think you should talk to matt about developing this and putting it up in CCL - tooo good to lose in the day to day activities on CCF!

Comment by Nancy Luo on July 24, 2012 at 16:41

It's very interesting! I love this research!

Comment by Fin MacDonald on July 24, 2012 at 14:36

I'm a patient person with good will. People around me are all kind-hearted as well. No matter what happens, I can get along quite well with others (or them) with simple belief bearing in mind all the time.   --Christina


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