2 minutes 40 seconds! It is all you need – alongside a good understanding of French – to enjoy this video (listen between 33:20 and 36:00). You will hear Heinz Wismann, philologist and philosopher, talk about the fine art of translation and its potential for school pupils.
If you don’t understand Molière’s language, don’t worry, here is a brief summary of what Wismann says.
Based on an interview with the great philosopher Paul Ricoeur carried out in 2004 after the publication of his last book, On Translation, Heinz Wismann gives his interesting comments about translation.
He focuses particularly on the difference between “version” and “translation”.
“Version” is an academic and codified exercise. In this case, there is supposed to exist a so-called “right translation”: it is the original text written by the ancient authors towards which the translations done by the pupils must converge (in Latin or Ancient Greek, for instance).
“Translation” is a completely different exercise. It is a matter of invention, where translators must find ways to say things in their own language going beyond the words used in another one. It is a land of uncertainty, but also of creativity.
In order to illustrate his point, Heinz Wismann takes the rather sad example of a pilot project implemented in French schools that turned out to be an epic failure. Schools were proposed some “circles of translation” where the pupils were invited to translate. But soon it turned out that what those “circles” did was not “translation”, but “version”, sticking to a codified and “authoritarian” model as Wismann puts it. The misunderstanding was total, and the opportunity to bring translation into schools totally missed.
What a waste, considering the fantastic potential of translation to promote creativity and inventiveness.
Tapping into this potential is precisely what we intend to do with Juvenes Translatores. Believe us, at the end of the day there’s no “right translation”, but a variety of possibilities explored by the young translators.
Nice food for thought, isn’t it? So why not trying to make room for translation in language teaching? It’s not just a question of language learning; it is also a question of being creative, and learning how to go beyond the words in one’s own language and how to approach the same reality from different angles.