Fun with Words

Here’s some Friday morning fun with words for you.

When translating, there’s literal translation, where you say exactly what the individual words mean in the same order they’re presented in the originating language. Then there’s dynamic translation, where you convey what the words mean, rather than the precise terms or precise word order. 

Translation is a balancing act between trying to stick to the terms chosen by the original author while conveying what that author meant to say in a language with different idioms and very different word order. 

Every now and then we come across a word that has a familiar dynamic equivalent–like “sugar” or “worry” but the literal translation causes pause.  Here are a couple recent favorites:

 элсэн чихэр (elcen chiheer)= sugar (dynamic) or sand candy (literal)

“Candy” is the base word and “sand” is added to modify it to make the word “sugar.”  This should give you an indication of how intrinsic sugar is (or is not) to a traditional Mongolian diet.  Also, it makes the idea of sugar even more delightful!

санаа зовох (sanaa dzovokh)= to worry (dynamic) or to suffer your thoughts (literal)

It just makes sense, right?  Worrying is suffering because of your thoughts, or your thoughts causing you to suffer.  Because when you worry, reality isn’t the problem, your thoughts are the problem. 

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