Dialect Translation

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Fri Dec 10 23:08:43 UTC 1999

This is a topic of constant discussion in liuterary circles. I heard a
terrific paper by a young Swiss scholar on the problem of translating Twain's
HUCK FINN into German--and how German scholars had gone about dealing over
the years with the dialect issue. It was particularly instructive to look at
what sorts of decisions the translators made with respect to the speech of
Jim, the escaping slave. Pretty much an impossible task: Germany has not had
slaves for a good long while. In German, Jim comes out sounding either like a
child or a foreigner--neither of which is at all right. Note that it would be
preposterous to give him features of some local German dialect, e.g., why
should Jim sound like a German farmer from Franconia?

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