Monday, 4 July 2011

Translating is believing

There is something special about language. And we, as translators, are in a special position to appreciate it. We have the incredible privilege of using the raw material of language - words, rhythm, imagery - to earn our daily bread.

Part of this privilege is that we see the beauty, uniqueness and variety of two (or more) different languages. This is not only found in literature - we can experience the special charm of our languages even in everyday speech. And every language has its own local variants. I have just experienced a couple of weeks in the west of the USA, where English is the same language as my native British, and yet somehow different. In my adopted language German there are intriguing differences between “High German”, the “Berlinerisch” dialect that some speak in the city where I live and other regional variants such as Bavarian, Swabian, Sächsisch, Mainzerisch and many more.

Fascination at every turn! And this leads me to ask where all of this comes from.

Language is wonderfully creative. Whenever I am reminded of the special quality of our “raw material”, it makes me doubly grateful to the Creator who made it all possible. Working with language means handling a miracle. For me, translation is a celebration of my faith in the God who gave us language.

Here, I am not trying to build a logical and irresistible argument for belief. I am not trying to prove anything to those who do not believe. I am simply giving expression to my own sense of wonder. This is my reason for the title of this article: “Translating is believing”.


  1. Whatever we believe, language is nothing short of amazing. It's hard to witness the beauty and complexity of how we manipulate sounds to form the ideas we intend to communicate. Translation, indeed, reveals that complexity in ways that monolinguals can't appreciate. It certainly does make you wonder: how was it all created?