Some of you may be wondering why this website is called Word-for-Sense, particularly readers who are unfamiliar with Translation theory. I came up with the title one day during my literary translation class, where we were discussing the classic and most basic conflict in translation, word-for-word versus sense-for-sense.
A word-for-word translation is also known as a literal translation, where every word from the source language is replicated as exactly as possible from the the source language to the target language. Literal translation is known as word-for-word translation because it operates on a lexical level, translating each word independently of the sentence. A sense-for-sense translation is one where the meaning and sense of the source language is replicated in the target language by translating on the level of each sentence rather than each word.
These definitions are quite broad, and not at all comprehensive, but they get the point across in that my use of the term word-for-sense is one that tries to act as a bridge between the two. It represents my desire to find a way to create perfect translations, though I know that, like all the translations before mine and all those after, I will fall short.
There is a post on my old blog about my relationship with this title that I considered re-posting directly onto this site, but I had decided not to because it wasn’t refined enough for my taste. That said, it was representative of a truth I felt in April of 2017, and while I have gained much confidence since then, I would still like to take a moment to look back on it now:
The title for this blog is based on a classic and basic issue in translation: word-for-word or sense-for-sense. That said, even though the very name of this blog is based on translation, I haven't really been talking about translation on here. I suppose that is because for me, translation is an intimate process, and I don't always feel comfortable talking about it. It’s probably because of the imposter syndrome I tend to feel about anything and everything I've ever done or do. The feeling is an uncomfortable one, but confidence doesn't come easy for me. My translations themselves, well, I don't particularly like sharing. I'm always terrified that I have mistranslated something, or that something is somehow 'not right' in ways I'm not fully sure I can explain. I worry that my fluency in Spanish is not good enough for proper translation and find myself hounding down words in dictionaries, picking at the poem until it is nothing but words. I tend to go for very literal translations, keeping faithful to the word, and yet my heart longs for giving instead the sense that comes from such rich poetry. Translating is maddening and sometimes I wonder why I ever thought I could do it, and others I wonder how I could possibly do anything else. I'm doing an independent study on translation this semester and even though there are only five weeks left of class I haven't sent my professor any poems because I am terrified he will hate them. That said if I don't send him something soon he will probably fail me, so I have resolved to send him at least two poems by Friday, no matter how much I dislike the verse. (My translation I mean, the original poems are gorgeous). The only way I can improve is if I get feedback, but like most people, I am scared of rejection. Everyone fails sometimes, it's a fact of life, but that doesn't make it comfortable.
I’ve come a long way in terms of confidence about my own work since making that post. While I’ll admit that I might never feel fully secure in my own work, I am at least secure in that I am doing my best which gets better every day. My piano tutor and mentor from high school used to tell me “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good gets better, and your better gets best.” I take the substance of his advice every day, even if not always to the letter. You might say that I take his word for it — or maybe just the sense?