Posts Tagged ‘translation


I – (Piet Paaltjens, Immortellen, 1850-1852)

The moon glides past my window,
Questioning as it goes by:
‘What glistens, O pale singer,
In the corner of thine eye?’

Wert thou not fixed in heaven,
Then ‘Go to hell!’ I’d cry.
For why mine eye doth glisten,
Shall know no creature but I.


De maan glijdt langs de ruiten
En blikt mij vragend aan.
‘Wat moet dat, bleeke zanger, –
In uw ooghoek glinstert een traan?’

Zoo gij de maan niet zelf waart,
‘k Zou zeggen: loop naar de maan. –
Wat mij het oog doet glinstren,
Dat gaat geen schepsel aan.


Deliveries (orig. Eugen Roth, “Besorgungen”)

A man goes out one morning, late,
Suspecting not the hand of Fate,
And hurries into town, where he’s
To make the day’s deliveries.
But Fate soon fires her first attack:
A sign proclaiming, “Be Right Back”.
“Right back” is rather vague at best,
And so the man resumes his quest
And meets, at number two, the porter:
“Oh, she just left, you almost caught her…”
At number three a friend relays:
“They won’t be back for seven days!”
At number four, the CEO
Turns out to be in Tokyo;
An overcrowded waiting room
At number five spreads doom and gloom,
And at the sixth, what does he find?
He’s left the paperwork behind.
Then number seven joins the queue:
“We’re closed for lunch from twelve ’til two!”
The man, enraged and fit to burst,
Goes back again to try the first
And nearly has a heart attack.
For there, it still says “Be Right Back”.


What a cack

Today, the following fragment was in a Dutch text I was translating:


What if i were to tell you that this was simply Dutch legalese for the “Individual Healthcare Professions Act”? As an English speaker, you just have to wonder which ‘act’ in particular… And what’s more, in Dutch this could also be interpreted as the “Piglet Act”. Wet piglets. I mean, what kind of a language lets this happen? Or rather, which politicians?

Sometimes this language cracks me up. It makes me wanna Wet BIG, man.



Today, while I was looking up the English translation for the Dutch word redundant (which, not surprisingly, turned out to be redundant – both the act and the translation), a few entries further in the dictionary I noticed the word reebok. Since I knew that the word ree means ‘deer’ and bok means ‘buck’, I knew instantly that this was some kind of horned quadruped. I got curious as to its exact appearance, and did a Google image search expecting to see row upon row of proud, elegantly soaring beasts enclosed in African landscapes.

Imagine my surprise when all I got was shoes.



Deze zin is toch belachelijk:

Tevens gaat Aanbieder er, door ondertekening van de Eigen Verklaring, mee akkoord dat Bedrijf X, de financiële situatie van Aanbieder kan laten toetsen bij een extern bureau.

Laten we woorden anders gewoon in stukken hakken en hele zinsdelen er, mocht het op een goed moment toevallig zo uitkomen, tussen proppen. En ook nog onnodige komma’s toevoegen, want dat is, leuk.


Forays into Dutch poetry

Whilst in Berlin last week, D. introduced me to a 4000-verse Dutch poem called “May”, by romantic poet Herman Gorter. Upon the subsequent discovery that there is as yet no English translation of this poem, I promptly set about creating one, and yesterday I managed to complete a draft of the first verse:

A new spring, and a new sound fills the air;
I would my song to whistling could compare
That oft I heard on the canals at night
In summer, in an old town, when the light
Inside the house was gone; The quiet street
Was gath’ring dusk. The evening sky, replete,
Would cast its light across facades until
Its golden shine fell on my window-sill.
And then a young boy, like an organ pipe,
Would fill the air with notes that shook as ripe
As youngling cherries in the woods in spring,
When winds pick up and go a-journeying.
O’er bridges and at water’s edge he drifted,
And whistling all the while, spirits lifted,
Like a young bird, content and unaware
Of its own gladness at the evening air.
Tired souls at table listened as they smiled,
As to a story first heard as a child,
And hands at window-shutters, at a snatch
Of the boy’s tune, would pause before the latch.

For Dutch speakers who don’t know (or have) the poem, here’s the original:

Een nieuwe lente en een nieuw geluid:
Ik wil dat dit lied klinkt als het gefluit,
Dat ik vaak hoorde voor een zomernacht,
In een oud stadje, langs de watergracht —
In huis was ‘t donker, maar de stille straat
Vergaarde schemer, aan de lucht blonk laat
Nog licht, er viel een gouden blanke schijn
Over de gevels in mijn raamkozijn.
Dan blies een jongen als een orgelpijp,
De klanken schudden in de lucht zoo rijp
Als jonge kersen, wen een lentewind
In ‘t boschje opgaat en zijn reis begint.
Hij dwaald’ over de bruggen, op den wal
Van ‘t water, langzaam gaande, overal
Als ‘n jonge vogel fluitend, onbewust
Van eigen blijheid om de avondrust.
En menig moe man, die zijn avondmaal
Nam, luisterde, als naar een oud verhaal,
Glimlachend, en een hand die ‘t venster sloot,
Talmde een pooze wijl de jongen floot.

Criticism (constructive or otherwise) is more than welcome!


Lost in translation

Yesterday at work, at around 16:45, the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) called and wanted 220 words translated for that day. So I got to translate it – it was kind of fun, the topic was the Geotruck, a kind of mobile video-gaming bus offering climate education to secondary schools. So I translated at top speed and today, there it was.

Just thought some of you might be interested in what it is I do all day.

Random quote:

There are two great tragedies in life. One is not getting your heart’s desire; the other is to get it.”
– (Was this Oscar Wilde?)