“The incapacity of the translator” Unit 2 Assignment 2, Nikolaos Paramythiotis

Language: the tool that every one of us uses every day to communicate thoughts, beliefs, emotions. At the same time, not every one of us uses the same system of communicating their thoughts. For the more practical task of achieving everyday communication across languages, for the translation to be effective, the in-depth knowledge of the other language proves to be enough, as the objective is merely the accuracy of meaning.

However, the noble goal of transmitting the literary or philosophical outcome of the thinking process of the most brilliant minds throughout history, which of course expressed them in a diverse pallet of languages is much more complicated. The authors of these texts, especially the ones that are considered classic and therefore master the language they utilize, choose precisely the words they are going to use: the words are picked in such a manner, that their thought is presented clearly and accurately.

The problem that arises, although the passage originally addresses the philosophic activity, is illustrated in the allegory of the cave, as presented by Plato in “The Republic”. What Plato discusses, is that when individuals have such different experiences to one another, then their communication faces a great burden. The words that these profound writers pick are, and are meant to be, connected to certain connotations, emotional states or concepts, deriving from the life conditions and experiences of themselves and of the social group they belong in. And even if we hypothesize that a reader from a different environment knew the literary meaning of every word they encounter, they would filter it through their own culture and way of life, coming across a completely different text.  

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