A different kind of translation

This topic may seem a little far from the lives of Japanese college students, but it’s a chance to learn a little more about an important part of world history.

Zora Neale Hurston was a famous American author (students: talk to me if you want to learn more about her, or try researching her on your own) and in the early 20th century, she interviewed a man named Cudjo Lewis in order to write a book about him. Why? Because he was the last survivor of the last slave ship that arrived in America. Lewis’ birth name was Oluale Kossula, and he was born in Benin and kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was 19 years old. Hurston spent 3 months interviewing him.

The book was never published in her lifetime (she died in 1960). She wrote most of the book using Kossula’s dialect, and publishers didn’t think the book would sell well. But it has recently been published and I’m excited to read it. It’s also available on audio, and for a book like this, I’ll probably do both.

Here’s an article about this from Vulture. And it includes an excerpt from the book. A translation challenge for you is to see if you can intepret the dialect. It may help to try reading aloud.

Here’s an example:

Original:

“De war commences but we doan know ’bout it when it start. Den somebody tell me de folkses way up in de North make de war so dey free us. I lak hear dat. But we wait and wait, we heard de guns shootee sometime but nobody don’t come tell us we free. So we think maybe dey fight ’bout something else.”

Translation:

The war (the Civil War) started but we didn’t know about it. Then somebody told me that people in the North started the war to free us (the slaves). I was happy to hear that. But we waited and waited, and we heard gunshots sometimes. But nobody came to tell us that we were free. So we though they were probably fighting about something else.”

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Mixing kawaii and grotesque

Comedian Naomi Watanabe may be “the Japanese Beyonce” (also here) and people have for years been saying that Hayao Miyazaki is “the Japanese Walt Disney” (see this and this and this for example). Now this article from the BBC asks, “Is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Japan’s Lady Gaga?” (it’s mostly an interview with the eccentric Japanese singer and fashion icon).

Some highlights:

  • Her image is called a combination of “kawaii and grotesque”. (That’s similar to Gaga.)
  • She likes Starbucks but doesn’t like coffee. (Maybe not so uncommon these days?)
  • Her private look is not as colorful as her public persona. (Makes sense.)
  • She doeesn’t mind being compared to Gaga, but they are both evolving, she says.

Summary task: Continue reading the interview and summarize your own “highlights”.

The 97%

This self-taught guitarist is from a small town in Russia. He was 19 when he did this.

Watch more of his renditions of popular songs on his YouTube channel.

And you can read an interview here. A couple of excerpts:

“I just play what I love in the style which I love.”

“I try my best to make my own music interesting and original.”

I liked it when he said it took him “a whole week” to learn to play it flawlessly. Like a week is a long time to be able to do that!

And the final question, about the secret to his success:

“Well, I think the secret lies in dedication and many hours of hard work. I don’t really believe in a “talent” and some natural abilities to play music. If the talent exists, it gives you only 3 percent of the success. The other 97 percent of the success are made only by you.