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.”

Advertisements

Wind telephone

About the “wind telephone” in northeastern Japan, where you can “talk” to loved ones you have lost:


1. A short article from Atlas Obscura


2. Audio (with transcript) and video from Spotlight English


3. A more challenging audio (with transcript) from This American Life

 

“Well Being”

I’m sure this includes at least one metaphor about what’s going on in the world today. But anyway, it’s an enjoyable, suspenseful short film with a bit of a surprise at the end. And the title is perfect.