Self-literal translation has the potential to be a powerful method for translating text from any language into a second language. In theory, a person’s very own experience and interpretation of language can help them to produce the desired translation. The most common approach to this is through passive (or submissive) translation where the translator selects a passive phrase or word that matches the intended message and leaves the rest up to the reader’s interpretation. Although this may seem like an easy approach, passive translations are not without their problems.
First, readers are more likely to take the text literally than an author might hope. While there is no textual proofreading involved, readers are usually sensitive to attempts at literary translation. Second, the reader’s interpretation of texts in other cultures may differ significantly from her own. Her own cultural context and experiences may yield different interpretations of events and words than those derived from a translation. A major challenge for a translator is how to ensure that her chosen translation does not unintentionally imply or misrepresent an inaccurate meaning. When this happens, the result can be damaging to the reader and the work itself.
On the other hand, some passive texts can be extraordinarily useful for translation. One classic example is when a child translates a text without being guided by the text’s intended message or interpretation. For example, a child might translate “A boy likes to play with a wooden doll” as “The doll likes to play with him.” By playing the role of both the child and the text’s subject, the child creates a highly customized and self-directed translation that yields a uniquely personal reading experience. Other common examples of these texts include self-made enunciation patterns, using poetic meter, and employing a variety of stylized languages (such as colloquial or non-linguistic Japanese) in order to create a unique voice.
The primary difficulty in the enjoyment of a text lies in the reader’s inability to fully appreciate or even fully comprehend the text’s underlying source language. For example, many textiles produced in pre-modern times only represent the cultural messages contained within the woven textiles themselves. However, new technologies make it possible to produce textiles that accurately represent a variety of cultures while still maintaining their native language meaning. As such, while an English textile without cultural context may convey accurate messages regarding love, friendship, or other meaningful qualities, its meaning may be quite different in the eyes of a Native American, Chinese, or Japanese person.
The challenge to interpret a text largely arises from the very nature of textiles, which are typically constructed with a background of natural materials and colors. When these natural materials and colors are combined with patterns created through different processes, textiles can convey an infinite array of messages, both intentionally created and unintentionally. Therefore, when learning to interpret a text, one should take the time to consider not only what is written on the textiles but also what these textiles have to say about the culture they originate from. This way, a person can enjoy the pleasure and pain of self-translation without having to worry about missing out on the cultural meaning behind the text’s inherent elements.
However, while understanding the pleasure and pain of self-translation is important for understanding the textiles, it is also important to consider how these textiles can affect us in terms of communication. One way to illustrate this is through the practice of body reading. Body reading is a common practice among people of all ages and cultures. Body reading is done by gauging how a certain text and its corresponding textile seem to affect the wearer’s body. By interpreting how a text and its associated textile affect one’s body, one can learn to appreciate the textiles more as an art form and gain a deeper understanding of the message they carry.
Another way to look at reading a text is to consider the meaning of the text itself. Many people who read ancient texts, for example, do so with an understanding of the culture that created the text and the emotions it expresses. This not only makes them more intelligent people, but it also makes them more open to new ideas and experiences. However, with many of the modern texts that we consume today, we are often confronted with texts that present a message that is understood, interpreted, and dismissed without being subjected to the culture from which it came. This not only effects how a text is received, but it also means that we fail to understand the true message that lies underneath the surface of the text.
The pleasure and pain of self-translation has been examined and discussed by many cultures around the world for centuries. In recent years, this literature has grown exponentially. Thanks to internet resources, more people have taken advantage of this literature to create, explore, and promote a deeper understanding of their native cultures.