Think of your favourite book. Got it? Was that book originally written in your language? Imagine if it wasn't. Perhaps it was originally written in French, or German. Now imagine that it was never translated into the language you read. The horror, I know.
Imagine if everything that was ever written, every story, every novel, every epic series, every classic, was never translated into any other language. Imagine if every book stayed in it's original language. How different would the reading world be? Would we even know that we were missing out on so many stories? Would we even care? If The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, had never been translated into English, would I have ever read it and loved it? I don't think I would have. But if I hadn't read it, or I hadn't had the chance to read it, given the language barrier, would I even know what I was missing out on? Would I even know that there was a story out there about a Little Prince who travels the stars? How much different would be life be, if I hadn't had the opportunity to read it in my mother tongue?
You might say it wouldn't be different at all; it's only a story after all. But what if my favourite series of all time, Harry Potter, had been originally written and published in any language other than English? I think my life would be vastly different because I wouldn't have read the books. I wouldn't have fallen in love with reading again, and I wouldn't have even had the opportunities that I have today because of that love of reading and reviewing all these stories. It may seem far fetched and a little crazy, but thank goodness Harry Potter was written in English. You know what else? Thank goodness that HP has been translated into over 60 other languages! That makes me so happy. Now all those generations of children in all those countries where English isn't the first language can read about the adventures and misadventures of our favourite literary trio and they, too, can learn that love is the ultimate force driving the universe, and that sometimes the bad guy is actually the best guy in disguise, and that "it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities"*. They can read Harry Potter, and numerous amounts of other amazing novels and stories, and fall in love with reading just like I did.
Similarly, if the Greek philosopher's texts hadn't been translated into English, imagine how different Western thinking would be? What if the great literature we now call the Classics only ever stayed in their original language? Goodbye Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, the Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Anderson (and therefore folk and fairy tales!), Dante, Anne Frank. More recent authors like Stieg Larsson and Haruki Murakami. Goodbye to so many authors and so many amazing stories that would only be read by the people who spoke that original language.
Translating books, it turns out, was the most genius idea ever. Without the translation of stories, we wouldn't learn from other cultures, we wouldn't hear other people's thoughts, opinions, ideas and wouldn't be able to take a glimpse into their amazing imaginations. We would be stuck, bound to whatever stories were being told in our own language. Yes, every culture and every people group and every language have their own stories, and they are wonderful and creative and thought provoking and inspiring...but they are all in a box encased by the language that binds them. Translating the stories breaks them out of those boxes, and spreads the stories around the world. It's sharing at it's finest, and I hate to think what the world would have been like without it.
What about you?
What are some books or stories you love that weren't originally written in your language?
*Said by Dumbledore, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling.
Image from Good Reads.
Disclaimer: This post was written at the invitation of Smartling. All opinions and thoughts and writing, however, are 100% my own, and are in no way influenced by Smartling.