No one else can hear the baby speak, but I can. I can hear her say ‘up’ and ‘clap’, I hear ‘stairs’. I hear ‘string’. No one believes my baby says ‘string’, but I know she does, because she loves the bit of string that is tied to the door of the car, and she says ‘shing’. You have to listen hard, I admit that.
For months we have been on call and answer. ‘Ah da da dah,’ says the child. ‘Ah dah dee doo dah,’ I say back. This conversation is surprisingly complex, and gives me a new respect for birds, whales and chimpanzees. With three or four syllables, in all their variations, we can say, the two of us, all that we need, for now, to say.
Still, I dream of the baby turning around, and opening her mouth to say something wonderful and long and syntactically amazing like, ‘Can I go to the shops?’ I know it is in there somewhere — before her first word was ever uttered, there were full sentences playing across her face. The trick is getting them out of there — like pulling down the weather.
There is nothing so exciting as speech. A baby looks at your face as you say a word, and whatever passes between you as you hear the word back, is love and love returned. It is the gaze made manifest. Teaching a child to speak is giving them the world. It is better than feeding them, I realise, as I stand beside the kitchen counter, dropping scraps of words to my daughter’s up-tilted face. And I think that all words are sublimated nurture, or a request for nurture, or its provision. All words happen in the space between you and your dear old Ma.
I develop a theory that all writers have Major Mothers, Serious Mothers, sometimes Demanding Mothers — the kind of women you always know when they are in the room. I test this theory any time I am at a reading or conference, I float it across the dinner table. The last time I did this, one of the writers did not answer. He had started to cry.
Anne Enright, ‘Speech’ in Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 171-72.
Nihče ne sliši govora punčke, razen mene. Slišim, ko reče 'gor' in 'plosk', slišim 'štenge'. Slišim 'trakec'. Nihče ne verjame, da moja dojenčica reče 'trakec', ampak vem, da to res počne, ker obožuje trakec, ki je privezan na avtomobilska vrata, pravi mu 'tak'. Dobro moraš poslušati, priznam.
Že nekaj mesecev vzpostavljava dialog. »A da da da,« mi pove hčerka »A da di du da,« ji odgovorim. Ta pogovor je presenetljivo zapleten, zaradi njega pa zdaj bolj spoštujem ptice, kite in šimpanze. S samo tremi ali štirimi zlogi v vseh možnih različicah, si lahko poveva vse, kar si, za zdaj, morava povedati.
Vseeno pa sanjam o dnevu, ko se bo dojenčica obrnila okrog in odprla usta in mi povedala nekaj krasnega in dolgega in skladenjsko čudovitega, na primer: »Grem lahko nakupovat?« Vem, da to skriva nekje v sebi – še preden je izrekla prvo besedo, so se na njenem obrazu prikazovale cele povedi. Le izbezati jih je treba ven, podobno kot informacije o vremenu.
Nič ni tako razburljivo kot govor. Dojenček te opazuje, ko izrečeš besedo, in to, kar se pretaka med vama, ko slišiš besedo nazaj, je ljubezen in vrnjena ljubezen. Zazrta drug v drugega se ubesedi vse. Otroku z učenjem govora odpreš svet. To je še boljše, kot če ga hraniš, ugotovim, ko stojim ob kuhinjskem pultu in spuščam koščke besed k hčerkinemu privzdignjenemu obrazu . In mislim, da so besede imeniten izkaz subliminirane skrbi ali prošnja za skrb, ali nudenje skrbi. Vse besede izhajajo iz razsežnosti med tabo in tvojo dobro staro mamo.
Razvila sem teorijo, da imajo vsi pisatelji Ukazovalne Mame, Resne Mame, občasno Zahtevne Mame - ženske, ki opozorijo nase, ko vstopijo v prostor. To teorijo preizkušam vsakokrat, ko sem na literarnem večeru ali na konferenci, predstavim jo pri večerji. Zadnjikrat, ko sem to naredila, mi eden od pisateljev ni odgovoril. Začel je jokati.
In her short story 'Speech', published as part of Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, Anne Enright describes the feelings that arose when her daughter was first learning how to talk. Even though the text is short and upon first reading may not seem too challenging, the process of translating it from English to Slovene turned out to be quite complex.
The first problem I encountered was the translation of baby sounds. Words, uttered by the baby in the source text, ‘up’, ‘clap’, ‘stairs’ and ‘string’, are short and composed of a single syllable. As I did not want to change to context of the story, I tried to keep their original meaning. The Slovene equivalent of ‘stairs’ has three syllables, so I opted for the informal expression ‘štenge’, which is shorter and composed of less syllables. The butchered word ‘shing’ was a bit more challenging to translate. The literal translation of ‘string’ is ‘vrvica’ which I believe a baby would not be able to pronounce. Instead, I opted for the word “trakec”, a diminutive form of ‘trak’ or ‘ribbon’. At first, I only changed one of the consonants, ‘tlakec’, to imitate the effect of the source text but then I shortened it into ‘tak’, to make it sound more believable.
Some expressions of the source text were vague and difficult for me to understand, such as ‘pulling down the weather’. I was unable to find the explanation for it, so I had to rely on my own interpretation. I decided to take the expression literally, as the action of pulling your finger down the screen of a device with a touch screen to refresh the weather app and so getting more information about the weather or ‘informacije o vremenu’. Another such expression was ‘the space between you and your dear old Ma’ which I decided to keep as vague as in the source text, using the word ‘razsežnost’ for ‘space’ and so allowing the reader to interpret it on their own. The expression ‘float it across the dinner table’ does not have an equivalent in Slovene so I translated it as ‘predstavim jo pri večerji’ or ‘I present it at dinner’ which is much more concrete and so maybe a part of the “flow” of the original text was lost.
I preserved the capital letters of ‘Major Mothers’, ‘Serious Mothers’ and ‘Demanding Mothers’ in my translation. Such use of capitalization is not common in Slovene, so there will be an even greater emphasis on these words in the target text. I feel like that fits the context as in this part of the text the narrator expresses the importance of mothers in the lives of their children.
The daughter’s speech causes the narrator to reflect on the relationship mothers have with their children. Such relationships are highly intimate and so is this text. Alongside a sense of intimacy, I also strove towards preserving the authenticity of the source text so the readers of the target text could also empathize with the narrator, regardless of being mothers or not.
I would like to thank our mentor Professor Marija Zlatnar Moe and my colleague Zarja Lampret Prešeren for their translation suggestions.