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 drug ne more slišati otroka govoriti, samo jaz. Slišim jo, kako reče »gor« in »plosk«, slišim »stopnice«. Slišim »trak«. Nihče mi ne verjame, da moj otrok reče »trak«, a jaz to vem, saj obožuje tisti kos traku, ki je privezan na avtomobilska vrata in mu reče »tak«. Napeti moraš ušesa, priznam.
Že več mesecev imava razne dialoge. »A da da da,« pravi otrok. »A da di du da,« ji odgovorim. Pogovor je presenetljivo zapleten in v meni prebudi novo spoštovanje do ptic, kitov in šimpanzov. V treh ali štirih zlogih vseh kombinacij si poveva vse, kar sva si za zdaj morali povedati.
Vseeno pa sanjam o tem, da bi se deklica obrnila in bi iz njenih ust prišlo nekaj čudovitega, dolgega in skladenjsko neverjetnega kot: »Grem lahko v trgovino?« Vem, da se to skriva v njej – preden ji je uspelo izgovoriti svojo prvo besedo, so ji po obrazu že plesale cele povedi. Trik je v tem, da jih odkriješ – kot da bi razgrnil oblake.
Nič ni tako vznemirljivega kot govor. Otrok te pogleda, ko mu nekaj rečeš, in to, kar se zgodi med vama, ko ti to besedo vrne, je ljubezen in ljubezen, ki se vrača. To je pogled, ki je postal viden. Naučiti otroka govoriti pomeni dati mu svet. To je bolje kot hranjenje, pomislim, ko stojim za kuhinjskim pultom in k hčerkinemu dvignjenemu obrazu nosim koščke besed. Mislim, da so vse besede prikrito hranjenje, prošnja zanj ali njegovo dajanje. Vse besede se dogajajo v prostoru med tabo in tvojo ljubljeno mamo.
Imam teorijo, da imajo vsi pisatelji močne matere, resne matere, včasih zahtevne matere – ženske, za katere vedno veš, da so v sobi. To teorijo preizkušam na vsakem javnem branju ali konferenci in jo predstavim pri mizi. Zadnjič, ko sem to storila, se eden od pisateljev ni odzval. Zajokal je.
The text I decided to translate is 'Speech' by Anne Enright. Given the shortness of the text, one would think that there cannot be too many difficulties translating it, but as in any other text, there were a few things that required thorough reflection. Even though the challenges I faced were quite common, they deserve to be presented, as they reflect the differences between the English and Slovene language and the stages of a translation process.
The first challenge I encountered was translating the words baby and child throughout the text. In the English text, we can see that the two words were pronominalized by the feminine she or her, since the baby is a girl, but in Slovene the words dojenček and otrok are masculine, so the pronouns have to be masculine as well. In the first two paragraphs, where the sentences were short, this was not so much of a problem, but in the third paragraph, the noun and the corresponding pronoun occur in the same sentence /…/ I dream of the baby turning around and opening her mouth/…/ which is why I had to replace the word dojenček (baby) by the word deklica which translates to a little girl.
Another problem was translating words the baby said in the first paragraph, as I had to find Slovenian words that have the same meaning as the ones in the English text, but at the same time they had to be short and simple, so that a baby could be able to pronounce them. The first two words were easy to translate, as their Slovene equivalents are short and simple enough to be uttered by a child. However, the third and the fourth, stairs and string, would translate to stopnice and vrvica which have three syllables and could be a bit more challenging for a child to pronounce. I decided to keep the translation stopnice as this word does not have a close synonym in Slovene, whereas for string I opted for the word trak which is simpler in terms of pronunciation and translates to ribbon in English but still has a very similar meaning. When translating the sounds the baby and mother make in their little conversation in the second paragraph, I tried to imagine the sounds a baby would make in Slovene and transcribed that.
Another difficulty I faced was translating the expression at the end of the third paragraph: pulling down the weather. First, I had to discover the meaning of the “idiom” and then find an equivalent in Slovene. Since it is about uncovering the sentences on the baby’s face, I translated it by razgrniti oblake which is an equivalent of the clouds parting. Similarly, there was a problem translating dear old Ma. My first choice was to translate it literally by dobra stara mama, but the problem is that stara mama can have a different meaning in Slovene. It could have the same meaning as the English original or it could be understood as grandma. In order to avoid the ambiguity, I decided to omit the adjective stara (old) and translate it by ljubljena mama, ljubljena meaning beloved.