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.
‘Oku ‘ikai ha to e taha ‘oku fangongo ki he lea ‘a e pēpee ka ko au pē. ‘Oku ou fangongo ki he‘ene pehē ‘ki ‘olunga’ pea ‘pasipasi’, ‘Oku ou fanongo ki he ‘sitepu’. ‘Oku ou fanongo ki he ‘loufau’. ‘Oku ‘ikai tui ha taha ia na‘e lea mai ‘eku pēpē ‘loufau’, ka ‘oku ou ‘ilo na‘e lea pehē, koe‘uhī ‘oku sai‘ia ia ‘i he ki‘i konga loufau na‘a ku nono‘o ‘i he matapā ‘o e kaa, pea na‘e pehē mai ‘fau’. ‘Oku ou tui ‘oku totonu ke ke fakafanongo lelei ‘aupito.
Kuo ngaahi māhina lahi ‘emau ui mo tali. ‘‘Āa ta ta ta’, ko e pēpee mai ia. Pea u pehē atu au ‘‘Āa, ta, ti, tu, ta’. Ko ‘ema fepōtalanoa‘akī na‘e faka‘ohovale pea to e faingata‘a, pea ne ‘omai kiate au ‘a e fa‘ahinga faka‘apa‘apa fo‘ou ki he manupuna′, tofua‘ā mo e fanga ngeli′. ‘I he silapa tolu pē fā, pea mo hono ngaahi kalasi kehekehe, na‘a ma lava ‘o lea lōua‘aki, ko e me‘a pe ‘oku ma fiema‘u he taimi ni′, ke lēlea pē.
Kaneongo ia ‘oku ou misi ki he pēpee ‘oku tafoki mai, mo fakamanga hono ngutu′ ‘o lea‘aki ha me‘a fu‘u mātu‘aki fakaofo mo fuoloa hangē ko eni′, ‘E lava ke u ‘alu ki falekoloa?’ ‘Oku ou ‘ilo ‘oku ‘i ai pē ‘i ha fa‘ahinga feitu‘u – kimu‘a ‘e ne pu‘aki mai ‘ene ‘uluaki fo‘ilea, na‘e ‘osi ‘asi mai ‘i hono matā ‘oku kakato pea hokohoko lelei pē ‘a ‘ene ngaahi sētesi′. Ka ko e fakapulipuli′ ke tuku mai ia ki tu‘a. – hangē ko hono puhi hifo ‘o e ‘ea.
‘Oku ‘ikai ha to e me‘a ‘e fakaofo ange ‘i he lea′. ‘E sio e pēpee ki ho mata′ he taimi ‘oku ke lea‘aki ai ha fo‘ilea, pea mo e hā pē ha fa‘ahinga me‘a ‘oku mo fepaasi‘aki ‘i ho‘o fanongo ki he fo‘ilea′, ko e fe‘aveaki pe ‘o e ‘ofa. Ko e ngaahi sio fakamama‘u′ ‘oku ne fakafehokotaki′. Ko hono ako‘i ha ha valevale ke lea ko hono ‘oange ia ki ai ‘a e māmani′. ‘Oku laka ange eni ‘i ho‘o fafanga kinautolu′, ko ‘eku fakatokanga‘i′ ia, he‘eku tu‘u he ve‘e tepile ‘i peito′, ‘o ‘oange ‘a e fanga ki‘i mokimoki‘i lea ki he hanga hake ‘a ‘eku ki‘i ta‘ahine′. Pea ‘oku ou fakakaukau ai ko e fo‘ilea kotoa pē ko hono fuofua tanumaki ia mo ohi ‘a e tokotaha ko eni′ ki he mo‘ui feohi lelei ‘o hotau fa‘ahinga′. Ko e fo‘ilea kotoa pē ‘oku hoko ia ‘i he vā ‘o ‘ou mo ho‘o fa‘ē ‘ofa′.
‘Oku ou fokotu‘utu‘u ha motolo fakafilosifia tokua ko e tokotaha fatutohi kotoa pē ‘oku ‘i ai ‘enau Fa‘ē Fita mo Mahu‘inga, Fa‘ē Fakamaatoato, pē ko e Fa‘ē Anga Mālohi - ko e fa‘ahinga fefine eni ‘oku ke ‘osi ‘ilo pē ‘e koe ‘a e taimi ‘oku nau ‘i fale ai′. ‘Oku ou tesi‘i ma‘u pē ‘a ‘eku motolo ko eni ‘i he taimi ‘oku ou lau tohi ai′ pē ‘i ha konifelenisi, pē ‘oku ou talanoa‘i ia ‘i he tēpile kai′. Ko e taimi fakamuimui taha na‘a ku fai ai eni′, na‘e ‘ikai ke tali mai ‘e ha tangata ‘i he kau fatutohi′. Ka na‘e kamata ia ke tangi.
Anne Enright, ‘Speech’ in Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood, London: Vintage, 2005, 171-72.
The Tongan language (Lea Faka-Tonga) is the official and indigenous language of the Kingdom of Tonga, also known as the Friendly Islands in the Pacific (Guile, 2005). English is the other official language. Lea Faka-Tonga is now spoken by more than 100,000 around the world. It is one of the most ancient of the Polynesian languages and is a branch of the Astronesian language family (Campbell, 2001). There are two Polynesian languages spoken in Tonga. They are Lea Faka-Tonga and Lea Faka-Niua (Niuan Language). Lea Faka-Tonga is a Tongic language related to Vagahau Niue. Lea Faka-Niua, spoken in Niuafo‘ou and Niua Toputapu, is a Samoic language, related to Western Polynesian languages such as Gagana Tokelau and Gagana Sāmoa (Ministry of Education, 2012). However, in any language the written form is different from its spoken form in many respects. Tongan like other Polynesian languages has a much stronger and richer oral tradition compared to its written tradition and that “literature in Tongan, fiction as well as nonfiction, is almost non-existent” (Otsuka, 2007, p. 457). This makes translation into Tongan from another languages very challenging. Lea Faka-Tonga has six unique characteristics that are historically significant. Some of these characteristics came through in the translations of Anne Enright’s work into Tongan as discussed in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, the Tongan spelling is phonemic. That is, Tongan words are spelled the way they are pronounced and pronounced the way they are spelled. Relatively few languages can boast of this convenience. All consonants are separated by a vowel. And all words end in a vowel (Shumway, 1978). All the words in this Tongan translation of Enright illustrate this, as in fifili, falelotu and ‘Ailani on the first line of the God (‘Otua) extract.
Secondly, Lea Faka-Tonga includes many old words and expressions for ancient customs and cultural items that are now extinct in Tonga. These Tongan vocabularies are used in oratory and poems that help effective communication amongst the Tongan people. Tongans who live in the diaspora in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and around the world who do not know how to speak in Tongan will find it hard to understand and conduct Tongan customs and traditions (Taumoefolau, 2006). Lea Faka-Tonga is crucial to communicate authentic Tongan culture (‘ulungaanga Faka-Tonga), which is fundamental to the whole of Tongan society. Since the setting of the narrative of these extracts were not in Tonga and characters were not Tongans there are no words in the story that relate to this characteristic of the Tongan language.
Thirdly, there is the honorific speech register that reflects Tonga’s hierarchical social structure with the King and the royal household at the apex, followed by the nobles at the next level down, then the elites, with the commoners at the base (Kalavite, 2010). There are different sets of vocabularies used for each level of the social hierarchy. This honorific register was further categorised by Taumoefolau (2012) into six different ways of talking. Starting from the top level of the hierarchy there is, first, lea fakatu‘i (regal level); two, lea fakahouhou‘eiki (chiefly level); three, lea fakamatāpule (polite level); four, lea faka‘aki‘akimui (self-derogatory or humble level); five, lea tavale (everyday conversational level); and six, lea ‘ita (abusive language level). In this translation I used a mixture of levels three, polite level; and level five, the everyday conversational language.
Fourthly, there are some English words that cannot be translated into Tongan as they have no English equivalent to translate it correctly and effectively, for example the word ‘cult’. I translated it as ‘kulupu fulikivanu, anga mālohi, fakavaleloto, mo ivi mālohi’ (a group that is bizarre, strong headed, eccentric, weird, peculiar, and powerful). In this context I explained the word (give the meaning) because there is no Tongan word that is equivalent to cult. Another example is ‘mobile’ I literally translated it as ‘mopila’ then I give a full explanation like this, koe me‘ava‘inga ‘oku ngāohi ‘o tui ki ai e fanga ki‘i me‘ava‘inga kehekehe ‘o tautau he mohenga pēpee pea ‘oku ngaungaue ‘o va‘inga ki ai e pēpee ‘i he‘ene tokoto hono mohenga′ (a mobile is a toy structure attached on top of a baby’s cradle. Smaller toys that are hanging from the structure move when the baby moves, which excites the baby). Another example are the translations of names where I put the English name in brackets, as in, Monitolieni (Mondrian) and Tapulini (Dublin).
Fifthly, there is no smooth transfer of meaning between English and Tongan because the structure of the Tongan language is entirely different from the structure of the English language (Taumoefolau, 2004). This is because writing in English and writing in Tongan follow different rules. There is nowhere where one can acquire the art of writing in different genres in Tongan as these are no set rules or regulations to guide Tongan writers on how to write fiction, non-fiction and newspaper columns in the Tongan language. Nevertheless, the basic Tongan sentence structure follows a verb–subject–object (VSO) pattern (Volkel, 2010). English follows five basic syntactic structures: (1) subject–verb (SV), (2) subject–verb–object (SVO), (3) subject–verb–adjective (SVAdj), (4) subject–verb–adverb (SVAdv) and (5) subject–verb–noun (SVN) (Kalavite, 2019). I opted to transform these English sentence patterns to fit Tongan’s standard of VSO pattern. In the extract Time (Taimi) the first sentence that reads ‘My earliest memory is of a pot stand’ (SVN) is translated as ‘Ko ‘eku fuofua manatu ko ha tu‘u‘anga kulo’ (VSO) (is my earliest memory of a pot stand).
Finally, the inclusion of diacritical marks (ngaahi faka‘ilonga) in the translation is vital so that the narrative makes sense to Tongan readers. These are first, the fakau‘a [ ‘ ] not [ ’ ] the apostrophe symbol: Fakau‘a faces to the right like an inverted comma while the apostrophe faces to the left. Fakau‘a represents the sound of the glottal stop and it is a consonant in the Tongan language. Using a glottal stop can make a difference to the meaning of the word; for instance, ‘ofa (with a glottal stop) means ‘love’ while ofa (without glottal stop) means “to measure in fathom”; secondly, the use of toloi [macron: ā] can make a difference to the meaning—for example, pēpē (with macron) means ‘baby’ but pepe (without macron) means ‘butterfly’; thirdly, the fakamamafa pau [ ′ ] definitive accent; fa‘ee′, falls on the final vowel of a word and indicates definiteness. As an example of the difference that the definitive accent can make, take the word fa‘ē (mother). Ko e fa‘ē means “a mother,” but ko e fa‘ēe´ (with the definitive accent) means “the mother.” Finally, the speakers of Lea Faka-Tonga normally stress the second-to-last vowel or syllable of words (fakamamafa he lea fie pipiki’ [Na‘a′ ku]). One-syllable words in the Tongan language can’t be spoken in isolation, and so they are pronounced as part of the preceding (or following) word. This means that a one-syllable word (an enclitic) at the end of a sentence is pronounced as the final syllable (or vowel) of the preceding word. For example, in the extract of Time (Taimi) the phrase ko e ‘uluaki faikehekehe ‘o e ongo me‘a′ ni, the a in the word me‘a is stressed because it is followed by the enclitic ni. The differences in pronunciations reflect the differences in meanings. These conventions on diacritical marks in the Tongan language are used throughout the story.
This Tongan translation of Anne Enright’s work is a strongly literal rendering of the English version into Tongan, basically, to convey a clear meaning of the narratives for common contemporary Tongans to enjoy. This translation attempted to preserve as many of the original elements of the extracts as possible (for example, the country in which the story occurs, cultural icons and customs).
Guile, Melanie. 2005. Tonga: Islands of the South Pacific. Sydney, NSW, Australia: Carmel Heron.
Kalavite, Telesia. (2019). Tongan translation realities across tā (time) and vā (space). Journal of
New Zealand and Pacific Studies 7:2, pp. 173-183.
Kalavite, Telesia. (2010). Fononga ‘a Fakahalafononga: Tongan Students’ Journey to Academic
Achievement in New Zealand Tertiary Education. PhD Thesis, The University of
Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
Ministry of Eduation. 2012. Ko e fakahinohino ki he lea Faka-Tonga: The Tongan language guidelines. Wellington, New Zealand: The Learning Media.
Otsuka, Yuko. 2007. Making a case for Tongan as an endangered language. The Contemporary Pacific, Volume 19, (2). pp. 446-473.
Shumway, Eric. B. (1978), Intensive Course in Tongan. Honolulu, HI: The University Press of
Taumoefolau, Melenaite. 2004. The translation of Queen Salote's poetry. In S. Fenton (Ed.), For better or for worse: Translation as a tool for change in the South Pacific (pp. 241-272). Manchester, England: St Jerome.
Taumoefolau, Melenaite. 2006, 30 September - 2 October. Mahu'inga 'o e lea faka-Tonga: The importance of the Tongan language, Kosilio 'a fafine Tonga Nu‘usila Conference 2006.
Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Taumoefolau, Melenaite (2012). Tongan ways of talking, The Journal of the Polynesian Society 121:4, pp, 327-37.