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.
Ingen kan høre babyen tale, men det kan jeg. Jeg kan høre hende sige ”op” og ”klap”, jeg hører ”trappe”, jeg hører ”tråd”. Ingen tror på, at min baby siger ”tråd”, men det ved jeg, hun gør, for hun elsker det stykke tråd, der er bundet til bildøren, og hun siger ”tåd”. Man skal høre godt efter, det indrømmer jeg gerne.
I flere måneder har vi pludret frem og tilbage. ”Ah da da dah” siger barnet. ”Ah dah dee doo dah” svarer jeg. Denne samtale er overraskende kompleks og giver mig en nyfunden respekt for fugle, hvaler og chimpanser. Med tre eller fire stavelser i alle deres variationer kan vi to, for nu, sige alt, hvad vi har brug for at sige.
Alligevel drømmer jeg, at babyen vender sig om og åbner sin mund for at sige noget vidunderligt og langt og syntaktisk fantastisk som ”Må jeg gå i kiosken?”. Jeg ved, at det er derinde et eller andet sted - før hendes første ord overhovedet blev ytret, spillede hele sætninger på hendes ansigt. Tricket er at få dem ud - som at trække skyerne ned.
Der er intet så spændende som sprog. En baby ser op på dit ansigt, når du siger et ord, og hvad end der sker mellem jer, når du hører ordet gentaget, er kærlighed og gengældt kærlighed. Det er en manifestation af blikket. At lære et barn at tale er at give dem verden. Det er større end at amme dem, forstår jeg, imens jeg står ved siden af køkkenbordet og drysser krummer af ord ned til min datters ventende ansigt. Og jeg tror, at alle ord har rod i omsorg eller er en anmodning om omsorg, eller er dets kilde. Alle ord opstår i rummet mellem dig og din kære gamle mor.
Jeg udvikler en teori om, at alle forfattere har Store Mødre, Alvorlige Mødre, nogle gange Krævende Mødre - den slags kvinder, man altid fornemmer, når de er i rummet. Jeg afprøver teorien, hver gang jeg er til en læsning eller konference, jeg lader den svæve over middagsbordet. Sidste gang jeg gjorde det svarede en af forfatterne ikke. Han var begyndt at græde.
Rebecca Marianne Lund
During the process I focused on keeping the translation as close in meaning as possible to the original sentences of the text, in order to retain the sentiment or feeling that is transmitted to the reader.
The main difficulty I encountered was the translation of words that were pronounced wrongly by the baby, e.g., ‘shing’ instead of ‘string.’ This posed several difficulties. Firstly, the sentence ‘I hear “stairs.” I hear “string”’ consists of alliteration which I intended to keep in my translation. Secondly, I had to ensure that the word I chose to translate ‘string’ with could plausibly be pronounced differently by infants, in the same way as the baby in the text pronounced ‘string’ as ‘shing’.
Another difficulty was translating phrases that have no counterpart in Danish, e.g., ‘go to the shops’ and ‘pulling down the weather’. The first example could be translated more or less directly into Danish, but the latter phrase could not. The direct translation of ‘weather’ in Danish would be ‘vejr’. This word, however, would not work, as it is ambiguous in Danish meaning both ‘weather’ and ‘breath.’ The use of ‘vejr’ would pose a risk of misunderstanding the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, an indirect translation had to be adopted. I chose to use the Danish word ‘skyerne’, meaning ‘the clouds’, to keep the concrete meteorological and the abstract metaphorical meaning of the sentence intact.
A third difficulty arose with the word ‘sublimated’, which can easily be confused with the word ‘sublime’. In the story ‘sublimated’ is used in the meaning of a process in which something is transformed or converted into something else. The Danish word for such a process would be ‘sublimering’. This word, however, is quite similar to the word ‘sublim’, meaning ‘sublime’ or ‘elevated’, but differs in meaning and is used less frequently. I therefore chose to take an indirect approach to my translation of it, in order to reduce the risk of it being misunderstood. I chose to translate ‘all words are sublimated nurture’ with ‘alle ord har rod i omsorg’, meaning literally ‘all words are rooted in nurture’. This choice of indirect translation was driven by a wish to emphasise that ‘nurture’ had been transformed into something new, ‘words’, and that the narrator is looking at the original form of ‘words’, being ‘nurture’.