Lost in translation?

Deqa M. Abdi is the author of the Somali Folktale Collection, Stories of Silk / Sheeko Xariirah

For our blog, Deqa wrote a short reflection on the richness of languages such as the Somali language and some of the translation challenges African writers face when living in the diaspora.


"I have worked as an interpreter and I have also been translating Somali proverbs, anecdotes and folktales from Somali into English for a number of years.
The following are some reflections I have made and some challenges that I have encountered on the topic of translations as an African writer living in the diaspora. It can be very challenging to translate work from rich languages such as Somali to English, despite the English language being so complex and nuanced.
When it comes to storytelling as an example, at times, there are some concepts, ideas and experiences that simply do not exist ‘in the world of English’.
For instance, incredible Somali stories naturally happen to the backdrop of Somali nomadic life and to the hum of Somali everyday culture. This means that in the process of translation, sometimes the poetry of storytelling is lost in translation.
Moreover, as the world becomes more of a ‘global village’ and interconnected through the use of the internet/social media, certain traditions and cultural practices present in most tales have died out or are dying out.
And so not only does a writer like myself have to reacquaint themselves with some of the norms we may remember from childhood, sometimes it’s difficult to even find elders who actually properly remember all the details!
And so the business of translation which comes with its own set of challenges is often preceded by a certain type of cultural and linguistic excavation."
The  Somali Folktale collection Stories of Silk is a great Ebook, both for children and adults.
Stories of Silk, Somali Folktale Collection

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