Translators' Conference

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The Second Translators Conference was held in Paris during the weekend of October 31 through November 2, 1997.

One of the challenges faced by a translator is how to translate words that are unique to The URANTIA Book, words such as "Divinington," "morontia," and "absonite." In Chinese, for example, does one translate "Divinington" as perhaps "Sphere of the Divine Ones"? Or does one transliterate it? Transliterate means not to translate it but to take letters from the Chinese characters, for example, and put them together in such a way that, when pronounced, one hears "Dee-vee-ning-tuhn" or something close to it. When an English-speaking person, or a person speaking one of the Latin languages, reads the word "Divinington," he or she gets a feeling that it refers to a place where divine beings reside. However, the sound "Dee-vee-ning-tuhn" connotes nothing in Russian and may have an unpleasant meaning in Chinese.

To translate or to transliterate? That was one of the major questions at the Translators Conference. In the French, Spanish, Finnish, and Dutch translations, "Divinington" appears exactly as it appears in the English text. That is, it is transliterated. In the Russian translation, however, "Divinington" is translated as "Sphere of Deity."

Transliteration can present peculiar problems. Take "Coca-Cola" for example. In written Chinese, there are four characters which, if put together in the proper order and pronounced, make the sound "koh-kah koh-lah," which in Chinese means "bite the wax tadpole." Understandably, the Chinese were reluctant to imbibe a beverage with such an unpleasant name.

In the 1970s, General Motors introduced a car called the "Nova." When GM tried to sell the "Nova" in Mexico, it was a flop. Why? Perhaps because "nova" in Spanish means "it won't go" or "it doesn't go."

From Friday afternoon until Sunday noon, translators from a dozen countries debated the question of whether "to translate" or "to transliterate." There were two schools of thought on the question: One group of translators held that there should be a "hard and fast rule" that words such as "Divinington" and "absonite" should be transliterated in all languages. The other group of translators maintained that words such as "Divinington" should be transliterated in some languages (especially Indo-European languages) and translated in others. This group thought that the decision to translate or transliterate should be left up to the chief translator of each language.

Since the translators could not reach consensus, the Trustees reaffirmed their rule that the chief translator of each translation team has "the last say."

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