Thank you for your help on the Global Chaucers project. Your insights into the selected translation provides us with valuable insight for understanding how The Canterbury Tales have been recreated for non-Anglophone readers. The following list of questions and prompts suggest ways we are interested in your responses to the translation. You are not obliged to answer all the questions, and we encourage you to address issues that you find interesting but are not covered by the list. (Note: when you see the phrase “receiving language,” this refers to the language of the translation.)
- It would be helpful if you could begin by writing a short reader’s biography, telling us about both your history reading, speaking, and writing your first language, and your history reading, speaking, and writing English. You might indicate your comfort reading each language and the sort of literature you have previously read in each language.
- What was your motivation for taking a course on the Canterbury Tales? Before you read the translation, please briefly describe your impressions of what you’ve read so far in class. In addition to learning about what you have enjoyed thus far, we are also interested in knowing about any difficulties you have had with language or content when reading the (Middle) English text.
- Please note which English version of the Tales you are reading in class. If Middle English, which edition? If a modern English translation, which translator?
- Please read the translation now before you read the rest of the questions. As you read the translation, please take note of any place that surprises you in any way. Be certain to indicate why you found it surprising.
- Now, please read the next set of questions and keep them in mind as you re-read the translation.
- Please point out places where the translator uses idioms, slang, or colloquialisms. What do these words or phrases convey in the receiving language?
- How does the translation deal with specialized terms—religious, scientific, legal, or economic—of fourteenth-century English culture? One strategy translators often use is to find comparable terms in the receiving language, but that technique can be particularly difficult when the religions of the original and receiving cultures are significantly different. For instance, the word “pilgrimage” in Middle English has comparable terms in Arabic and Mandarin, but each of these terms has a very different connotation for its readers.
- How does the translation handle Chaucer’s metaphors and other figurative language? (See Jonathan Hsy’s discussion of Fang Zhong’s transformation of the “cuckold” metaphor in The Miller’s Tale.)
- Were you able to understand the translation without recourse to a dictionary?
- Were there places that the translator seems to have invented a word to convey a medieval English concept?
- Does the translation omit any important ideas or passages in the original Tales? Does it add ideas or lines not in the original?
- If you read the notes, introductions, and other background material appended to the Tales, how useful were they ? Did these aids help you understand the Tales better? Did you find that some of them contradict what you have learned in class?
- Chaucer conveys meaning through his use of rhyming iambic pentameter couplets, in particular because they reference a literary tradition that he wants to be associated with. What literary form does the translation use? Does it reference an important literary tradition in the receiving language? If so, can you tell us something about that tradition and how it would help shape a reader’s understanding of the translated Tales?
- What literary and cultural allusions does the translation make to the receiving language’s literary or cultural tradition? How do these allusions shape your understanding of the translated Tales?
- How does the translation handle emotions? Does it identify emotions that are presented metaphorically in the (Middle) English text? Or does it find another metaphor for expressing the emotion? Are there some emotions that seem untranslatable?
- After reading the translation, please reread to the English version you are reading in class. Did reading the translation help you understand the original better, maybe clarifying difficult passages or even allowing you to see subtleties that you missed the first time? Please describe that experience of rereading the English.
Thank you for your help! Keep an eye out on the Global Chaucers blog for a posting about what we learned from you!