Sunday, January 17, 2010

translating nonviolence

from the Albert Einstein institute translation procedures for translating texts on nonviolence:

Some of the English terms in this field do not translate readily into other languages. Other terms in this technique may be assumed at times to have exact foreign equivalents but those may not actually be accurate. For example, some persons have incorrectly translated the term “nonviolent action” into the target language as the equivalent of “passive resistance” although nonviolent action can be extremely active. Also, “nonviolent action” has often been translated as the equivalent of “nonviolence,” which also is inappropriate because “nonviolence” may be understood to involve ethical, moral, or religious beliefs (when the reality is that nonviolent action has been widely practiced by nonbelievers for pragmatic reasons). The widespread confusion between nonviolent action (or nonviolent struggle) and “nonviolence” is potentially very serious. Those beliefs in “nonviolence” may have their merits, but they are a
different phenomenon than pragmatic nonviolent struggle. When the term for
nonviolent action is mistranslated in this way, this technique may be summarily
rejected by persons and groups that regard themselves as realists. All persons
working on translations need to understand these differences very well.
There are additional issues with terminology as well. Direct equivalents
for “nonviolent action” and related terms may not already be in standard usage or
even exist in the target language. New terms may need to be coined and
introduced in some translations. For example, in Burma the term “political
defiance” was coined because anything called “nonviolent” had connotations of
passivity and naïveté.

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