Sunday Salon: You’re Going to be a Famous Blogger, If You Aren’t Already and What Was Lost in Translation

This was my favorite bit of spam this week:

I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you
aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

I know it’s fake.  I know it’s computer generated algorithms with no human emotion behind it at all, but I considered publishing it anyway because of the “if you aren’t already” with the little smiling emoticon.

Who could resist?

Last week I wrote about the issue of what gets lost in translation and a line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Bless thee Bottom, bless thee. Thou art translated.

I’ve been using A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the original with my seventh graders for many years now.  I always use the original.  I don’t see any point in using anything else, but the books I have are the No Fear Shakespeare edition with a “translation” in “plain English” on facing pages.

Up to this year, it’s always been lots of fun.  This year some days were fun, some days were pulling teeth.  I’m not opposed to pulling teeth if I have to, some teeth need pulling, but I am opposed to Shakespeare in “plain English.”

Take a look at the above line in “plain English.”

God bless you, Bottom, God bless you.  You’ve been changed. Reborn.

Are 7th graders incapable of figuring out that “thee” means “you”?  Do the “translators” think the children will be confused about who is supposed to bless Bottom unless God is specifically mentioned?   “You’ve been changed” is more clear than “Thou art translated” I suppose, but wouldn’t “You’ve changed” be better?  Throwing in “Reborn” adds a level of meaning that suggests something religious has happened, which just seems wrong to me.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, here’s one more example of “plain English.”  Shakespeare wrote:

What Angel wakes me from my flowery bed?

As far as I know, none of my students have ever been confused by this line.  It usually gets a few laughs when we act out the scene.  If you don’t know it, Bottom, who has been turned into an ass (I do need to point out this joke to some students, but they always find it pretty funny.  Plus, we all get to say ‘ass’ in class.) Titania hears Bottom singing, wakes up and falls in love with him.  When the students act it out, it’s pretty funny.

In “plain English” the same line reads:

(waking up) What angel is this who’s waking me up from my bed of flowers?

Just how is that easier to understand?

The No Fear Shakespeare editions practically fell apart as the students read them, so I’m in need of new books after just two years.  I’m not sure that I will continue using A Midsummer Night’s Dream next year.  The department has a new reading list, Common Core, Project Based Learning, blah, blah, blah.  I might do it with the GATE class, which, by the way, the district is reinstating next year.   The regular 7th graders had a very tough time with the original, (some of them lost a lot of metaphorical teeth) and there’s no way I’m doing the “plain English” version again.

From what I’ve heard, the 8th graders all loved Macbeth which every 8th grader read for the first time this year.  They have a different “plain English” version but their teachers are all doing most of the play in the original.  It could be that 8th grade is the year to introduce Shakespeare to the masses.

I may do an abridged unit with the 7th grader next year.   We don’t have to read all of the play, but you can be darn sure that whatever we do read will be in the original.

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3 Comments

  1. The “plain English” version sounds just awful!

  2. Teresa says:

    I used those No Fear editions (or something similar) for Hamlet and Macbeth with my non-college-prep students when I was teaching. (My college-prep students only read the original.) Many of my general-level students struggled to read anything at all, and for those students, the plain English was helpful. I did make a point of having students read the iconic scenes and speeches in the original. I don’t remember being annoyed with the translations, although I admit I wasn’t paying close attention, as I was a new teacher barely hanging on. (And indeed I only hung on for a couple of years.)

  3. Ugh, those translations are not good. I can imagine how the translations would be useful (I guess?) for some of the more obscure, complicated, allusive Shakespearean speeches, but honestly I think students can do without them. I loved Macbeth in eighth grade (no translations required), and my brother-in-law teaches Twelfth Night every year to his ninth-graders, who eat it up with a spoon and beg for more (no translations for him either).

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