I’m a Translator

Sandbox challenge 31
The only colour photo of me as a toddler – handpainted

Being bilingual can be fun. It opens the world up to the nuances and subtleties of culture and languaging that is so hard to translate into another language. How do you translate a joke that is laden with dialect and localisms? Truth is, you can’t. It loses all context and falls flat.

TRH (The Retired Husband) and I are both Finnish born, first generation migrants to Australia. Being only seven when I crossed the oceans, I picked English up really quick. But I have also retained Finnish. I can speak, read and write it albeit it is what I would call ‘pedestrian. TRH on the other hand was sixteen so he has retained his mother language very well. Interestingly, we speak English at home unless we have Finnish speaking visitors. Our kids never really learnt much Finnish. They weren’t that interested to be honest. And to our shame, we didn’t push it either. They picked up the odd words. When they were little, we used to talk in Finnish to each other when we didn’t want them to understand what we were saying. THAT is something they did not like at all!

Mum and Dad – engagement photo

This preamble came about because I have once again immersed myself in translating Dad’s book from Finnish into English. Autobiographical to an extent, he wrote a book about the experiences of moving to a country where everything about life was different. Mixed into the stories he has woven in our family’s experiences too.

I wanted our kids to be able to read it. Hence, the translation. I’d got it to rough draft  in 1999! Life got in the way and it sat on the shelf gathering dust until I found it again in 2015. There was another, shorter hiatus in 2017 when it sat on the shelf next to my desk. In plain sight, not forgotten this time. Every now and then I would look at it, thinking it was time to finish it. Last week I started to do just that. This time, I thought, I will complete what I set out to do.

Me as a toddler
My brother Erkki, sister Ritva, and baby me

So I have been busy continuing to edit the rough draft. The story part of it is now done. It has been interesting to meander down those paths of long ago again. I still have the final formatting and ‘polishing’  left to do. That will test my IT skills.

Whilst editing it a couple of years ago, I posted a few excerpts  on my blog. Here they are for those who may be interested in having a read:

  • Our first, proper family holiday in Australia was to a cane farm in Queensland.
  • Dad met many interesting characters  over the years. Here he tells the story of how dynamite can be used to treat toothache.
  • Settling into a new country is hard enough. But when you add extreme heat to the mix of living in a migrant camp, it becomes really challenging.
  • Australia has some unique animals. Dad discovered some of them on this fishing trip in the wilderness of Tasmania.
  • Having your camping companion pull a gun on you and tell you not to move when you are having a quiet snooze can be somewhat nerve-wracking, as Dad found out.

© Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace
Always cherish each other

32 thoughts on “I’m a Translator

    1. It is special, Opher. I’m just sorry that Dad never got to do the sequel. He had so many more stories to tell. My nephew has recorded some of his story telling about his childhood years. We hope to transcribe those too. Dad used to have us in stitches many a time.

  1. This sound like a fantastic read. More power to you. Readers are always interested in what life is for others, especially transplants and joys and not of learning a new language and culture. 🙂

  2. Love this! What a great project to translate the original Finnish book. When you talk about speaking Finnish in front of your children when you didn’t want them to understand, that reminded me of my grandparents. They spoke French, a dialect of Cajun French. My grandmother had to learn English because she only spoke French at a young age. They would do that sometimes, speak Cajun French around us. I remember a few words. The funny thing is my grandmother taught me swearwords in Cajun French. What grandmother teaches their granddaughter to curse? Mine did! She was a nut, but she was loved. I took French in high school and I loved it, I took French courses in college and eventually took it as my major. After my car accident I lost most of it and didn’t practice enough to try to get it back. But whenever I hear French or see the words my ears perk up. I have an app downloaded that reteaches the basics. I play with the app every now and then, language is so wonderful!

    1. You’re right. It has been! I’ll have to remember that when it seems mundane 🙂 Growing up in my family was very different to what most kids experience, especially after Dad studied into the ministry. We were exposed to life with all its broken-ness through the work my parents did with the Finnish migrant community here in Australia. Apart from the ministry, they did a lot of ‘social work’. When working in Sydney, they actually booked into a hotel in the seediest suburb, Kings Cross, and went pub crawling in the evenings, under bridges, in the parks, looking for those addicted people who were lost in their helplessness and hopelessness. I was married by then, but on one of my holidays they took me for a stroll there. I can remember prostitutes offering him their services while Mum and I were standing right next to him!

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