Object 2: A poem translated from Italian to English using google translator feature

May 27, 2021


Trilussa’s poem ‘Romanità’ is about what it means to be Roman and the preservation of Italian traditional culture. Beside the poem, there is a Chrome website translation of it (2021). One may argue that knowledge is accessible to everyone in spite of their language as Chrome translations allow people to translate any webpage into another language.

This object is interesting as it shows that these translations do not always work especially in literature where certain sayings are hard to translate. For example, the phonetics of the language play a crucial part in creating the meaning of a literary piece. Already, the poetic nature of this literary piece is lost, as rhyme does not translate, which impacts the way it is read. Moreover, some words cannot be translated into another language, such as ‘je’ or ‘gnente’; this is because the poem is written in a dialect which includes variations of the Italian language. It can be argued that all the Chrome translator needs to do is translate a text so that its content is understood, therefore rhythm and other literary devices are not needed.

Nevertheless, in many sectors incorrect translations could be perilous such as in medicine where a poorly translated diagnosis could be deadly for the patient. If an online translator is able to translate potentially ground-breaking medical information, it could aid patients throughout the world. Without this translation, the information would not be available therefore putting people’s lives at risk.

We can therefore argue that some knowledge such as poems belongs to particular communities of knowers; even though we have online translators to help us grasp their meanings, their peculiarities cannot be fully captured in a different language. Hence, the knowledge of this poem’s meaning belongs mainly to people who speak the Roman dialect.

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