Saturday, September 8, 2012

Reading Ramona en Espanol

Ramona la chinche, the 1984 Spanish translation of Ramona the Pest, made a good novelty gift for a children's lit geek who studied and enjoyed Spanish through high school and slightly into college. I probably wouldn't have sought it out, but since I had it in hand, I read it out of curiosity. What would it be like to read a familiar text in a language that's mostly been dormant in my head for about a decade? How would a story whose most memorable parts in my mind had to do with misunderstanding of language handle translation?

It turned out to be a lot of fun. If I hadn't already known the story, it would've been much harder to get my bearings, but as it was, I only turned to the dictionary a few times, and most of those times were more out of curiosity than out of a sense that I was lost. At the beginning, I found myself saying the English meaning of each sentence in my head, but once I got into the flow of reading in Spanish, I rarely did that. The reading obviously took much longer than it would've taken to read a similar book in English, but every time the meaning of a funny line became clear, I had a visceral laugh reaction, I guess because I had to work harder to get to the joke. It's been a long time since I was a new reader, but this experience reminded me a bit of that one. Being fairly sure but not certain that conejo means rabbit, and then turning the page and seeing one pictured, lends a satisfaction similar to what many new readers must experience as they tentatively sound out words.

The translation follows the original almost completely, at least as far as I could tell. The only story difference I noticed, beyond changes in example words Srta. Binney uses to teach phonics, was that the tooth fairy became "el ratoncito que se lleva los dientes" (the mouse who takes the teeth). Some small moments in the story felt slightly old-fashioned to me (the original was first published in 1968), and I'm sure there are bits that might seem strange to someone from a different culture, but basically, starting school is starting school.

And in answer to my biggest questions, "Sit here for the present" translates directly. "Dawnzer lee light" does not, obviously, but footnotes can do anything.

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