Saturday, July 03, 2010

Language - Random Thoughts Plus a Few Photos

A few random thoughts on language and several shots of the interior of the lovely Bernini Chiesa di San Tommaso di Villanova at Castel Gandolfo taken a few weeks ago on a Sunday spent in the Castelli Romani region just outside of Rome.

The church of San Tommaso di Villanova shares Piazza Liberta with the facade of the Papal Palace. It was commissioned by Pope Alexander VII (Chigi) and built by Gian-lorenzo Bernini. Typical of Bernini it is filled with light and the stucco work by his disciple Antonio Raggi adds to an atmosphere of elegance I find often lacking in so many Baroque churches.

I've just finished one of my monthly marathon sessions of translating for the tri-lingual (French-English-Italian) Ballet magazine - Ballet2000. I'm not sure what the magazine circulation is but I know that every month I get reviews and media reports from around the world in Italian and French and turn them into, what I hope, is acceptable English. Like many of the people involved with the magazine, the publisher Alfio , his assistant Cristiano and my friend Simonette - I really must have words with her, she tricked me into this - I do it mostly for love. And for the education - I am learning much about Italian, French, English and the language of dance.

As I was struggling with a particular turn of phrase in Italian yesterday the vagaries of language were reinforced. I tried a literal translation - it didn't work; I contacted my friend Marco who played around with it but again no success. If I recall his exact words where: If you can make this into English it is a miracle. After awhile I went for the idea - and it took a fair bit of digging to find it - more than the words themselves and found I was able to convey the message even though the way of doing it was not the same. The riches of one language do not always translate freely into another but there is always a way.

The church is a cruciform with a soaring dome at the centre. I find here the stucco work that so often can become overbearing has just the right touch and the creams, whites and yellows give it a simple richness.

Conversation on the Internet:
Marco: I am going to the beach with a friend (girl) tomorrow

Me: Why do you always tell me the sex of the person you are doing things with?

Marco: Because your stupid language does not have a word for a friend who is a girl or a friend who is a boy.
He's right of course - there really is no way in English of indicating gender for words like friend and if I say "girl friend" or "boy friend" it has an entirely different meaning.

Stupid Language!

The Raggi stuccos depict the four Evangelists with their respective emblems which in the Renaissance had a layer of meanings. St. Matthew is symbolized by a winged man or angel signifying the human nature of Christ. St Mark is accompanied by a winged lion, a figure of courage and monarchy. The lion* had many meanings in the iconography of the Christianity of the period.

In innumerable conversations:

Marco (again): Will, I will tell you a thing.

I always knew he meant "something" but never corrected it because frankly it has a charm which I like and I find I am using it in conversation now to. Of course its a direct translation from the Italian: una cosa. Or the French: un chose. Again one of those interesting vagaries of language.

St Luke is shown with a bull or ox - a sacrificial beast to represent the sacrifice of Christ. While the fourth Evangelist, John, is shown with an eagle. It was thought that eagles, creatures of the air, could stare straight into the sun. At the base of each relief is the coat of arms of Alexander VII and the Chigi family. The six mountains topped by a star can be seen throughout Rome and the old Papal states - Alexander was a Pope who built - and built to be remembered.

I make no bones about the fact that I have been going to a therapist for the past six months - for all sorts of reasons that need not be gone into here - and one thing keeps popping up in our sessions : language. My ability (as poor as it is) with my own, my inability to speak other languages - reading and writing are no real problem otherwise why would I do translating???? but speaking I bumble through - my concern (bordering on the obsessive) over choosing the right word even in our sessions. One of these days we may get to the root of why everything about me seems to centre around language.

*Amongst the believes at the time was that lions slept with their eyes open - ever vigilant. And it was also thought that they died at birth only to be returned to life three days later. Those believes along with the attributes of majesty and power made the lion a perfect symbol of the Christ.

03 lulgio - San Tommaso Didimo

Enhanced by Zemanta