Vince Imbat

Translating my favorite Thoreau journal entries

Jan 29, 2021

This is the process I follow in translating Henry David Thoreau’s journal entries from English to Filipino:

  1. I read all his journal entries for the given day. I use the one by Searls and Stilgoe. See references below.
  2. I then choose the best entry to translate and share. Some days, there will be multiple entries that are good for translation. I note all of these other entries as todos in Things. They will be translated on days when there is nothing to translate.
  3. I copy the entire original English quote into a new note. This is given a heading “Original”. Under it, I put the heading “Translation” and start translating.
  4. I will try to translate phrases, clauses, and even entire sentences by myself. When there is a challenging word, I open Google Translate to look for the most common possible translations. I don’t always use the word suggestions. Sometimes, they serve as prompts to remember a better word that I already know (A translator needs a personal word bank). The dictionary I use is: diksiyonaryo.ph, which is an incomplete online version of the UP Dictionary. I don’t currently have a Filipino thesaurus. In lieu of a thesaurus, I go back and forth between Google Translate, diksiyonaryo.ph, Merriam-Wesbter online dictionary, and Thesaurus.com.
  5. If I am translating a difficult English word (usually, these are old words that are no longer being used today), I would first use the context to give me a sense of what Thoreau is saying (Translators should aspire to ask how the person they are translating used the words). Sometimes, this will eliminate the need to translate the difficult word per se. Other times, the difficult word is so important in the thought of the sentence or even the entire passage that it really needs to be translated. In this case, I would check the English dictionary to understand what the word really means, including its etymology if available (I use etymonline.com. Next, I would try to use Google Translate to see if it yields translations that are close to the word’s definition. If this does not produce any good suggestions, I would then use the English thesaurus to look for a better synonym, which I then translate. I would repeat this process several times until I find the best word.
  6. After translating everything, I would then go back to each translation to furnish them further.
  7. My translation process usually ends by me including a byline of Thoreau with the following format: - Henry David #Thoreau (ika-[day] ng [month], [year], [age] anyos). I only include in the IG post where it serves as a call out link to all my translations in IG.
  8. I post the translation with a photo to accompany it (usually my own photos, sometimes I pull out a photo from Unsplash) first on IG. Then I share it publicly in Facebook.

As of 01-29-2021, all my current translations of my favorite Thoreau journal entries are rough drafts. My intention for doing them is simply to practice translating within a 30-minute period. I do not aim for perfection. I just want to establish the habit.

To do

# References

Thoreau, H. D., & Stilgoe, J. R. (2009). The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861 (D. Searls, Ed.; Illustrated edition). NYRB Classics.