We don't need translation

Words & music: 2001 Henrik Wigestrand

At the time of my English MA studies, the teaching of translation skills was more or less ignored as an issue/subject by the faculty.
After I had completed my degree, the first job I got was as a translator with IBM. In fact, they hadn't really been looking for a translator,
it was me who had applied for a technical/commercial job, adding that "IBM needs linguists!" Three months later, I received a surprising letter.
For my guest appearance (after i left the university) at the first MA student end-of-term party (including the staff), I wrote this song,
composed a Dylanesque melody, and the party easily joined in for the refrain.
 

Well, in case you don't know who I am, here's a brief biography:
I was also once a student at this university.
Years of uninspired studying and endless coffee breaks,
A lot of them a consequence of ART for goodness' sake.
That's not what I meant to tell you, I just treasure it somehow.
But apart from that, I studied mostly what you're studying now:

I can analyze most any text;
And read between the lines;
I can count the verbs and nouns;
I can interpret and define.
Spot the literary influence
from Fitzgerald or Hem;
Show the good Old English origins
from which some words do stem.

And I also can detect
If a text is in a certain style or genre or sociolect,
(And a natural thing, of course, is
finding secondary sources).

But there's one modification where translation is concerned:
Translation is a thing
we never learned.
'Cause they said:

No, no, you don't need translation,
No, no, you don't need translation,
You speak English and Norwegian, and that's all you need, you see -
Translation comes naturally.

Well I ended all my studies in god knows how many years,
And went out into the world among the Prufrocks and the Lears,
And I tried to get a job, but they were few and far between,
Cause the world just don't appreciate us, as you may have seen.
But at last I got an offer of employment in the State:
(They said) "We've got this English text here that we want you to translate."
(And I said: "Whaddaya mean translate? I sing:")

No, no, you don't need translation
No, no, you don't need translation,
You speak English and Norwegian, and that's all you need, you see -
Translation comes naturally.

Well, they didn't ask me twice, and my advice was overruled.
They engaged some other fool from Agder District High School.
But I got another offer from a vendor of machines,
They said: "We've got this English text here - can you tell us what it means?)
(and I said: What do you mean, tell you what it means??")

I can analyze it for you;
I can read between the lines;
I can count the verbs and nouns,
I can interpret and define.
Spot the literary influence
in Fitzgerald or Hem;
Show the good Old English origins
from which the words do stem.

And I also can detect
If a text in is a certain style or genre or sociolect,
But to tell you what it means, you mean Translate it?? Don't you see:
Translation comes naturally.

Well, I'm still just as unemployed, and work's still hard to find.
But now I'm in good company with others of my kind.
And every other Monday when we go to get our dole,
We all chant in four part harmony from the bottom of our soul
(And maybe you will sing along with us one day):

No, no, we don't need translation,
No, no, we don't need translation,
We speak English and Norwegian, and that's all you need, you see -
Translation comes naturally.

I need translation like a hole in my head.
And to earn my daily bread.


(Contents)(Previous)(Next)