Bossing babies, problems of translation

After a month long time with barely any babysitting – seems like forever – I have now added an extra morning – a friend of a friend who has a home daycare. There, this morning, Moomin discovered the joys of Bossing a Baby.

The Baby was one of those placid blobby ones, sitting firmly planted and immovable, grabbing whatever comes near with fat grubby hands. I forgot how babies just throw up without noticing; this one was nonchalant about it, almost debonair.

Moomin: No a baby hold this people. [gives fisher price little people thingie to baby]
Baby: Uh! [grabs]
M: No baby, no put it inna mouf. It goes here.
Baby: Uh! Ga! (slobber)
M: Silly baby. Put it here in a chair like this. Goes here.
Baby: [doesn’t mind when he grabs the thing back]
M: I show you. Like this!

Now here at home Moomin just put me to bed for a nap, bringing me a blanket, pillow, and fake bottle, kissing me and saying “Night night sleep tight”. “You go bed and I go bed. And close the eyes. No mama, no onna computer, go a bed.”

I spent some hours translating this morning – that was the point I was trying to get to.

I start out making a super rough translation either in my notebook or on the compu. I put any words I don’t know in square brackets.

Sometimes I get confused about verb tenses and look them up too, like if I forget if it’s first person or third person future conditional or whatever. It is even worse if I am stopped cold by some “would have been doing” sort of construction. Not being sure what the verb tense is makes the whole poem seem like nonsense – I can’t even tell what it’s about.

Then I go look up all the words I don’t know. I am mostly translating poems by one poet, Juana de Ibarbourou, and she has certain fads in words, so I know the Spanish for odd things like: drowning, misery, bleeding, sunset, wretchedness, anguish, bitter alkalinity, apathy, withered, poppies, lilies, wax candles you’d have at a funeral, nightfall, arrows, spears, desire, and last but not least, the words for “Take me now”.

So, when I look up a word, like “laceria” in the dictionary – I use Velasquez or the online DRAE, both good and literary – I write down a bunch of different word possibilities in brackets if there is any ambiguity, like so:

Ah! [Wretchedness/misery/oppression/poverty/(laceration)]!

I get to a stage where I have lines like this:

And perhaps the jasmine of birth
at the secret/hiddden/obscure/arcane vertex/zenith of the voyage

Then I read the mangled, overly wordy result a whole bunch of times. I fix easy things like
making “cistern of salt/bitter/alkali of my heart” instead be “heart’s salt-bittter cistern”.
And yet: [cistern? well? reservoir?]

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