Welcome to the first edition of the Gaeilge Chun Cinn newsletter, our new bi-weekly publication on the Irish language and English/Irish translation!
Anuraidh, d’obair an fhoireann Ghaeilge Chun Cinn ar scáth a chéile le haistriúcháin Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil de na físchluichí coitianta agus na meáin eile:
Hollow Knight - An Ridire Cuasach
As a small, volunteer-based team the work can sometimes be slow, but we frequently find ourselves having long, detailed conversations about the best way to convey a concept or sentiment in Irish. This led us to the idea that, in addition to our translation efforts, it could be helpful to publish abridged highlights of some of our more interesting or challenging conversations. We hoped that Irish language enthusiasts or those new to the language might find something of interest in them. Our published conversations might even invite translation suggestions from other amateur translators. Thus this newsletter was born.
It’s still early days for us with respect to publishing our discussions, so bear with us as we find our feet. But we are very much looking forward to hearing from interested readers, and working to improve this publication as much as possible. Just as our name says, we want to help advance Irish to the fore of the modern world.
Inside each edition you will find an update on the progress of our projects to date, as well as a series of short articles dealing with individual translation problems that members of our team found interesting. This may be an unusual word we found, or perhaps a compromise we were forced to reach in order to respect the differences between English and Irish.
For our inaugural edition, Gary has written about a new word he learned while translating Hollow Knight, while Cormac discusses the challenges behind translating metaphors from English to Irish.
Because we also want to help language learners, at the end of each issue you will find a few sentences in English which you might want to try your hand at translating for yourself. We’ll release our own Irish translations in each subsequent issue. If you’ve checked our answers and would like to suggest your own alternative, feel free! Send us an email and we’ll get back to you.
Updates on our Projects
Lately the team has been focused heavily on our longest ongoing project - the translation of Hollow Knight.
Hollow Knight is an absolutely massive videogame with several thousand lines of UI text, dialogue and other content which must be carefully translated. Last week marked a milestone for the team as they finally completed the translation of Hollow Knight’s journal entries. These entries were largely descriptions of fantastical creatures, and some ominous sounding poetry. Completing this tranche of work brings the project to approximately 65% completion with the bulk of remaining text being character dialogue. Yes, we feel this justifies a celebratory beer.
In addition, we have inherited a new project from a team member who recently joined Gaeilge Chun Cinn. This new member was originally working in his own time on the popular gothic survival game Don’t Starve. While we’re putting Don’t Starve on the back-burner for a while so we can focus on Hollow Knight, we’ve briefly reviewed the feasibility of continuing with this translation effort, and the outlook is good.
Article 1 - Let them fall upon their sword
Written by Gary
In English, there are many ways to express having the advantage over someone.
“The key to victory is the element of surprise. Surprise!”, “It’s over Anakin, I have the high ground.”, “John Doe has the upper hand.”
Not all of these phrases can be translated one-to-one into Irish. But then again, that doesn’t matter because the Irish language has its own way of expressing advantage.
So for this edition, my interesting translation from our Hollow Knight project is “Be wary, and time your strikes well!”, which we translated as “Bí ar d'airdeall, agus fan le faill orthu lena n-ionsaí!”
Specifically, I’m interested in that noun “faill”, which can broadly be translated to mean “opportunity”. But you wouldn’t use it in the same way you use “deis”. Faill is an opportunity wherein your opponent has dropped their guard, or otherwise exposed a weakness which you can exploit.
Article 2 - Watching out for word to word translations
Written by Cormac
Metaphors have abounded throughout our translation of the game Hollow Knight, but a particularly poetic one caught our eye:
“The expanse of dream in past was split,Seer
One realm now must stay apart,
Darkest reaches, beating red,
Terror of sleep. The Nightmare’s Heart.”
Now, one might say that it is hard enough to extract a clear meaning from metaphors, but translating them into Irish has proved especially challenging - what parts are most important? What can be changed? What can be kept? How literal should we be? Here’s our first attempt at a literal translation:
“Scoilteadh fairsingteacht na brionglóide,An Fáidh
Ní mór d’flaitheas amháin fanacht i gcéin,
An bun is duibhe, á lonrú go dearg,
Uafás an chodlata. Croí an tromluí.”
Not bad for a first draft - we’ve managed to regain the brevity and imagery of the original English without being stuck with the English words and phrasing - but there is still work to be done. For example, the word ‘fairsingteacht’ is here being used somewhat unnaturally, and our choice of ‘flaitheas’ might have been too literal a translation of the English ‘realm’. Additionally, our use of ‘ní mór’ to express need feels a bit clunky, especially given the poetic setting.
In translating such things, we’ve often found that breaking it down into its base elements helps immensely. For this particular translation we got:
“At some point in the past ‘dreams’ (the concept) was split in two,Seer
One of the split halves (nightmares) must now stay away from the other one (dreams),
This split half (nightmares) is dark and deep and pulsating / bloody red,
It terrorizes the sleeping, it is the heart of (all) nightmares.”
Far more understandable, but I’m sure we can all agree that translating this word-for-word would produce a pretty awful poem. However, now that we’re free from the metaphorical phrasings of the original English version, it becomes a great deal easier to understand the English sentiments and decide a phrasing that fits naturally and harmoniously with the flow of an Ghaeilge, as so:
“Do scoilteadh an bhrionglóid mhór,An Fáidh
A saorann suairceas ó dhuairceas na brionglóide,
Lonraíonn an duairceas go dubh, brionglóid is cródheirge,
Uafás an chodlata. Croí an Tromluí.”
With our second thorough edit we’ve managed to introduce even more native phrasings, including the contrast of ‘duairceas’ and ‘suairceas’ - a recurring theme in Irish, where positive s-words i.e. suairceas, solas, saoirse have an equivalent beginning with d- that means the opposite: duairceas, dolas, daoirse We therefore have that suairc represents the ‘split halve (dreams)’, freed from duairceas – ‘the split half of nightmares’.
In addition we’ve removed niche terms like fairsingteacht - opting for the term “an bhrionglóid mhór” for the latter to indicate the “expanse” of the original. “darkest reaches” implied that the darkness of the dream was being emphasised, and in light of our use of the word "duairc", the idea of lonrú and lonrú go dubh suited as an equivalent emphasis.
Despite all these changes, sometimes a more literal translation of the English works just fine for the Irish as well, as you can see in the first and last phrases.
Translations for the Reader
Below are five sentences for you to try your hand at. These all come from our Hollow Knight project and were a ton of fun to work on. We’ll post our own translations in the next edition. Good luck!
- You really would have to be a fool to be tricked by a plant.
- They can be hard to spot as they flitter in and out of the darkness. Watch for their glowing eyes.
- When they lunge at you, don’t panic. Stand your ground, and strike back as they come close.
- It seems like their energy is limitless! Do they ever stop to sleep, or eat, or love?
- May your efforts lead you somewhere worthy.