I haven’t tried translating Bengali before, so while I am mightily impressed that My Bangla Diary should have come up with the idea of a translation project, it does fill me with some trepidation.
The first part of The Pooh Project, which centres around translating excepts from A.A. Milne’s children’s classics into Bengali, starts with the naming the characters.
I have a rather literal bent of mind for these things, so my first port of call was a dictionary (Hanne-Ruth Thompson’s Bengali Practical Dictionary as it happens, about which I must write more soon).
Happily it provided a starting point for many of the names, even, surprisingly, Kanga’s.
For those names that aren’t can’t be as directly translated as Rabbit or Piglet I suggest a transliterated form of the original. Forcing words written in one language out of their original and into the new one could strip them of their charm – Pather Panchali with an Adam instead of Apu just wouldn’t be the same.
Winnie-the-Pooh – pu, pu baluk (the Winnie part of the bear’s name I can’t decide about)
Christopher Robin – Kristopher Robin
Piglet – suyor chana
Eeyore – the problem here is that eeyore is the sound a donkey makes, and it’s the name of the character that is a donkey, so the onomatopaeic original, rather than chagal, makes sense, as perhaps Eyor
Roo – the joey, or baby kangaroo, could still be ru (the dictionary shows ‘kangeroo’ as ‘kyaengaru’)
Kanga – the a mother kangaroo – kyaenga
Rabbit – khorgos
Tigger – a corruption of Tiger, so baagh
Owl – the dictionary shows both pecok and pyaeca – the former sounds preferably (is pyaeca a feminine form?)
The Hundred Acre Wood – I thought first of Aran for wood (my mind harking back to Satyajit Ray’s Days and Nights in the Forest, but Thompson’s dictionary has instead Kath. So Aek-So tin bigha Kath it could be. But translating ‘acre’ as ‘tin bigha‘ (three of a land measurement of 64,000 cubits) starts to overcomplicate things, so Aek-So Bigha Kath, though not geographically correct, sounds better. The important thing for a reader is that it’s an area that would sound suitably large to a child – or, come to think of it, an adult too.
That’s it for now. You can read more about the Pooh Project on My Bangla Diary and I’ll try to keep up with the exercise as it progresses.