Translation in Context: Transforming Poetry

“I think we all want to have translation work as a process of reproduction, but it’s really a process of transformation.” -Aaron Coleman

Periodically, the Multilingual Connections team gets together to discuss articles relevant to the translation world. Recently, we got together to discuss this segment from NPR. We shared an idea that poetry goes further than reproduction.

A while back in our post about the art and science of translation, we had three translators translate the same content and compared the very different outcomes. For this experiment, we asked one of our staff members to prepare an interpretation of the following text and then compare it to the translation of award-winning poet and literary translator, Aaron Coleman.



by Catherine Hulshof

Soy el viento empujándote.

Paso el tiempo dibujando olas y despedidos.

Canciones entre cortinas y el cemento blanco.

 Aaron Coleman

I am the wind pushing you

I spend my days drawing waves and goodbyes.

Songs between window blinds and white cement.

MC Staff

I am the wind

that pushes you.

I greet the waves

and wave goodbye.

I sing through shades,

the white cement.

The word choices and syntax, though subtle, make all the difference in how readers envision a passage. Our in-house translator took a fair amount of creative license when it came to the form, choosing to render the translation in iambic dimeter — a recognizable meter for American readers. Additionally, while Coleman’s translation does not adhere to a strict meter and renders the lines in free verse, our translator broke up the verses, once again, in iambic diameter; this means that each verse is composed of two metrical feet per line of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, allowing the average reader to easily digest the entire poem in one go.

While on the page the Spanish word “olas” means simply “waves,” there is no acoustic difference between “ola” and “hola,” (a physical wave and the common greeting). While our translator wasn’t able to find a word in English that meant both a greeting and an ocean wave, as the Spanish does, he decided to render that double meaning by using the word “wave” in two different instantiations.

All different. Yet, purposefully said. That’s what allows poetry to be so intimate, despite its variation.

Multilingual Connections believes that the art of transformation is rooted in understanding the intent behind a message. While it’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities of grammar and punctuation, it’s equally important to remember that translation is an active, creative process.

Translators transform the text and awaken the words in its new language. The process and the production of translating require interacting with the text, and collaborating with the words to convey the appropriate message.

 Experienced translators and linguists value accuracy, but also recognize that true expertise surpasses that. Professional translations will be met on all fronts — the feel, the tone, the context, and the integrity — as well as retain that human touch from native speakers.

But, to be literal and accurate is one thing — the strength of quality translation is rooted in its masterfulness. Mastering the words, the emotion, and mastering the interaction between an audience and an author.

Multilingual Connections is here to help you achieve your translation goals. Contact us to learn more!

Going the Extra Mile in Work and Life

January 2, 2020

At Multilingual Connections, we leverage our linguists’ talents and expertise and pair each project with the best linguist for the job, taking into consideration their native language, region, and area(s) of expertise. Linguistic accuracy and cultural relevance for translation often require our linguists to do extra research to better understand the full context of the …

Going the Extra Mile in Work and Life Read More »

Engaging Our Global Team Part I: White Elephant Gift Exchange

December 18, 2019

Multilingual Connections is dedicated to helping our clients create meaningful connections with their global audience. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about what this mission means for us as a company – and wondering how we can more effectively apply that mission internally.  

Connecting Authentically with Multilingual Audiences

December 4, 2019

One in five US residents speaks a language other than English at home, and just a quarter of internet users across the globe are native speakers of English. According to the American Marketing Association, organizations that limit their marketing strategies to one language are missing out on a significant opportunity to connect with and engage …

Connecting Authentically with Multilingual Audiences Read More »

The Impact Behind the Numbers

November 27, 2019

As a translation agency, we talk a lot about numbers: number of words, number of minutes, number of pages, number of files. We use these quantities to calculate price and turnaround, to determine which projects to go to which project manager, and to decide what to assign to which linguist. This year, we’ve already translated …

The Impact Behind the Numbers Read More »

A Positive Attitude Sets You Up for Success

November 25, 2019

At Multilingual Connections, we work with talented linguists from across the globe who are experts in translation, transcription, and/or multimedia localization. Our linguists also have industry knowledge and experience – some have spent years doing legal and law enforcement transcription, while others were subtitling movies, and more. We leverage our linguists’ expertise and pair each …

A Positive Attitude Sets You Up for Success Read More »

The Human Cost of Cheap Transcription Services

November 19, 2019

For those involved in the professional audio transcription world – like us – last week’s news that was slashing minimum pay rates for freelance transcriptionists was quite the topic of conversation, both online and off.

Transcreation: Getting Your Message Across

November 15, 2019

To connect and engage with your multilingual audience, you have to communicate with them in meaningful ways. This means that the copy you write needs to be professionally translated and, in some cases, transcreated to resonate with your audience. But, wait, what is transcreation and how is it different from translation?  Transcreation is a type …

Transcreation: Getting Your Message Across Read More »

One Thousand and One Dialects: On the Varieties of Arabic

November 5, 2019

Arabic may be the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world, but Arabic<>English transcription, translation, and multimedia services currently make up the second-largest volume of work that we do here at Multilingual Connections behind Spanish<>English. To support our growth in this language pair, we even have a bilingual Arabic- and English-speaking team that provides …

One Thousand and One Dialects: On the Varieties of Arabic Read More »

When Opportunity Knocks, You Answer

October 24, 2019

Multilingual Connections works with talented linguists from across the globe who are specialists in translation, transcription and/or multimedia localization. Our linguists also have industry knowledge and experience – some have spent years doing legal and law enforcement transcription, while others were subtitling movies, and more. We pair each project with the best linguist for the …

When Opportunity Knocks, You Answer Read More »

Celebrating Five Years of Growth and Leadership

October 7, 2019

At Multilingual Connections, it’s our international team of passionate and curious professionals that makes us who we are. Each team member brings their unique perspective and experience – both professional and personal.

Our Clients

Your Success is Our Success

We succeed when we help you understand, engage and grow your audience – and accomplish your business goals.

Relationships, Not Just Transactions

Sometimes you’re going to want to pick up the phone with questions, schedule a video chat or meet in person, and we welcome it!

Let us be your trusted partner

We believe in building long-term partnerships and finding the right solutions for your needs. We value our clients as partners and appreciate the trust they place in us.


Office Location

Multilingual Connections
847 Chicago Ave Ste 250
Evanston, IL 60202, USA

Tel: +1-877-292-5264
Tel: +1-773-292-5500

Scroll to Top