Friday, August 5, 2016

Nitpicking and Translation

I've been working on transcribing and translating Czech land records with a friend. I've learned a lot in the last three weeks - so much I have yet to share on this blog! For now, some meta data: It's been extremely fun - surprisingly so, actually. It's...well...it turns out...I'm...very nerdy. Well, so what. That can't be a big surprise to most people reading this blog.

It's surprising because I remember with extreme clarity the discouragement I felt when I opened my first Czech land record. I groaned - both out loud, and also in my soul. I knew immediately that this would be an extremely difficult challenge, more difficult than anything I had ever faced. It seemed impossible that I would ever be able to read the text in front of me. I knew even then that it would require many different kinds of skills: interpreting paleography, interpreting the old Czech spelling, and then interpreting the meaning of the words. (Eventually I hope to get to analyze the broader implications, the broader meaning of the record for the specific ancestor, and then an even broader application to the estate, perhaps even to the Czech lands themselves)

It turns out that the last part, interpreting the meaning (on all levels), is extremely interesting to me. I love it. I feel sometimes that I am nitpicking words to death, and I hope that this is not really annoying to those working with me. But this is because so often my very specific questions lead to a clearer, better understanding of what is going on, which allows me to write a better translation, letting others understand it better as well. 

I really enjoy translating into English. It is fascinating to me. It brings me great joy to use this part of my brain. I feel like my language in this blog post isn't doing justice to my thoughts and feelings about this process: basically, I'm an addict.

I feel a sense of urgency because I clearly understand the exact feeling of wanting to have more written direction somewhere explaining how to access these Czech land records. It's urgent that I gain these transcription and translation skills so that I can share this knowledge with others. At the same time, I don't see my learning as a linear process at all; I'm never going to have all the znalost. Ever. However, as soon as I gain a sizable enough chunk of knowledge, I will need to package it somehow and share with the world - especially with other English speakers - so that they can also have this great joy that I feel. 

If anybody out there reading this blog is interested in joining me in this project of transcribing Czech land records (especially if you are a native German speaker), please contact me. I am looking for more collaborators.


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