Eadar-theangachadh Baile/Village translations

Cò dha a tha bàrd a’ sgrìobhadh? Dè an seòrsa freagairt a tha iad ag iarraidh on t-saoghal? Gàire, fearg, mi-thuigse? No atharrachadh adhbhrachadh ann? Ar-a-mach? Dìbhearsain? Rudeigin nas coma co-dhiù?

Chan ann ach ainneamh a bhios daoine a’ cur nan ceistean-sa mu dheidhinn sgrìobhadh sa Ghàidhlig. Leis gu bheil a’ Ghàidhlig ann an staing caran cugallach cha bhi ceistean bunaiteach mar ‘dè tha sgrìobhadair a’ feuchainn ri dhèanamh’ cho cudromach. Tric gabhaidh sgrìobhadh moladh dìreach airson a bhith ann: “O ’s math gu bheil a leithid ann.” “It was lovely to hear the Gaelic.”

Ach chan eil an suidheachadh buileach coltach nuair a tha sinn a’ bruidhinn mu eadar-theangachadh chun no bhon Ghàidhlig, agus na tha sin a’ ciallachadh dhan chànan.

Air an dara làimh chan eil teagamh ann ach gu bheil e deatamach a bhith ag eadar-theangachadh nobhailean, dàin, prògraman Tbh dhan a’ Ghàidhlig (fiù’s mura h-eil margaidh mòr air an son). Chan eil dòigh nas fhèarr ann gus an cùltar a phiobrachadh agus a chrathadh ach a bhith a’ còmhradh ri litreachasan eadar-dhealaichte, a’ goid bhuapa, gan ath-sgrìobhadh.

Ach bhiodh e na b’ fheàrr, ’s mathaid, a bhith ag eadar-theangachadh o fad is farsaing, agus chan e bhon chànan a tha a’ cuairteachadh agus cha mhòr a’ mùchadh na Gàidhlig. Agus sin, air an làimh eile, cnag na cuise.

An e seòrsa brathaidh a th’ann a bhith ag eadar-theangachadh on Ghàidhlig dhan Bheurla, leis gu bheil àireamhan luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig cho ìosal, agus a nabaidh Beurla cho laidir? No an e cleas ciallach a th’ann airson luchd-leughaidh nas fharsainge fhaighinn, gus a bhith an sàs ann an còmhradh mòr litreachas na h-Alba, litreachas an t-saoghail air fad? Leis gu bheil àireamhan luchd-leughadh na bàrdachd cho ìosal co-dhiù, a bheil e a’ dèanamh diofar?

Bha deasbad farsaing ann mun a shin mu 20 bliadhna air ais; cha do bhuannaich, gu soilleir, taobh seach taobh – chan e deasbad a th’ann a ghabhadh ‘buannachadh’. Ach dhòmhsa, ’s e ceist a th’ann a bhios a’ nochdhadh cha mhòr sa bhad nuair a bhios mi a’ cur peann ri paipear.

An e dàn a th’ann nach gabhadh eadar-theangachadh gun call mòr air de tha e a’ ciallachadh? Am bi e nas freagarraiche - airson adhbharan ìomhaigh, fuaim neo fiù’s politeags – dha luchd-labhairt na Gàidhlig a-mhàin? No a bheil mi ag iarraidh gum bi mo charaidean, mo bhràmar, a h-uile duine anns an èisteachd ga thuigsinn? Am bu chòir sin a bhith mar phàirt dhen proiseas sgrìobhaidh?

Chan eil freagartan agam. Dhòmhsa dheth, bidh mi leigeil le gach dàn taghadh: bidh cùid dhiubh a’ tighinn am follais ann an Gàidhlig a-mhàin, cuid ann am Beurla, agus cuid eile a’ cabadaich agus ag argamaid thairis air gutair an leabhair.

B’ àbhaist sgàradh a bhith air a dhèanamh eadar bàird-bhaile – a bha dlùth-èolach air a’ choimhearsnachd aca, a’ bruidhinn riutha ann an dòigh ionadail, sgìreil - agus bàird nan oilthighean, a bha a’ giùlain an cuid oideachais agus doirbheachd mar bhratach neo sgiath. Cha chrèid mi gun robh sin riamh buileach fìor, ach chanainn nach eil e idir an-diugh.

Mar a tha am bard Rody Gorman ag ràdh, tha sinn uile nar bàird-bhaile a-nis. ’S e an t-eadar-dhealachadh gun urrainn dhuinn baile a thaghadh agus a chruthachadh dhuinn fhìn, ann an coimhearsnachdan, bailtean agus air loidhne; agus chan eil adhbhar sam bith nach e baile a th’ann far a bheil iomadh cànain a’ cur fàilte air, agus a’ cluich leis, a chèile.

English-language version

Who do poets write for? What kind of response are they looking for – laughter, anger, blank indifference? What kind of change do they want to bring about? A revolution, escapism, something more easy-osy?

These questions don’t often get asked about writing in Scottish Gaelic. Because Gaelic is in such a precarious position basic questions about what writers are hoping to do seem less important. Often, the very fact the writing exists is enough: “It’s good to see the likes of this”. “It was lovely to hear the Gaelic”.

The situation is slightly different when we talk about translation to or from Gaelic, and what that means for the language and culture.

There’s no doubt it is crucial to translate novels, stories, poems, TV programmes into Gaelic (even if there isn’t a huge market for them). There’s no better way to shake up and reinvigorate the culture than to be talking to other literatures, stealing from them, rewriting them.

But it is best, if at all possible, if the translations come from far and wide, and not just from the language that is surrounding and, perhaps, slowly suffocating Gaelic. And, when it comes to translating from Gaelic, there’s the rub.

Is it some sort of betrayal to translate from Gaelic into English, since the number of Gaelic speakers is so low, the neighbouring English so strong, and it so difficult to make any space for Gaelic to exist by itself and in its own right? Or is it just sensible to be aiming for a larger readership, to be part of the wider conversations of Scottish literature, world literature? With poetry having such a small readership anyway, does it make a difference?

There was a wide-ranging debate about this in Gaelic poetry 20 years ago. No side clearly won – but it’s not a debate that can ever be clearly won. However, for me, it’s a question that arises always immediately whenever I put pen to paper.

Will it be a poem that can’t be translated without a great loss of what it means? Will it be something that is better served – for reasons of imagery, music or even cultural politics – to be written in Gaelic alone? Do I want my non-Gaelic speaking friends, my partner, the majority of an audience at a reading to be able to understand it? Are these even things that should be considered in the writing process?

I have no answers and so I cop out, and let each poem choose for itself. Some appear in Gaelic alone, some in English, and some chatter and carp back-and-forth between languages across the gutter of the book.

There used to be a distinction made in Gaelic between village poets, who were embedded in their communities, speaking to them in a close, positively parochial way, and university poets, who bore their learning and difficulty like a flag or a shield (and had no clear community to speak to).

I’m not sure this was ever really true, and it certainly no longer is. As the poet Rody Gorman says, we’re all village poets now. The difference is that we can choose and create villages for ourselves, in the flesh or online. And there is no reason whatsoever that it can’t be one where many different languages rub up against each other, intermingle.

Galore by Pàdraig MacAoidh was published by Acair in 2015. His second collection, Some Kind Of, will be published later in 2019.