its most important benefits of such a conviction

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Larius

New Member
Chinese - Mandarin
Hello everyone,

[With the only related thread being of the French translation of the sentence, I here create a new one :)]

I'm translating Letter 2 of Frankenstein, and Walton writes:

"At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction that I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my native country."

The question is, these celebrated poets of Britain surely speak and write in English, then what does it have to do with foreign languages? Does conviction here mean a strongly held belief? If so, what is it? Are the "most important benefits" those of "such a conviction"?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    It's an 1818 book, so it uses 200-year-old English. The meaning of "conviction" is unclear. However, he says "from such a conviction", which means "whatever I just said, I am calling that a 'conviction'". And "whatever I just said" is being acquainted with British poets.

    what does it have to do with foreign languages?
    If he wants to read the celebrated poets of other countries, he has to learn their languages.
     

    Larius

    New Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    It's an 1818 book, so it uses 200-year-old English. The meaning of "conviction" is unclear. However, he says "from such a conviction", which means "whatever I just said, I am calling that a 'conviction'". And "whatever I just said" is being acquainted with British poets.



    If he wants to read the celebrated poets of other countries, he has to learn their languages.
    Hmmmm...Thanks for your answer dojibear. It makes great sense that "conviction" denotes his reading of British poets. However, these "important benefits" still remain unclear. It just seems too abrupt a turn (from English poetry to foreign languages) to be properly paraphrased.

    I searched the web looking for other Chinese translations, only to find every translator turned the sentence into something like "by the time I wanted to learn foreign language I found myself incapable of doing so."

    I think I need to skip the sentence. My professor says she could be of no help at all if a native speaker can't walk me through...

    Still, thanks a lot!
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Hmmmm...Thanks for your answer dojibear. It makes great sense that "conviction" denotes his reading of British poets. However, these "important benefits" still remain unclear. It just seems too abrupt a turn (from English poetry to foreign languages) to be properly paraphrased.

    I searched the web looking for other Chinese translations, only to find every translator turned the sentence into something like "by the time I wanted to learn foreign language I found myself incapable of doing so."

    I think I need to skip the sentence. My professor says she could be of no help at all if a native speaker can't walk me through...

    Still, thanks a lot!
    I’d definitely say that the “usual” translation is wrong.

    I expect the exact meaning of “important benefits” is meant to be obvious. What “good” does reading poetry do anyone? He must mean any of these things:
    The joy a reader gets from poetry/ learning poetic skills/ admiration for the poet’s expression of their subject/ admiration for the development of thematic concerns etc etc etc.
    When he had got all he could get from his native poets he realised he needed to learn other languages to get the same benefits from the greatest of foreign poets.
     

    Larius

    New Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    When he had got all he could get from his native poets
    He said "it had ceased to be in my power". If Walton had indeed, got all the benefits they had to offer and decided to move on, then what's with this past perfect?
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    He said "it had ceased to be in my power". If Walton had indeed, got all the benefits they had to offer and decided to move on, then what's with this past perfect?
    You cut that quotation in the wrong place. This is the sequence:

    WHEN it had ceased to be in my power TO DERIVE the benefits of English poetry I (then) realised I needed to learn other languages.
     

    Larius

    New Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    You cut that quotation in the wrong place. This is the sequence:

    WHEN it had ceased to be in my power TO DERIVE the benefits of English poetry I (then) realised I needed to learn other languages.
    Okay I think I understand now. Thanks for your clearing up!
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It's an 1818 book, so it uses 200-year-old English. The meaning of "conviction" is unclear. However, he says "from such a conviction", which means "whatever I just said, I am calling that a 'conviction'". And "whatever I just said" is being acquainted with British poets.
    If the cleft sentence is restored to typical word order, the reference of "conviction" might be made sense of:

    I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my native country only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction.

    The conviction might refer to the belief or perception that it is necessary to become acquainted with more languages.

    The example might support a point I made a couple of weeks ago that writers of classic novels did not write as they spoke, i.e., they wrote in a highly contrived manner.
     
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    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    I agree with raymond:
    "The conviction might refer to the belief or perception that it is necessary to become acquainted with more languages"
    except that that I would state it more strongly, with "refers" rather than "might refer".

    By the time I was convinced that it was necessary to learn other languages, I was no longer able to learn them well.

    The translators have thus rendered the idea of the sentence correctly (and succinctly):
    "by the time I wanted to learn foreign languages I found myself incapable of doing so."
     

    raymondaliasapollyon

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I agree with raymond:
    "The conviction might refer to the belief or perception that it is necessary to become acquainted with more languages"
    except that that I would state it more strongly, with "refers" rather than "might refer".

    By the time I was convinced that it was necessary to learn other languages, I was no longer able to learn them well.

    The translators have thus rendered the idea of the sentence correctly (and succinctly):
    "by the time I wanted to learn foreign languages I found myself incapable of doing so."
    I'm starting to wonder whether the original sentence in question was deliberately jumbled to show someone's lack of education; after all, it was supposed to be part of a letter by a character who claimed to be "more illiterate than many schoolboys of fifteen."
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Funny enough, despite arguing against this earlier, I can see what you mean, Hildy. Interesting explanation, thank-you.
     

    vkhu

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    [Threads have been merged at this point. DonnyB - moderator]

    But it is a still greater evil to me that I am self-educated: for the first fourteen years of my life I ran wild on a common, and read nothing but our uncle Thomas's books of voyages. At that age I became acquainted with the celebrated poets of our own country; but it was only when it had ceased to be in my power to derive its most important benefits from such a conviction, that I perceived the necessity of becoming acquainted with more languages than that of my native country.
    What does the word conviction refer to here? I don't see anything mentioned in this whole part that could be considered a conviction.

    Source: Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
     
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