To be or not to be, that is the question

tvdxer

Senior Member
Minnesota, U.S.A. - English
#1
English: "To be or not to be, that is the question"

Spanish: "Ser o no ser, esa es la cuestión" (that's how Wikiquotes translates it...I was expecting pregunta in place of cuestión, but that sounds much truer to the original English!)
 
  • Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    #2
    Turkish: "Olmak ya da olmamak, işte bütün sorun bu!"

    Few language pointers for learners:
    ya da:
    or.please note that it is not written as a one word, which is a very common mistake.

    işte:
    you might find info on the usage here.
    soru:
    question (which you ask)
    sorun:
    question (which you discuss, an issue)
     

    Kraus

    Senior Member
    Italian, Italy
    #4
    In Italian:

    "Essere o non essere, questo è il problema"

    Literally: "Essere o non essere, questa è la questione", but "questa è la questione" would be an unpleasant pun...
     

    linguist786

    Senior Member
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    #8
    Although I can't claim to have ever seen this, this is what it would be in:

    Hindi:

    होना या न होना, यह है सवाल
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)

    Urdu:
    ہونا يا نہ ہونا، يہ ہے سؤال
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    #11
    The famous Arabic translation says :
    أكون أو لا أكون، تلك هي المسألة
    akún aw lá akún, tilka hiya 'l-mas2ala

    And as Arabic verbs don't have infinitive forms like in English or the Romance languages, this verb is conjugated. Hence, the Arabic form say something like : for me to be or not to be...
     

    DrLindenbrock

    Senior Member
    Italy; Italian & Am. English
    #15
    In Italian:

    "Essere o non essere, questo è il problema"

    Literally: "Essere o non essere, questa è la questione", but "questa è la questione" would be an unpleasant pun...
    Yes, and let me add that we also use this other translation:

    "Essere o non essere, questo è il dilemma"

    I think the two versions are equally used.
     
    #19
    Swedish: "Att vara eller inte vara, det är frågan".

    As an aside, this quote is often illustrated by a man holding a skull. But that would be the churchyard scene corresponding to the quote "Poor Yorick!"
     

    papillon

    Senior Member
    Russian (Ukraine)
    #21
    Russian:
    Быть иль не быть - вот в чем вопрос
    Byt' il' ne byt' - vot v chom vopros.
    "Иль" вместо "или" по делам метрики, правда?
    Is il' instead of ili used for better rythm?
    English translation mine.
    Yes, in modern Russian the word ili is used for "or". Il' is considered poetic/archaic and was used in a popular translation of Hamlet, perhaps both for style and better rythmic flow.
     
    #22
    My Chinese is embarrasingly limited, but I was surprised by
    Simplified Chiense:
    生存还是死亡,这是一个问题
    Back-translated, it looks to me like "To live or to die, that's a question". The famous parallelism is completely lost, which is graphically obvious even if you know no Chinese at all. It is as well in 生存,还是毁灭 (To live or (to be) destroy(ed)), which is a fairly common quote on the Internet.

    Is it possible to find an existing translation, accepted by scholars? I would love a link.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    #23
    Well Lugubert, Japanese has the same surprise for you.

    Japanese:


    生きるか死ぬか、それが問題だ。
    ikiru-ka shinu-ka, sore-ga mondai da.
    To life or to die, that is the question.
    Too many similar translations to locate the original passage and the translator.


    このままでいいのか、いけないのか。それが問題だ(小田島雄志 1973-80)。
    konomama-de īno-ka ikenaino-ka. sore-ga mondai da.
    If it is okay to go on as it is or not; that is the question.


    存(ながら)ふるか、存(ながら)へぬか? それが疑問じゃ(坪内逍遙 1926)。
    nagarauru-ka nagaraenu-ka? sore-ga mondai ja.
    To survive or not to survive, that is the question.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    #24
    Although I can't claim to have ever seen this, this is what it would be in:

    Hindi:

    होना या न होना, यह है सवाल
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)

    Urdu:
    ہونا يا نہ ہونا، يہ ہے سؤال
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)
    Linguist, can I suggest a ही in between /yah/ and /hai/ (ie, a यही)? I feel this will add some emphasis which will match the English translation more.

    I can't quite put my finger on why, but I am not a fan of this translation. It just doesn't sound right...if I heard it spoken it wouldn't dawn on me that this is a direct copy of the English saying. Not to say that it's incorrect, but...you know what I mean?
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    #25
    Actually the big problem is with languages that have no verb "to be", and there are many. "To be or not to be" is almost untranslatable in them. Look at Tagalog (Philippines), the translation supplied above involves a verb that doesn't exist as such and whose stem, wárì ['wa:ri?], means "it seems, apparently, opinion", a far cry from "to be".
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    #26
    Czech:
    Být či nebýt, to je, oč tu běží.
    Backwards: To be or not to be, that's what is at stake/what is going on.

    Jana
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    #28
    Actually the big problem is with languages that have no verb "to be", and there are many. "To be or not to be" is almost untranslatable in them. Look at Tagalog (Philippines), the translation supplied above involves a verb that doesn't exist as such and whose stem, wárì ['wa:ri?], means "it seems, apparently, opinion", a far cry from "to be".
    Is there no word for "to exist" in such languages?
     
    #29
    ...
    Is it possible to find an existing translation, accepted by scholars? I would love a link.
    Here is one. It is my understanding that the first two given under the title 名家譯文 are the most authoritative translators of the works of Shakespeare. (They do not always agree and the present quote is an example.)
    朱生豪:生存还是毁灭,这是一个值得考虑的问题。

    梁实秋:死后是存在,还是不存在,——这是问题。
     

    Qcumber

    Senior Member
    UK English
    #30
    Is there no word for "to exist" in such languages?
    I cannot give an answer for all the languages that have no verb "to be". Probably many have the verb "to exist", although it is not this verb that was used by Shakespeare.

    As regards Tagalog, existence and possession involve the same two tool-words: may [mei] for the affirmation and walâ [wa'la?] for the negation.

    May buwáya sa ílog na itó. = There are crocodiles in this river.
    Walâng buwáya sa ílog na itó. = There are no crocodiles in this river.
    May buwáya akó. = I have got a crocodile.
    Walâ akóng buwáya. = I have no crocodile.

    May and walâ couldn't possibly be used to translate what we are dealing with here.

    There is magíng "to become", actually a prefix treated as an independent word. It cannot be used alone; it needs to be associated with a noun phrase. If I used it to translate Shakespeare's line, I'd have to add hárì ['ha:ti?] "king", hence:

    Magíging hárì ó hindî ... = To become a king or not ...

    The problem is that this sort of translation restricts the portent of the line, etc. :)
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    #31
    Although I can't claim to have ever seen this, this is what it would be in:

    Hindi:

    होना या न होना, यह है सवाल
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)

    Urdu:
    ہونا يا نہ ہونا، يہ ہے سؤال
    (honaa yaa na honaa, yeh hai sawaal)

    Another thought.

    /hotaa hai ya nahii.N hotaa hai, yahii hai savaal/

    I think this might be a better translation. I feel that /hona/ in your example implies that "something is about to/might happen." How do you feel?
     
    #32
    Another thought.

    /hotaa hai ya nahii.N hotaa hai, yahii hai savaal/

    I think this might be a better translation. I feel that /hona/ in your example implies that "something is about to/might happen." How do you feel?
    Yet another language in which I'm not fluent, but I'll buy most any Hindi two-verb rendering over a single verb. But wouldn't a Hindi purist use prashn प्रश्न instead of savaal? Or, perhaps even samsyaa समस्या (question = problem)?
     
    America and American English
    #34
    生きるか死ぬか、それが問題だ。
    ikiru-ka shinu-ka, sore-ga mondai da.
    To life or to die, that is the question.
    Too many similar translations to locate the original passage and the translator.
    If I may interject and add to this, on one of my tests for my Japanese class we had to translate this line into Japanese. The translation she taught us was 生きるべきか死ぬべきか、それが問題だ。(Ikiru-beki ka shinu-beki ka, sore ga mondai da.) Slightly modified from the "ikiru-ka shinu-ka" translation. Interesting. :)
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    #35
    Yet another language in which I'm not fluent, but I'll buy most any Hindi two-verb rendering over a single verb. But wouldn't a Hindi purist use prashn प्रश्न instead of savaal? Or, perhaps even samsyaa समस्या (question = problem)?
    Most definitely! I was going to use /prashn/ myself, but I decided not to in the end because I was lazy and didn't want to explain myself;)

    So how do you feel about my translation? Any critiques on what it should be?
     

    karuna

    Senior Member
    Latvian, Latvia
    #37
    The Latvian translation is rather boring: Būt vai nebūt? – tāds ir jautājums.

    It is classic but not very impressive. I liked the Japanese translation about life or death, it is much more appealing and better revealing the intention of the author. I guess that it is not the verb "to be" (what about iru?) but the lack of the infinitive that does not allow the direct translation.
     
    #38
    Anand: The Modern English-Hindi Dictionary:

    To be or not to be? जीवित रहें या मर जायें? jiiivit raheM yaa mar jaayeM

    My clumsy effort towards a 'literal' translation: 'may be living or may go dead'.
     
    Venezuela --> Spanish -or something alik
    #40
    English: "To be or not to be, that is the question"
    Spanish: "Ser o no ser, esa es la cuestión" (that's how Wikiquotes translates it...I was expecting pregunta in place of cuestión, but that sounds much truer to the original English!)
    Actually, it is more similar to the Italian version by DrLindenbrock:
    "Essere o non essere, questo è il dilemma"
    In the theater plays, they (actors ;) ) say "Ser o no ser, he ahí el dilema".

    Cuestión is used as matter, issue, dilemma and, sometimes, question.
     

    daoxunchang

    Senior Member
    Chinese China
    #48
    Whether they are "right" or not may depend on how hard you haved tried to place yourself in those translator's place. 生存还是毁灭this seems to me the only choice if we do want a translation of "to be or not to be" in our language.
     
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