The title Translations is an extremely suitable title for this play, this is because it donates language within the play and gives the play meaning and a plot. Throughout the play different types of languages are spoken, such as Gaelic, English, Latin and Greek and are translated my Owen, who’s role is to act as the translator, so therefore the title is significant, this is because without the use of translating the different languages the characters within the play would be unable to communicate with one another.
Owen plays an extremely big part within the play, his role as translator is vital to the play, as his presence allows relationships between the characters and the plot to develop. His character is significant to the title translations, as this is what his job is, to translate between the English language and the Gaelic language.
If Owen had not offered to translate the languages, communication would be extremely difficult, an example of how difficult communication would be without Owen is seen when Lancey attempts to speak to the Irish community about his plans, he speaks in a slow very patronising tone, thinking the Irish community will understand him better, it is only when Owen says “It might be better if you assume they understand you and I’ll translate as you go along” But in spite of Owens position as translator, it is arguable that he may be in fact a barrier of understanding between the two cultures.
For example, when he introduces the natives to Yolland and Lancey and provides the translation, he omits details and alters others, and changes the meaning to that of which, from the point of view, is less controversial. He changes the fact that they will be likely to have to pay more taxes to “from now on you will know exactly what is yours by law” and translates Marie’s “has he anything to say?
” to “she is dying to hear you” A reason why Owen adjusts the translations could be that he wishes to protect either the Irish community from knowledge that may lead them into a losing battle, or protecting the English from the danger of their current hosts. Whatever his intention is, it would also seem that Owens poor translations prevent either side from hearing what each other has to say, and so only seems to exacerbate the problem. Also in a sense it is as though the characters wish to communicate through Owen, but are not communicating at all.
The use of Translations also shows the differences in the two languages of Gaelic and English, as when Lancey is speaking, he speaks in a more complex manner, whereas when Owen translates, he simplifies the language in a way the Irish community are able to understand. Another way the title translations is significant to the play, is the way in which the characters, such as Yolland and Marie are eager to learn each others language, in order to communicate with one another, and for Yolland to feel accepted within the Irish community, and for Marie to be able to travel to America and live there.
When Yolland attempts to learn to speak Gaelic through being taught by Owen he re- names the places he is taught, for instance Bun na habhann as an Irish name is re named as burn foot, it seems as though the Irish could feel that re naming the places is like a removal of their heritage and tradition. This is seen By Manus, because, even though he is able to speak English he still chooses to speak Gaelic in front of Yolland. And when Owen is attempting to translate for both Marie and Yolland he says, “oh for god sake!
You take on this job, Manus” and Manus just ignores this remark, so it is very likely that he would not take on the job. When Yolland and Marie leave the dance together they lack in communication, as Owen is not there to help them. This moment of time in the play shows just how significant ‘translations’ is to the play. This is because without the use of translations between characters, Yolland and Marie have absolutely no communication between each other at all. They simply repeat what one another are saying in their own language because they have no idea what each other are saying.
For instance, Marie says, “The grass must be wet. My feet are soaking” then Yolland practically repeats what she just said, “Your feet must be wet. The grass is soaking” When they are finally able to communicate, it is very little, they are only able to communicate through their names, and by using the names of places and elements, such as Fire and Earth. This is seen when Yolland points, and says “Marie” (points) “George”. (Points both) “Marie and George. This is the point where there is little communication and a sense of babyish communication.
They communicate through using words such as, Earth, Fire, Water, and places such as, Bun Na habhann, Poll Na gcaorach. Lis Maol, Lis Na ngall. Marie says the places in Gaelic, and Yolland in a sense translates them into a more English way of speaking. So it could be seen that translations is still going on, maybe not while Owen is present but from Yolland remembering what Owen has taught him, and so is able to use these translations as a way to communicate a little with Marie.