Senior Explores Language, Translation and Immigration at Morning Ex

Senior Hanna Bilgin combined her love of words with her Turkish and Swedish background for her Independent Study, “English, Translation and Immigration.” Bilgin, fluent in English, Swedish and Danish and learning Turkish, Slovenian and Spanish, took a deep dive into understanding how a speaker’s intent changes across language and the important role translation plays in deciphering what someone is trying to say.

In her research, Bilgin found two opposing schools of thought when it comes to translating: communicative versus creative. Author, translator and novelist Vladimir Nabokov believed translating should be word for word to communicate directly what the person is trying to say, while American linguist Eugene Nida believed in capturing the sentiment and more emotional way of translating words.

Bilgin described these two theories, then invited Middle and Upper School students—including her brother, 8th grader Aksel—on stage to play a game deciphering different translations and identifying the method of translation in each instance.

After the game, Bilgin explained the practical part of her project inspired by her mother, who recorded the story of coming to the United States in Swedish, which Bilgin translated to English. She compared her translation with another using Google Translate tools and analyzed places where a more literal translation of what her mother said altered certain nuances of her mother’s intended words. She also created an art piece to depict her mother’s story.

“I learned how personal and delicate words are and how the personal choice of words is unique to individual people,” Bilgin said. “Language is a combination of culture, personality and heritage, and it is worth looking into.”

Bilgin intends to major in comparative literature with a minor in political science or translation studies, with hopes of law school down the road. Her Independent Study is an example of Parker supporting students as they pursue their passions and learn more about themselves in the process.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.