Monday, October 31, 2011

Homophonic Telephone

In elementary school, we played a game called telephone - you whisper a phrase in someone's ear; they whisper it in someone else's ear and on and on. The original phrase inevitably gets garbled. There is a bit of propaganda in the game: the lesson that rumors get exaggerated and the truth gets distorted in oral communication. True as this may be, I prefer to not let the literal get in the way of a good story or good literature.

A friend suggested telephone as model for an experiment with homophonic translation, translation that reproduces sound rather than meaning (see previous blog contest posts here and here). The idea is to take a poem, homophonically translate it into another language then have the new text homophonically translated into another language and on and on until it ends back in English, changed by its trans-lingual travel.

I'm looking for translators for the experiment - preferably ones whose native language is not English. Email me at if you are interested. I'll post the results on my blog to show the progression of the text.

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