Translation from one language into another serves many different purposes. Though not an expert on the matter, I  dare say that the main reason for translating is or — at least should be — the dissemination of knowledge and different ways of thinking and mentalities whereas the obvious material motive is the exchange of goods and conduct of business.

To me as a teacher, translation provides a useful tool to take shortcuts in teaching English as my groups have always been homogeneous in terms of first language – even the ones of different ethnicity speak and use Greek as the main language of communication. Not that I limit myself to translation when teaching: it takes much more for the learners to assimilate words and meanings in a foreign language but it does help when the equivalence is straightforward.

To me as a person, translation has been a challenge to delve into my first language and further explore its enormous potential.

I will cite here an example of free translation on one of my favourite themes: words. The parallel between words and pebbles was conceived while sunning myself on a beach and collecting pebbles. I wrote the Greek text originally, which I later transferred in English to publish on my blog.

Οι λέξεις στο δικό μου νου είναι βότσαλα σε όλα τα σχήματα και σε όλα τα χρώματα που η φύση αποτύπωσε επάνω τους.

Είναι πανάρχαιες σαν τους βράχους από όπου αποκόπηκαν τα βότσαλα.

Κουβαλάνε τόσες ιστορίες όπως τα βότσαλα που μέσα στο χρόνο κατέληξαν εκεί που είναι τώρα.

Έχουν δυναμική όπως τα βότσαλα που σε λίγο θα έχουν παρασυρθεί σε άλλα μέρη.

Είναι στη διάθεση όλων, όπως τα βότσαλα που μπορεί ο καθένας να μαζέψει από κάτω.

Μπαίνουν σε διαφορετικά σχήματα για να δημιουργήσουν διαφορετικές έννοιες όπως τα βότσαλα φτιάχνουν εικόνες τόσο απλά και, προ παντός, είναι δύσκολο να αγαπηθούν από τους πολλούς όπως τα βότσαλα, που μόνο οι λίγοι ρομαντικοί των ημερών μας τα παρατηρούν ακόμη και διακρίνουν τις μικρές χαραμάδες σαν πληγές που έγιαναν στο πέρασμα του χρόνου ή τα στίγματα που άφησαν οι προσκρούσεις πάνω σε μύρια εμπόδια στην ακατάστατη πορεία τους.

Είναι τέλος οι μάρτυρες της εξέλιξης του ανθρώπινου είδους, όποια κι αν είναι αυτή, όπως τα βότσαλα είναι τα χνάρια της φύσης από καταβολής χρόνου.

To my mind words are very similar to pebbles: pebbles come in a motley of shapes and colours that nature has carved and imprinted on them. Likewise words carry all kinds of meanings – present and obsolete—and different emotional loads for each user.

Words are age-old like the rocks from which the pebbles were chiselled off by the patient force of the wind and the rain before depositing themselves where they are currently.

Words, like pebbles, are dynamic broadening or narrowing their meaning, rising or falling in popularity very much like  pebbles, which are here this moment but perhaps elsewhere the next.

Both pebbles and words are at anyone’s disposal; all one needs to do is pick a few and start creating with them – images or texts, simple or more complicated. In different arrangements and structures, they can take on innumerable forms and meanings.

Pebbles are hardly loved by the masses. Only a few romantics still observe them noticing the tiny cracks in them – wounds that the passage of time has left on them – or the marks etched on them in their scrapes against a myriad of obstacles in their erratic path. Words also bear the scars of their use or abuse.

Finally, in the same way that pebbles constitute the traces of the workings of nature since time immemorial, words are the evidence of the evolution of mankind.

Maria Danoussi studied English at Athens University and pursued an MLitt by research at Glasgow University. She speaks French and can understand German and Spanish. She writes poems in both English and Greek, and she finds fascinating anything that has to do with language acquisition. She has been teaching English to people of all ages for over three decades and she is a strong believer in personalised learning. Blog: