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Lost in Translation: Apna dhyaan rakhna in English

Read this post to learn about a common Hindi phrase, and why it is difficult to translate Hindi into English due to the sentence structures they use.
Published by Julia Lane

My bilingual brain...

My mother tongue is Hindi and ever since I could remember, my bilingual brain has marveled at how syntax, and sentence structures, verbs and punctuation can change the literal meanings of sayings in one language to another, let alone the actual definitions and connotations of the words used. The sentence structure of Hindi is literally in the opposite form as that of English. I suppose a lot of meaning is lost in translation to English, due in large part, to structural differences in how sentences are formed in Hindi.

Lost in Translation: Apna dhyaan rakhna 

The following lost in translation phrase is an example of the structural differences between Hindi and English. When speaking with friends or family in Hindi, it is common to use the sayings “Apna dhyaan rakhna” or “Apna khayal rakhna”. If I was to literally translate these sayings, word-for-word, into English, they would read: “Your attention do keep” or “Your thought do keep.” See how the conjugated verb “keep” in the command form comes after the subject of the sentence? That's not how English works... but it is how Hindi works! 

What either of these phrases connote in Hindi is: “Do take care of yourself.” The words “dhyaan” and “khayal,” which are “attention” and “thought,” are meant to signify that in taking care of one's self, one should pay attention to themself and think of their own needs. These phrases are often said with the utmost care towards a loved one or a close friend.

- Deeya B., former Writing & Learning Peer and SFU alumni 


Image credit: Translation by Kieu Thi Kim Cuong from the Noun Project