“I think the national anthem oughta be sung in ingLish,” the President stated forcefully at a news conference on Friday.
The President’s statement requires us to translate from his dialect and calls attention to the great variety that exists within English. His statement is also a good way to highlight May as “World in Translation Month”—its slogan is “Reading the World.”
I wonder whether the President enjoys reading literature in translation. One of my favorite novels in translation is set in the President’s Texas—it’s The Tennis Players by Swedish author Lars Gustafsson. Desperate alchemy, a quest for richness, paces the fanciful novel that is set against a local production of a Wagner opera and uses Nietzsche to understand the art of life in the random violence of Texas.
Translation is like extending a friendly, welcoming hand to someone—it’s an act I value. Translations not only allow us to see into other worlds, but also permit us to extend our world to other people.
I wonder whether there might be some value in making translations of our national anthem. To encourage the singing of translations of “The Star Spangled Banner” could be a way of demonstrating to others some of the experiences that have been important, at least symbolically, in our development as a nation. Encouraging artists to sing our national anthem in translation could serve as a positive symbol of our interest in communicating with the rest of the world.