- Translations can be either literal or transparent.
- When translating into Dragon, simplify, remove idioms, and rephrase to fit the available vocabulary.
Translating is the ever-challenging task of taking what's written in one language and converting it to another. This lesson gives an overview of how to translate to and from the dragon language with detailed examples. We'll cover different methods and tricks for making this process easier with step-by-step instructions.
Translating from Dragon to English
We have already explored some dragon to English translations in the Word Walls lesson. The language used in the Word Walls is fairly simple. Here we will be looking at longer and more complex examples that feature all of the grammatical rules presented thus far.
Throughout the translation process, our text will appear in the tip boxes. If you'd like to follow along, write down the below double-spaced so you can write your translations beneath each word.
Nonvul bron, dahmaan daar rot. Nau revak frod drey faal Bronjun Gjalund krif voth ahkrin ahrk mah nol liiv nin do fahliil ronaaz. Naal kunsevurii mu nir un paalu wah laat. Nid fahliil drey lahney. Kronaan naal krosis drey aarre do Gjalund daal Ahrolsedovah, kolos rok fent unslaad praan.
Step 1: Translate individual words you can find.
Search for individual words one by one and see how many you can find. This step is the simplest. Fill in the most literal translation provided. Leave the words you can't find for now. Following Step 1, we arrive at the text below:
Noble Nord, remember this word. On sacred battlefield did the Jarl Gjalund fight with courage and fall from wither sting of elf arrow. By kunsevurii we hunt paalu to last. No elf did live. Kronaan by sorrow did aarre do Gjalund return Hill of the Dragon, in which he shall ceaseless rest.
Step 2: Check for plural nouns.
Plural nouns are very distinctive because regular words don't feature double letters or end in -e. We have one plural noun in our text, aarre. Remember what you have learned and find the translation for this noun. If you are correct, you should have translated this as "servants".
Step 3: Check for possessive suffixes.
Possessive suffixes are attached onto the end of words to replace the pronouns "my", "her", "our", etc. They are: -i, -u, -ii, and -iil. Since most nouns end in consonants, an untranslatable word that ends in a vowel is good sign that it might have a possessive suffix.
See if you can single out which words in our text have a possessive suffix. They are: paalu and vurii in kunsevurii. Look them up without the possessive suffixes, and you should find that they translate to "foe" and "valor". Paalu would make "our foe" and vurii would make "his valor".
Step 4: Check for participles.
As we learned in Adjectives & Adverbs, participles can be formed with the suffix -aan or the suffix -taas. If you have an untranslated word that ends with -aan or -taas, it may be a participle. Remove the suffix and see if you can find it in the dictionary. Then, add the equivalent English participle to your translation. There is one example in our text: kronaan, which means "conquered".
Be careful! There are many words that end in -aan that are not participles. Look up the entire word first before deciding if it's a participle.
Step 5: Translate compound words.
A common feature of more complex writing and speech is the use of compound words. Compound words can be easily recognized by the bridging se. The example found in the our text is kunsevurii. We already know that vurii means "his valor", so broken apart, this makes "light of his valor".
With every word translated, we have arrived at the text below:
Noble Nord, remember this word. On sacred battlefield did the Jarl Gjalund fight with courage and fall from wither sting of elf arrow. By light of his valor we hunt our foe to last. No elf did live. Conquered by sorrow did servants do Gjalund return Hill of the Dragon, in which he shall ceaseless rest.
Step 6: Fill in missing English words and correct translations to complete the text.
At this point we have translated every word. We're still not done, though. At the moment, our translation sounds rather funny to in English. Use context to fill in words, correct verb tense, and make other changes to bring this to a full translation. Below is a final rendition of our text:
Noble Nords, remember these words. On the sacred battlefield did the Jarl Gjalund fight with courage and fall from the withering sting of elf arrows. By the light of his valor we hunted our foe to the last. No elf did live. Conquered by sorrow did the servants do Gjalund return to the Hill of the Dragon, in which he shall ceaselessly rest.
You can go a step further by rewriting some of the expressions as they might be said in English. You may or may not wish to do this depending on the type of translation you want to give - a more literal one or a more transparent one. The translation below has been rewritten to make it read more naturally in English:
Noble Nords, remember these words. Jarl Gjalund fought courageously on the sacred battlefield, and fell from the withering sting of elven arrows. By the light of his valor, we hunted our foe to the last. No elf survived. Conquered by sorrow, the Jarl's servants returned him to Whiterun, where he will rest forever.
Translating from English to Dragon
Translating from English to the dragon language is much like doing the reverse of the above. It can oftentimes be the more challenging of the two. Making a basic translation requires little more than translating word-by-word. However, providing the best possible translation requires a good knowledge of the vocabulary, elements of grammar, and the style that fits the language. In this part of the lesson, we'll take a look at some of the more common grammatical themes and how to tackle them when translating from English to dragon.
The following is an excerpt from Olaf and the Dragon:
Long ago in the First Age, a fearsome dragon named Numinex ravaged the whole of Skyrim. The dreadful drake wiped out entire villages, burned cities and killed countless Nords. It seemed that no power in Tamriel could stop the monster.
This was a troubled time in Skyrim's history, for a bitter war of succession raged between the holds. The Jarls might have been able to conquer the beast if they had worked together, but trust was in desperately short supply.
Step 1: Cut out extra words and rephrase for translation.
This step first involves slashing cases of "a" and "the" except where "the" refers to a proper noun. Then, some considerations must be made about how to phrase things in the dragon language. In some cases, this means restructuring entire sentences to fit the available vocabulary.
In this step, you should also identify English idioms or phrases and find ways to rephrase them. This also applies to vocabulary that you know doesn't have exact equivalents. For example, there is no way to say "the First Age" in dragon, so we might instead say goraan bokselein "the young ages of the world". Another phrase that stands out is "trust was in desperately short supply". We might want to say instead ov nis siiv naal naan "trust could not (be) found by any."
The key to a good translation is simplicity. Keep this in mind when rephrasing for translation, and experiment with how much of the original English you can simplify.
The above text is rephrased below for translation:
Long ago in young ages of the world, fearsome dragon Numinex did ravage all of Skyrim. Dreadful drake destroyed entire villages, burned cities and killed countless Nords. No power in Tamriel did rival monster.
It was troubled time in Skyrim, for bitter war of succession did rage between holds. The Jarls could not join to conquer beast, for trust could not be found by any.
Step 2: Form possessives.
Identify where you will need to use possessive suffixes or rephrase words to show possession. Something like "the dragon's fire" might be rephrased as "the fire of the dragon". This is an opportunity to make some compound words as well, so the above could translate to either "yol do dovah" or "yolsedovah".
Step 3: Determine your verbs and participles.
Go through the English text and determine where you want to use past or present participles. Remember that the suffixes -aan and -taas generally aren't used except where they are necessary to distinguish a past participle from a present participle. Where you see a mix of present tense and past tense, consider using drey, "did", to clarify your past tense.
In our text, "The Jarls may have conquered the beast if they worked together" will need to be rephrased as the conditional "may" does not have an equivalent in the dragon language. To simplify this, we may instead say Bronjunne nis aav wah kron sunvaar "the Jarls could not join to conquer the beast".
Step 4: Translate individual words.
With the verbs and possessives out of the way, the remaining text becomes mostly straightforward. Search for as many words as you can find in the dictionary and see if they have appropriate translations. Be sure to read the entry connotations and notes to make sure they are the right fit. Below is our example text with all available words translated:
Lingrah vod ko goraan bokselein, fearsome dovah Numinex drey ravage pah do Keizaal. Dreadful drake destroyed pah villages, burned cities ahrk killed countless Nords. Nid suleyk ko Taazokaan ronit monster.
Nii lost troubled tiid ko Keizaal, fah ahzid kein do succession drey rage between holds. Faal Jarls nis aav wah kron sunvaar, fah ov nis kos siiv naal naan.
What happens if you can't find a translation? Below are a few options.
- Search for the base form of the word. If you're trying to look up a plural noun like "dragons" or a conjugated verb like "runs", "ran", or "running", you'll likely not find it. Instead search for "dragon" or "run". If you find it, you can then use what you know of grammar to convert it into the form you need. Remember that dragon verbs don't conjugate according to subject and plural nouns typically don't need the plural suffix if context can imply it.
- Find a close synonym. Sometimes a translation for an English word simply does not exist. When this happens, your first step should be to look for a suitable word that is close in meaning. In our text, there is no word for "dreadful", so we might use zofaas "fearful". We can use junaar "kingdoms" for "holds", sunvaar "beast" instead of "monster", and perhaps keinsekulaan "war of princes" as a metaphor for "war of succession". This concept can also extend beyond single words - consider rephrasing some of your English text to make use of as many available words as possible.
- Cut the word. If there is no translation, see if you can find a way to remove the untranslatable word entirely. Consider our phrase "This was a troubled time in the history of Skyrim", where "history" has no translation. By rephrasing this to "It was a troubled time in Skyrim", we can avoid needing a translation for "history".
After these steps, we arrive at the text below. For practice, try translating it back to see which words were used in place of missing English equivalents.
Lingrah vod ko goraan bokselein, norok dovah Numinex drey rel pah do Keizaal. Zofaas zoor al pah sahsun, ag suleyksejun, ahrk krii unslaad Bron. Nid suleyk ko Taazokaan ronit sunvaar.
Nii lost tahrodiis tiid ko Keizaal, fah junaar win ahzid keinsekulaan. Faal Bronjun nis aav wah kron sunvaar, fah ov nis kos siiv naal naan.
Step 5: Simplify your final text.
Once you have your text fully in the dragon language, go through it again and see how many words you can cut and keep your meaning. The dragon language relies a lot on context and you should use context to your advantage when making a translation. It's a balancing act between having a text that's too wordy and a text where meaning is lost or unclear.
Below is a full translation of the example text. See if you can spot some of the differences between the original text and the dragon translation, and examine why they might have changed.
Lingrah vod ko goraan bokselein, norok dovah Numinex drey rel pah Keizaal. Zofaas zoor al sahsun, ag suleyksejun, ahrk krii unslaad Bron. Nid suleyk ko Taazokaan ronit sunvaar.
Nii tahrodiis tiid ko Keizaal, fah junaar win ahzid keinsekulaan. Faal Bronjun nis aav wah kriin dovah, fah ov nis siiv naal naan.
Names & Modern Words
You may have a name (such as your own) or a unique word you need to translate into the dragon language. Modern words such as "computer" or "car" fall into this category. When translating things such as these, you can decide to make them into loanwords - that is, borrow them into the language. To do this you may need to make some adjustments to spelling. For example, "computer" would need to be spelled "komputer" since there is the dragon language has no equivalne to C. The name "Cicero" would need to be spelled "Sisero".
Another approach you can take for modern words is to invent compound words for them. To say "car", you could say something like "keysedwiin", "horse of steel". Maybe "phone" is "gut-tinvaak", "far-speak". This way you can use modern words in a way that is easy for others to guess what you mean.
1. Take the dragon translation of Olaf and the Dragon above and translate it back into English. The goal here isn't to reproduce the original English text, but compare the literal meaning of the translation to the original text.
"Long ago in the young ages of the world, the fierce dragon Numinex did dominate all of Skyrim. The fearful legend destroyed villages, burned palaces, and killed unending Nords. No power in Tamriel rivaled the beast.
It was a treacherous time in Skyrim, for the kingdoms waged a bitter war of princes. The Jarls could not join to slay the dragon, for trust could not be found by any."
2. Translate the following into English: Pogaan eruvosse vod drey Ysgramor ahrk Zeymahzinii bo Keizaal. Fahliille krif niin ko hevno od. Brit grah nii lost! Un zok lot paal bovul Keizaal ahrk Ysgramor siiv nahkriin.
A literal translation:
"Many years ago did Ysgramor and his Companions fly to Skyrim. Elves fought them in brutal snow. Beautiful battle it was! Our most great foe fled Skyrim and Ysgramor found vengeance."
A more transparent translation might look like this:
"Many years ago, Ysgramor and his Companions came to Skyrim. The elves fought them in the brutal snow, and a beautiful battle it was! Our greatest foe fled Skyrim, and Ysgramor at last found vengeance."
3. Translate the following into the dragon language using all of the steps discussed in this lesson: "I was born 87 years ago. For 65 years I ruled as Tamriel's emperor, but for all these years I have never been the ruler of my own dreams. I have seen the gates of Oblivion beyond which no waking eye may see. Behold, in darkness, a doom sweeps the land."
There are many possible answers. Take a look at the one below and see how yours compares.
"Zu'u lost kiin lingrah vod ahrk lingrah relaan ol Thursetaazokaan, nuz ko pah eruvos zu'u neh kos thur se dii hahnu. Zu'u koraav faal miiraad do Oblivion kolos nahlaas miin nis koraav. Ahrk ond, ko vulom, daan meyz fundein."