Translating Digits of Pi
In September, my next book ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’ will be published by NBM. Right now, I’m in the middle of translating this 192-pager from Dutch into English (using my own new font, yay!).
As always, translating poses interesting challenges – not only does the translation have to be accurate, it also has to fit into the space available. Fortunately, Dutch is a much “longer” language than English. The English wording usually comes out much shorter, which makes it easy on me. Except for a word like “circumference”, which is much longer than the Dutch “omtrek” – I’m coming across it in the chapter about Pi.
Pi is interesting for many reasons – this number has a lot of mystic and artistic connotations. And did you know that the search for ever more digits of Pi spurred the evolution of the computer?
In the original book I showcased an old Dutch rhyme that helped people memorize the digits of Pi:
“Wie u eens π heeft verzonnen in aloude tijden
was nooit begonnen inderdaad spoedig geëindigd
als hij had ingezien welk gezeur de cijfers bien”
If you substitute each word for the number of letters it has, you get the correct values for the first 23 digits of pi.
I was really happy with this find, but dreaded translating it – until a quick Google-search taught me that the same kind of mnemonic for Pi has been done in English even more than in Dutch! Here is the page where I found it: Pi Wordplay.
So it was actually rather easy then to put in a good translation. And these are 31 digits, so the English actually teaches you more than the Dutch!