Poetry Translation from a Tonal Language (Vietnamese) to a Non-Tonal Language (English)

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Andrea Hoa Pham


In this essay, as a bilingual speaker as well as a poet and linguist, I will share some issues involved in the translation of a bilingual collection of poems by Andrea Hoa Pham and Lola Haskins, published by Danang Publishing House. The collection includes twenty Vietnamese poems originally written in Vietnamese by Pham, and twenty written in English by Haskins; each original poem is accompanied by a translated version. In the process, I translated Haskins’s poems into Vietnamese. For my original Vietnamese poems, I translated them into English, and Haskins adapted the English versions as an American poet and native speaker of English. Over several meetings, we discussed the deep meanings behind the text, line by line, written by the other, although without discussing the sound of the languages or reading them aloud to each other.

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