Why ‘Hamilton’ Is Tough to Translate

Applied ICD

Paulson, Michael. (2022, September 14). Six Lyrics That Show Why ‘Hamilton’ Is Tough to Translate. New York Times.

Translation is central to intercultural dialogue since there are so many different languages in the world. This article is a pragmatic example of the need to take context into account when translating. The example is a translation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton from the original English into German.

There were many moments when Miranda et al. allowed the German translators to bend the original meaning in order to preserve lyricism and melody. But there were other moments when they insisted on literalism…

Six specific sections of the musical are analyzed in detail, focusing on different issues from avoiding hyperbole, to quoting rap songs, from providing new imagery to prioritizing meaning. The translators worked hard to display intercultural competence. (For a one-page introduction, see KC3: Intercultural Competence.)


Author: Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, the Director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue, manages this website.

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