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How to translate God Learner?

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No, really. “God Learner” is a maddeningly vague term for three syllables in plain English.

Is it one god (the Invisible God, as per the research that led to the revelation of the Abiding Book), or is it rather gods, and how to manipulate and exploit them?

And what exactly does Learner imply? Understanding through knowledge and logic? Or does the composite term have similar connotations as the "Learner" driver who gets the Vinga rune (small dark square in top right corner of double size white square) added to their British car signs, something along the line of an apprentice deity?

 

Translating the term "god" in God Learner to my native German would be “Gott”, singular (and monotheistic). “Learner” is actually hard to translate. German and English are close enough that one can simply drop the “a” in “Learner” and producing the active substantive of the German verb to learn (“lernern”): Lerner. Gott Lerner, or in the German way of having no spaces inside a single substantive term, Gottlerner.

Only problem here: “Lerner” isn’t really a word used in native German. You can form all manner of active nouns from verbs, and Lerner is no exception. According to Duden, it has appeared as a German version of Learner, usually in the context of learning a language.

There are various words conveying “someone who is learning” - student (or pupil, indicating that there is a teacher or two producing the curriculum- German "Schüler" - all manner of schools up to high school, and also disciple of a master artist or musician - or "Student" - college, university), scholar (someone in or from a school, although rather conveying the achievement of having gone through that school most of the way than still accumulating knowledge and wisdom - "Gelehrter" derives from "lehren", to teach, a case of similar terms for an active and a more passive related verb, or possible "Weiser", wise man, really a cognate of wizard), researcher (experimentator or library user - "Forscher", also "Rechercheur" taken directly from French for the library use). Possibly something along seeker ("Sucher"), although that implies more mysticism than logic.

 

Looking how others did this, there is the French “translation” of God Learner(s): Erudit(s) d’Ambigu.

If my Read French doesn’t fail me, this means something like “Scholars of the Vague”, with other proposed translations for “ambigu” as noun including “buffett” or “entertainment to which a range of dishes are served” which probably don’t quite hit the meaning.

"Jumaltietäjä(t)" in Finnish, which should translate to "god knower(s)"? If my bare-bone grammar knowledge is correct, "jumal(a)" is "god" in singular, possibly like an adjective, and "tietäjä" is "wise man", "sage", "seer", "wizard". That would add "Gottwissender" (god knowing person) to my selection of translations to German. Or perhaps "Gottkenner" ("Kenner" translates as connoisceur, while "kennen" also means "to be acquainted with").

Are there any offerings from other translations?

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I think Gottlerner (or Gott Lerner) sounds like it would be an excellent translation. "Learner" isn't that widely used in English, either, being largely reserved for drivers ("trainee" or "student" would be more likely to be used in most didactic scenarios). I think the sense in which 'Learner' is used in 'God Learner' is very active: they went out and learned things for themselves about how Gods and other Metaphysics 'work' in Glorantha. That they then went and applied that learning with some success and disastrous consequences, but are still known as 'Learners' indicates they hadn't finished their journey of discovery, or at least recognised, themselves, that such a journey is never complete.

Also, Gottlerner sounds better than Gottforscher... :) Especially if you consider the vernacular use of 'learn' as a synonym for 'teach', as in, "That'll learn 'em not to do that any more."

 

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I think it should be treated as a proper noun so you can find something more interesting in another language rather than a direct translation. In English, god learner doesn’t really mean much, it just has some association weight to it rather than those that learnt about gods. For example in someplaces in Glorantha, they might be called. The sorcerers of contempt, the wizards of moral nil, manipulators of worldly doom, etc. I’d encourage you to find you own words.  

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29 minutes ago, David Scott said:

I think it should be treated as a proper noun

Yeah. In terms of the scale of their ambition and their amount of ruin in their empire I call them the "theosophists," which is equally alien to all modern languages, lozenge or globe.

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4 minutes ago, scott-martin said:

Yeah. In terms of the scale of their ambition and their amount of ruin in their empire I call them the "theosophists," which is equally alien to all modern languages, lozenge or globe.

It also has a good dose of Blavatsky-esque weirdness associated with it along with its mainstream theosophy roots. Did Theosophy translate to German?

Edited by David Scott
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24 minutes ago, womble said:

I think Gottlerner (or Gott Lerner) sounds like it would be an excellent translation.

It is what was used, but nobody was exactly thrilled about it.

 

24 minutes ago, womble said:

I think the sense in which 'Learner' is used in 'God Learner' is very active: they went out and learned things for themselves about how Gods and other Metaphysics 'work' in Glorantha. That they then went and applied that learning with some success and disastrous consequences, but are still known as 'Learners' indicates they hadn't finished their journey of discovery, or at least recognised, themselves, that such a journey is never complete.

That's what I would want to convey, too.

Though then there is the question which brand of God Learners really is described well by this - the popular movement philosophy of early Jrustela, the military sorcerers of the Crusade for Rightness, or the heroquesters altering the mythical landscape willy-nilly.

 

24 minutes ago, womble said:

Also, Gottlerner sounds better than Gottforscher... :) 

Although "forsch" as an adjective means "brash"....

 

24 minutes ago, womble said:

Especially if you consider the vernacular use of 'learn' as a synonym for 'teach', as in, "That'll learn 'em not to do that any more."

Doesn't work that well in German, where we have "lernen" (learn) and "lehren" (teach, a word that might be related to German "(jmf. etwas) zeigen", to show something to someone). "Gottlehrer" wohld be "God Teacher". Which is probably how the Malkioneranists felt around 900 ST.

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

It also has a good dose of Blavatsky-esque weirdness associated with it along with its mainstream theosophy roots. Did Theosophy translate to German?

 

Theosophy would be the school of thought, and the practitioners would be Theosophers. Though I probably prefer Theosophists, using sophist both in the original "teacher/preacher" meaning and in the somewhat derisive sense of sophistry.

That mystical baggage in addition to the already pantheistic approach of non-Blavatskyan theosophy are a perfect match for the multiple possible interpretations of "God Learner". Good that the German language is fond of using dead foreign languages to make up technical terms. (We also use lots of English, French and other influences.)

 

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2 hours ago, Joerg said:

Looking how others did this, there is the French “translation” of God Learner(s): Erudit(s) d’Ambigu.

If my Read French doesn’t fail me, this means something like “Scholars of the Vague”, with other proposed translations for “ambigu” as noun including “buffett” or “entertainment to which a range of dishes are served” which probably don’t quite hit the meaning.

The French translation, by someone who did the translations of RQ3 for Oriflam, is actually surprising good, despite being non-literal.

Les Erudits de l'Ambigu means something like "the Experts of the Unknowable" or "the Educated by the Ambiguous", so it has a paradoxical sort of meaning in the same way that "God Learner" does. It's a bit like "Mission: Impossible" in that way, a kind of mind game of a name created to be deliberately absurd.

---

Is there any archaic German you could use, Joerg ?

Looking at etymology, Lerner does seem right, as it meant both scholar and student, but maybe you'd like a stronger noun ? Also, Lerner seems to be a loan word from an old English "lerner" meaning schoolmaster. Maybe Lernender would appear a little more pompous ?

Could you say something like "the Learners into the Godly" ?

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4 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

The French translation, by someone who did the translations of RQ3 for Oriflam, is actually surprising good, despite being non-literal.

Les Erudits de l'Ambigu means something like "the Experts of the Unknowable" or "the Educated by the Ambiguous", so it has a paradoxical sort of meaning in the same way that "God Learner" does. It's a bit like "Mission: Impossible" in that way, a kind of mind game of a name created to be deliberately absurd.

Thanks for that explanation.

 

4 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

Is there any archaic German you could use, Joerg ?

Not really, no - Lutheran German has held up better than Shakespearan English, and Middle High German or Yiddish (closely related) are already too foreign. Classical Greek in German declination does a better job.

4 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

Looking at etymology, Lerner does seem right, as it meant both scholar and student, but maybe you'd like a stronger noun ? Also, Lerner seems to be a loan word from an old English "lerner" meaning schoolmaster. Maybe Lernender would appear a little more pompous ?

Nowadays it would sound politically correct pompous rather than impressive pompous, like someone desperately avoiding to gender a term.

4 minutes ago, Julian Lord said:

Could you say something like "the Learners into the Godly" ?

Has to be one long word to look and feel German, you know? "Godly" will be identical to "divine", and there's still the Learner part of the problem. "Étudiant de la divinité" or "elève de la piété" don't sound right in French, either, do they?

 

Not really translating it by using an ancient language (Greek, with German declination) rather than English looks better and better. We're used to that and pronounce the letters as written (except for ph which becomes f, and ignoring the h in th combinations). Our sound shifts were delayed by a few centuries when northern Germany had to switch from Low German to High German less than two centuries ago, when the converts took pride in being more correct than all those speakers of dialect when not using Low German. (Still do...)

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I would say a God Learner is both someone learning about specific gods and about godhood in general, in a way gods themselves would not comprehend. Also they are someone with a great deal of personal ambition, probably aiming to become a god in the same way EWF leaders aim to become a dragon or Sedenya aims to become an element. If I had to invent a Godlearnerism for God Learner it would be something like Emergent Demiurge. 

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3 hours ago, Julian Lord said:

The French translation, by someone who did the translations of RQ3 for Oriflam, is actually surprising good, despite being non-literal.

Les Erudits de l'Ambigu means something like "the Experts of the Unknowable" or "the Educated by the Ambiguous", so it has a paradoxical sort of meaning in the same way that "God Learner" does. It's a bit like "Mission: Impossible" in that way, a kind of mind game of a name created to be deliberately absurd.

As far as I know, the legend says that the french translators had some trouble with the translation of "God Learners". They would have asked Greg Stafford some explanations and he would have replied "it's ambiguous", hence the translation "Érudits de l'ambigu". As far as I am concerned, I don't like the french edition both because of its graphics and because of its translation.

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15 hours ago, Corvantir said:

As far as I know, the legend says that the french translators had some trouble with the translation of "God Learners". They would have asked Greg Stafford some explanations and he would have replied "it's ambiguous", hence the translation "Érudits de l'ambigu". As far as I am concerned, I don't like the french edition both because of its graphics and because of its translation.

Well, I don't know if you can really blame the former editor of the Gloranthan fanzine "Les Erudits de l'Ambigu" for a little bias in this regard ... 🦄

Edited by Julian Lord

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I think I can blame a translator when he translates something that means "God Learners" by something that means "Learners of the ambiguous". Many Gloranthan terms are in my opinion particularly difficult to translate though and good french translations were very rare at this time, even if you consider fantasy and science-fiction novels.   ;)

"God learners" is actually very difficult to translate as the translation shoud convey the initial ambiguous meaning.

May be my understanding of the english grammar is lacking but the term "God" is singular which could mean that it is pointing towards a specific god. This god could be the "Invisible God" (it is certainly my knowledge of Glorantha that is failing here). "God Learners" could thus be translated "Érudits de Dieu" or "Érudits de l'Invisible" (with an editor's note to explain the more poetic choice).

My two cents.  :)

[A sidenote to the Chaosium team: indexes are great and incredibly useful but you should identify the page specifically treating the subject of an entry. For example: In the "Guide to Glorantha", someone will find 107 page numbers listed under "God Learners". Page 135 should be somehow highlighted so that I know it is the page where the subject "God Learners" is treated and is not simply a page where the words "God Learners" appear. The same thing is true with HeroQuest: Glorantha to the point I prefer the table of contents rather than the index, for informations about the God Learners the page 91 should thus be highlighted, for example. Without such a tool indexes miss most of their goal in my opinion].

Edited by Corvantir

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On 8/9/2018 at 4:37 PM, Joerg said:

Jumaltietäjä(t)" in Finnish, which should translate to "god knower(s)"? If my bare-bone grammar knowledge is correct, "jumal(a)" is "god" in singular, possibly like an adjective, and "tietäjä" is "wise man", "sage", "seer", "wizard". That would add "Gottwissender" (god knowing person) to my selection of translations to German. Or perhaps "Gottkenner" ("Kenner" translates as connoisceur, while "kennen" also means "to be acquainted with").

You are spot on with your Finnish grammar. One thing to note. The direct translation would also go to "jumaloppinut" (learned about god(s)). But that would have rather theological sound in it. So that's why it probably had the "tietäjä" which has the nice double meaning and an oldish sound. From our national epic: "Vaka vanha Väinämöinen, tietäjä iänikuinen". Väinämöinen is a shaman figure (tietäjä).

After reading about the ambuigity I see that the current translation doesn't really have anything for that.

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36 minutes ago, Corvantir said:

May be my understanding of the english grammar is lacking but the term "God" is singular which could mean that it is pointing towards a specific god. This god could be the "Invisible God" (it is certainly my knowledge of Glorantha that is failing here). "God Learners" could thus be translated "Erudits de Dieu" ou "Erudits de l'Invisible" (with an editor's note to explain the more poetic choice).

 

From a native English speaker's point of view, I can see where you might think it it was exclusively singular, but the singular form is often used to refer to a multiplicty of a thing. Consider 'whale watching': the observers do not avert their eyes when two of the magnificent creatures breach at once :) 

It's entirely within the grounds of grammatical propriety to say 'God studying' and mean 'Studying the Gods'. Given that there is a monotheistic world view, though, it is... ambiguous (since to the monotheist it would imply the study of the one and only God) :)

 

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31 minutes ago, womble said:

From a native English speaker's point of view, I can see where you might think it it was exclusively singular, but the singular form is often used to refer to a multiplicty of a thing. Consider 'whale watching': the observers do not avert their eyes when two of the magnificent creatures breach at once :) 

It's entirely within the grounds of grammatical propriety to say 'God studying' and mean 'Studying the Gods'. Given that there is a monotheistic world view, though, it is... ambiguous (since to the monotheist it would imply the study of the one and only God) :)

 

I had a doubt, thank you for your explanations.   👍

Other french translations could be "Érudits des Dieux", "Érudits du Divin" or "Érudits Divins". The last translation has the advantage of being more ambiguous and rather close to some titles once given to priests or priestesses in the ancient world.

Edited by Corvantir

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2 hours ago, Corvantir said:

I had a doubt, thank you for your explanations.   👍

Other french translations could be "Érudits des Dieux", "Érudits du Divin" or "Érudits Divins". The last translation has the advantage of being more ambiguous and rather close to some titles once given to priests or priestesses in the ancient world.

Except that the first means "educated by the gods", the second "students of the divine", and the third with its di-di-vin succession of the end seems quite clumsy. They all do really, to varying degrees.

"Les Érudits de l'Ambigu" rolls off the tongue much more nicely.

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1 hour ago, Julian Lord said:

Except that the first means "educated by the gods", the second "students of the divine", and the third with its di-di-vin succession of the end seems quite clumsy. They all do really, to varying degrees.

"Les Érudits de l'Ambigu" rolls off the tongue much more nicely.

I agree with you, my proposals are not reflecting the whole ambiguity of the original name, that's the problem when trying to translate something like "God Learners". I don't have the same reading than you of "Érudits des Dieux" though, in my opinion it means more something like "Learners of the Gods".

May be am I wrong but the whole debate could well be moot. In french, I don't think it is correct to associate the word "érudit" with "of something". As far as I know, "Érudit" actually means being well learned and nor having a superior knowledge in a specific field nor being a student. The meaning of "Learner" in the original version is perhaps closer to something like "Étudiant" (student) or "Apprenti" (apprentice) than "Érudit" (well learned, educated).

And though I agree that "Érudits de l'ambigu" sounds really well, it bothers me a lot because the "God" part of the God Learners' name is not reflected in the translation. "Érudits de l'Invisible" hints at the "Invisible God" but I would qualify it as a Stretch (-6 penalty).

One solution could be to find a whole new french name expressing what the "God Learners" did rather than trying to translate the english name at all.   :(

Edited by Corvantir
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Not a "locateur natif" by any stretch but for GL en français I would ground what they did in savoir -- le gai savoir, with all its troubadour riddles and mysteries -- and so they might've been "Les Savants."

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A possibility is to invert the relationship.  Thus instead of Knowers or Learners of God, you could have Known to God (implying someone powerful enough to be worthy of God's attention)*

*Linguistic device shamelessly stolen from Amadeus.

.  

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13 minutes ago, metcalph said:

A possibility is to invert the relationship.  Thus instead of Knowers or Learners of God, you could have Known to God (implying someone powerful enough to be worthy of God's attention)*

*Linguistic device shamelessly stolen from Amadeus.

.  

I like this... see my attempt below.

1 hour ago, scott-martin said:

Not a "locateur natif" by any stretch but for GL en français I would ground what they did in savoir -- le gai savoir, with all its troubadour riddles and mysteries -- and so they might've been "Les Savants."

I think in French Les Divineurs or Les Savants-Divins? 'divin' = divine, but also divine in the sense of a priest.

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5 hours ago, Corvantir said:

I agree with you, my proposals are not reflecting the whole ambiguity of the original name, that's the problem when trying to translate something like "God Learners". I don't have the same reading than you of "Érudits des Dieux" though, in my opinion it means more something like "Learners of the Gods".

Érudit is from Latin "erudire", which means something like "to unroughen, to polish" (in the sense of stone- or jewel- cutting, or hide curing, or similar refinement of raw materials), and it was intended to describe the process of how someone instinctive, emotional, ignorant is polished through education into a full, reasonable adult, and the core/etymological meaning of the word is polished or educated. All other meanings are derived from this original sense.

It has in any case a principally passive meaning, as something that the Érudit has achieved, and the "student" meaning of it is therefore a secondary one -- but it's a useful one, as the various meanings of the word provide it with both polysemy and ambiguity. Aesthetically and poetically, as much as semantically, it's also a delightful word.

As for "Érudits des Dieux", you may be underestimating the value of the French particles and prepositions when they're used in certain ways. Sometimes, you really need to look at what they mean in their strong senses, and here, "des" would tend to mean "by the" rather than the more neutral "of the" because the word "Érudit" has a centrally passive meaning, including morphologically -- Latin eruditus from which it is directly derived is a perfect passive participle, nominalised in the French.

So, "polished or educated by the gods".

Whereas the "de" in "Les Érudits de l'Ambigu" whether you read it as a weak neutral particle or a stronger "of" cannot mean "from" or "by".

5 hours ago, Corvantir said:

And though I agree that "Érudits de l'ambigu" sounds really well, it bothers me a lot because the "God" part of the God Learners' name is not reflected in the translation. "Érudits de l'Invisible" hints at the "Invisible God" but I would qualify it as a Stretch (-6 penalty).

But the main reason why "Les Érudits de l'Ambigu" is so deliciously absurd is that in its deeper etymological and more literary sense, it's something like "Those polished and refined in the principles of the ambiguous". It's a deliberate antiphrase, whichever way you look at it.

Meanwhile in the Gloranthan sense, God is ambiguous, so it makes sense from that point of view as well.

And a problem with directly translating the "God" part is also that "god" and "dieu" don't really have the same connotations in English and French, and to an extent not the same denotations.

The word "god" in English is derived from the word "good", whereas "dieu" is derived from an Indo-European meaning "god", "divine", "divine being", "godly", "godly person", "divine spirit", and so on.

"God Learner" has a range of implicit meanings between "good learner" and "someone who is learning God".

Attempting a strictly literal translation of "God Learner", you quickly get stuck -- "apprenant divin" or "apprenant de Dieu", or "apprenant du divin", or "apprenti des dieux", or what variant exactly ? You could try "Les Apprentis de l'Éternel" I suppose, as a slight stretch with a better ring to it, but then it's starting to look like a change just for change' sake, so then what would be the point of doing it ?

5 hours ago, Corvantir said:

One solution could be to find a whole new french name expressing what the "God Learners" did rather than trying to translate the english name at all.   :(

Which is exactly what Oriflam did with "Les Érudits de l'Ambigu"

I really don't think that one is broken, whereas any more literal translations would be.

Edited by Julian Lord

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The God Learners started off by taking a red pen to all of their religious texts, striking out anything that wasn't canon or connected to the Invisible God. In doing so, they had to learn more about the Invisible God, their history and how other cultures related to them. That then led to them studying the other cultures, so that they could see what was foreign and what wasn't. That, in turn, led to them studying other mythology to find distinct patters, which finally led to them studying how to use and abuse those foreign mythologies.

So, the term God Learner has meant different things at different times.

It is more about researching.understanding Mythologies than God, at least in its later form.

Not sure if that helps, though.

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