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The Fox's Secret:
On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. Translation into Vietnamese

(Vietnamese translations) ▶ Here is my secret. It is very simple ▼ One sees clearly only with the heart ▶ What is essential is invisible to the eyes

 

The essence of the Fox's Secret in Le Petit Prince: On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur -- It is only with the heart that one can see rightly (Katherine Woods' translation).

Here I want to look at how this sentence is handled by Vietnamese translators, particularly how each translator has arrived at slightly different versions.

This will be the shortest page of all, for several reasons:

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A. STRUCTURE

The basic sentence pattern is:

BASIC SENTENCE PATTERN
 
Subject
Verb
Object
Người ta
on
'one'
nhìn thấy
voit
'see'
[...]

Translating on 'one'

Unlike either Chinese or Japanese, Vietnamese has a personal pronoun similar to French on 'one'. The pronoun is người ta, meaning 'one, we, they, someone, people in general'. Người ta is used as a fairly standard translation of French on, and all translators use it.

Avec le coeur

If we add 'with the heart', the pattern is as follows. The prepositional phrase comes at the end.

ADDING 'WITH THE HEART'
 
Subject
Verb
Object
Prepositional phrase
Người ta
'one'
nhìn thấy
'see'
[...]
bằng trái tim
'with the heart'

The instrumental use of avec is usually expressed in Vietnamese using bằng 'with', which is chosen by two translators.

TRANSLATION OF AVEC

 
bằng [trái tim]
'with [heart]'
2
với [trái tim]
'with [heart]'
2
Total
4

Two translators instead use với. While strictly speaking this means 'accompanied by', với actually has a broad range of uses. One meaning of với is 'with', 'based on', 'using', 'because of', etc. It is used to express conditions ('on the condition that'), methods, and attitudes.

Finally, one translator uses before the Prepositional phrase: là với trái tim. is often regarded as equivalent to the copula (i.e., the verb 'to be') but this is a case where the analysis as 'copula' doesn't quite work. converts the Prepositional phrase into a predicate construction, thus also emphasising it.

Translating ne ... que 'only':

The Vietnamese equivalent of ne .. que ('only') is chỉ, which behaves very much like English 'only'. That is, chỉ normally precedes the verb, but in the interest of clarity can be placed at various places in the sentence, depending on the word acting as the focus. The addition of chỉ does not bring about any change in word order. A textbook example:

'ONLY' IN VIETNAMESE
 
Subject
Verb
Object
Sentence final
Chỉ
'only'

'he'
ghét
'hates'
tôi
'I/me'
thôi

'he'
chỉ
'only'
ghét
'hates'
tôi
'I/me'
thôi

'he'
ghét
'hates'
chỉ
'only'
tôi
'I/me'
thôi

The meaning of the first is 'Only he (and no one else) hates me'. The second means 'He only hates me (he doesn't love me)'. The third means 'He hates only me (and no one else)'. The sentence-final particle thôi here forms a set with chỉ.

Chỉ can be simply added before the verb, which is what all translators do.

TRANSLATING NE ... QUE ('ONLY')
 
Subject
Only
Verb
Object
Prepositional phrase
Người ta
'one'
chỉ
'one'
nhìn thấy
'see'
[...]
bằng trái tim
'with the heart'

(It's interesting that chỉ is related to the Chinese word zhǐ, also meaning 'only'. However, despite the etymological link, chỉ is quite different in its grammatical behaviour.)

'Can'

All the Vietnamese translations use only a plain form of the verb, rather than an auxiliary verb like English 'can'. (In Vietnamese, 'can see' is expressed in a number of ways, including có thể thấy, thấy được, and có thể thấy được. None of the translators use such forms). The Vietnamese translations are thus closest to the French original verb voit, which does not use an auxiliary verb.

Bien

The adverb follows the verb, as in French. (The object, which is not spelled out in any of the Vietnamese translations, is now omitted from the table.)

ADDING BIEN
 
Subject
Only
Verb
Adverb
Prepositional phrase
Người ta
on
'one'
chỉ
ne ... que
'only'
nhìn thấy
voit
'see'

bien
'clearly'
bằng trái tim
avec le coeur
'with the heart'

 


B. VOCABULARY CHOICES

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Compared to the variation seen in the Japanese and (particularly) the Chinese translations, variations in the Vietnamese are relatively minor.

The verb voir 'to see

The Vietnamese word for 'to look' is nhìn. This is normally followed by the word thấy 'to see, to perceive'. The resulting compound nhìn thấy has the meaning 'to see'. Thấy can also be used by itself, or with verbs like nghe 'listen, hear', as in nghe thấy 'to hear'.

In this, nhìn thấy closely resembles the Chinese resultative 看見 / 看见 kànjiàn, which uses the verb kàn 'to look' followed by the verb / jiàn 'to see, perceive'. However, Vietnamese does not have 'potential resultative' forms like Chinese.

TRANSLATING VOIR
 
nhìn thấy
'sees'
3
thấy
'sees, perceives'
1
Total
4

Of the four translations that we have, three use nhìn thấy (i.e., 'look' + 'perceive') and one uses only thấy (i.e., 'see, perceive').

Translating bien 'well'

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Bien is expressed with words meaning 'clearly' or 'truly clearly':

TRANSLATION OF BIEN

 
'truly' 'clearly'
Occurrences
--
'clear'
2
thật
'truly, really'

'clear'
1
thật
'truly, really'
rõ ràng
'clear; evident; plain'
1
Total
4

Thật means 'really, truly'; means 'evident, clear, plain, obvious', rõ ràng similarly means 'clear, evident, plain'.

Translating le cœur

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The Vietnamese word tim refers either to the physiological heart, or to the heart as 'centre'. But accompanied by the classifier trái, i.e., as trái tim, it becomes a rather literary expression for the heart as the seat of emotions. It's also the standard Vietnamese translation for French cœur. This is the form used by all four translators.

TRANSLATION OF LE COEUR

 
trái tim
'the heart'
2
trái tim mình
'one's heart'
1
cả trái tim
'the whole heart'
1
Total
4

In translating le cœur, there are two small variations on the part of a couple of translators.

There are also pages on the French original, the English translations, the Chinese translations, and the Japanese translations.

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