Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Web of Words. It's a site site dedicated to the regional and minority languages of the European Union. It has been created within the framework of the European Year of Languages, with the support of the European Commission.
You can find general information about each language, the area or country where it is spoken as a minority language ; and listen to a poem in the language. They have a page for Judeo-Spanish, neat.

A Racial Slur Database. Unfortunately, very useful for translators. To counter the bad juju in this entry, take a look at the Museum of the Person, where any person can make his or her story known on the Internet. This site is somewhat similar to Immigrant Voices and The New Americans (both links via plep)

East Timor in Linguistic Tangle as Independence Nears. Rui da Costa Hornai is a first-year science student at East Timor's national university, but instead of devoting time to physics and chemistry he is learning how to count and say parts of the body in Portuguese.

As part of carving out its identity, East Timor chose Portuguese for the language of school instruction, making life difficult for Rui's generation, born after Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

'It will be very difficult for us to learn Portuguese because we are all Indonesian speakers. We have never studied Portuguese but now it is compulsory,' he said ahead of celebrations at midnight (1500 GMT) on Sunday when East Timor becomes independent."

Sign Madness. I'll give you an example. In the UK, they say over the railway system: “Passengers alight here”. This means passengers get off. Luckily many tourists do not take this literally and think they have to incinerate themselves by setting themselves on fire at the end of the underground system. This would turn Ealing Broadway into a crematorium. Of course I am being rather ridiculous just to keep your interest, but why don't they say, instead of setting yourself alight, something like: please leave the train here?"

My Collection of Quotations on Translation

Translation is the paradigm, the exemplar of all writing.... It is translation that demonstrates most vividly the yearning for transformation that underlies every act involving speech, that supremely human gift.

Harry Mathews (b. 1930), U.S. novelist. “The Dialect of the Tribe,” Country Cooking and Other Stories (1980).

Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat ... where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.

Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), U.S. author. Address, 1983, in Poetry Series, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.. “Reciprocity of Prose and Poetry,” published in Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989).

Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information—hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.

Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), German critic, philosopher. “The Task of the Translator,” Illuminations (1955, ed. by Hannah Arendt, 1968)

Poetry is what is lost in translation.

Robert Frost (1874–1963), U.S. poet. Quoted in Robert Frost: a Backward Look, ch. 1, Louis Untermeyer (1964).

The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of a tapestry.

Leonardo Sciascia (1921–1989), Italian writer. Guardian (London, Aug. 5, 1988).

'A translation is no translation,' he said, 'unless it will give you the music of a poem along with the words of it.'

John Millington Synge, Irish playwright. (1871 - 1909) The Aran Islands ( (1907)) pt. 3

The vanity of translation; it were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language to another the creations of a poet. The plant must spring again from its seed, or it will bear no flower.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet (1792 - 1822), A Defence of Poetry (written (1821))

Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.

Virginia Woolf (1882 - 1941), British novelist. The Common Reader, 1925

An idea does not pass from one language to another without change.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864 - 1936) Spanish writer. The Tragic Sense of Life, 1913

The original is unfaithful to the translation.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986) Argentinian writer. Referring to Henley's translation of Beckford's Vathek. Sobre el `Vathek' de William Beckford

Translate beautifully or be replaced by a machine.

Josh Wallace, translator, at Lantra-L

" I do love translating it is the pure pleasure of writing without the misery of inventing."
Nancy Mitford (1904-1973): letter to Evelyn Waugh, 11 January 1949
(to be continued...)

Translation in the Rennaisance. In the good old days: "The status of translation in this period accords with the humanistic and patriotic high-mindedness of most translators. The desire to be useful to one's fellow-citizens and to improve their cultural environment runs strongly through their accounts of their motives; underpinning this was the theory that it was beneficial to copy a good model (see criticism, literary). As Harington observed, it was preferable "to be called rather one of the not worst translators then one of the meaner makers". Certainly in the hands of Amyot in France or Holland in England the translator's profession attained a literary dignity that it has seldom, if ever, attained since.

Google Glossary Search. This tip comes from Michael Molin from Transhub and was posted at GlossPost this morning.

Google has made an experimental search interface for searching online glossaries, similar to News.Google, Images.Google , Groups.Google and other interfaces.

You can check it out at

As far as I could tell, only English definitions are covered, type anything in another language and you will get zero results. But they provide a feedback button and a discussion forum, so there is a chance that if an overwhelming number of translators requests advanced language features they might include them in a new release.

I also tried general language words such as vexation and oxymoron and got no direct results to Merriam-Webster or other standard dictionaries, which would be a welcome addition.

This is exciting news for the translating community. I've always said that if I get a tatoo it will be a sailor's heart with Google splashed accross it.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

The Rise of Compound Adjetives. ''Hyphenation gives the impression,'' says Frank Abate, former editor in chief of the U.S. Dictionaries program at Oxford University Press, ''that the compound is novel, imaginative or requires some background knowledge.'' He notes that some of these double-word modifiers grow out of adverbial phrases: in ''technology at the cutting edge,'' the adverbial phrase is swung around in front of the noun to become cutting-edge technology; in the same way, ''you can track changes in real time'' becomes real-time data.

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