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.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

Chouchoot. Cajun Dialect page, complete with .wav files and crawfish backgrounds.

La Malinche. Malinche, Malinztin or Dona Marina, as she was baptized by the Spaniards spoke both Maya and Nahualt and is often credited with playing a key role in the Conquest. Says the Oxford History of Mexico, however, that her importance as an interpreter has been considerably overstated because "the truly crucial linguistic leap was not between two indigenous languages but rather between a European and an indigenous one. This connection was achieved not by Marina but by Geronimo Aguilar, who spoke both Spanish and Maya and accompanied her throughout the Conquest." Ascending to the status of a myth for also mothering the "first" Mexican with Cortés, no less, Malinche's name has evolved into the adjective malinchista, used to describe a person who turns her back on her culture. Her name also designates a volcano in Mexico.

Using the Wrong Language. Palestine TV broadcasts in Hebrew to reach the Israeli public. But even if the language is right the choice of words may be wrong.
Oh, Oklahoma."A petition to make English Oklahoma's official language is unconstitutional, the state's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The court ruled the initiative infringes on the right of free speech, on the freedom to petition the government for redress and on the policy-making function of the state Legislature. The proposed statute would have banned state money from being spent on translations of public documents or providing services in different languages."

The Politically-Correct Carmen. "The first scene takes place in a square in Seville. Young factory workers spill into the street for their morning break of fresh fruit. One of them, the dark Gypsy Carmen, sings a lovely habanera, reminding us that love occurs between all genders, races, and body types. Before returning to the factory, Carmen throws a rose to the Basque soldier, Don José. A fight breaks out between two of the young persons in the factory, and while trying to instruct them on the futility of violence, Carmen is arrested. Don José is ordered to guard her, but she convinces him to allow her to escape, explaining that they are all victims of patriarchal oppression."

Buzzword of the Day. TECHNIBAN. A fundamentalist mindset, repressively opposed to ground-breaking technologies that could upset the status quo. Apparently coined by info warrior Richard Forno in a rant about politicians protecting the entertainment industry from new technology that would undermine its current business model.

Austria Proposes Mandatory German Classes for Immigrants and Fines for Failing Fluency Tests. "Under the proposal, they would have to take a 100-lesson course and pay half the tuition of about $315. Those who fail to pass a test showing they have mastered basic expressions would be subject to fines of up to $175; those who don't comply within four years could be forced to leave Austria." This is too awful for words.

Spam Fatigue. Chris Sherman from Search Day recommends Mailwasher for getting rid of spam. "Mailwasher's been literally saving me an hour or more each day."

Verlan. Ever wondered why the French dialect is called verlan? Because it's French à l'envers. BBC, which is turning out to be an aortal feed for this blog as a result of its extensive coverage of languages, has published a brief overview of Verlan a couple of days ago. The link is only slightly dusty. Brush it off and I'm sure you can use it.

Plastigraphics and Dermagraphics. What exactly is this all about? It's a bit mesmerizing in a Mattel kind of way. There is also a basfonds version with a dermaglossary of Russian prison tattoos.
via the very odd gmtplus9

Translation Napster ?"A US software designer plans to harness the brains of the world's computer users to build a multilingual translation database. Brian McConnell believes it could provide a free way to translate the many languages not included in existing online translators." Yada yada yada. Will these scientists ever stop bothering me? "But Paul Rayson, a research fellow at Lancaster University, adds that unskilled translators may confuse the meaning of individual words. 'The problem is you generally need the context to get a good translation,' he says. No shit. I guess that will be translated as "não merda".

Browsing the Web through a Radio. Hey, look at the bright side: no need for pop-up killers on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Ms. Kim, I don't understand what you're saying. Kindergarten--a novel experience in any language--got off to a baffling start last fall in one Schaumburg classroom when teacher Yuri Kim began speaking to her pupils in Japanese.

Poetry in Translation. Just found some good poetry translated by good translators into Portuguese. Unfortunately not all pages display the poem in the original language for comparison.

At MIT, They Can Put Words in Your Mouth. "Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created the first realistic videos of people saying things they never said - a scientific leap that raises unsettling questions about falsifying the moving image."

Some Language Experts Think Humans Spoke First With Gestures. "hat a hairy back!" was Lily Tomlin's candidate for the first human sentence. But whatever the content of that original remark, if Michael C. Corballis is correct, it was expressed in gestures, not words." Well, I am not a linguist either, but it makes sense.

Wanderlust. The ambivalent wanderluster Baudelaire, as quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. "'Life is a hospital in which every patient is obsessed with changing beds. This one wants to suffer in front of the radiator, and that one thinks he'd get better if he was by the window.' Baudelaire was, nevertheless, unashamed to count himself among the patients. 'It always seems to me that I will be well where I am not and this question of moving is one that I'm forever entertaining with my soul. Sometimes Baudelaire dreamt of going to Lisbon. It would be warm there and he would like a lizard gain strength from stretching himself in the sun. It was a city of water, marble and light, conducive to thought and calm. But almost from the moment he conceived of this Portuguese fantasy, he would start to wonder if he might not be happier in Holland. Then again, why not Java or else the Baltic or even the North Pole, where he could bathe in the shadows and watch comets fly across the Arctic skies? The destination was not really the point. The true desire was to get away, to go, as he concluded 'Anywhere! Anywhere! So long as it is out of the world!" But he was aware of the difficulties. Baudelaire once had left the leaden skies of France embarking on a journey to India. Three months into the sea crossing, the ship ran into a storm and landed in Mauritius for repairs. "It was the lush, palm fringed island that Baudelaire had dreamt off. But he could not shake off a feeling of lethargy and suspected and began suspecting that India would be no better. Despite efforts by the captain to persuade him otherwise, he insisted on sailing back to France."

Wear lipstick, have a tattoo, belly-dance, then get naked. The making of a virtual librarian. Is the stereotypical librarian nerdier than the stereotypical translator?

"Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy"

RTFM. A forum about user manuals, bibliographic artifact for the clueless.

Translating Style. I think Missveen would like this book by Tim Parks. "One wet Thursday, as it were, many years ago, I decided to give a group of students a piece writing in Italian and English. They had to decide which language was the original, which the translation. It was an odd piece and they soon found the four or five places where the texts were different. They opted for the Italian, which seemed all proper and correct. The English was bizarre to say the least. It included the expression 'he shut himself together.' It was D.H. Lawrence. I was fascinated. Infallibly, by finding where translation differed from original, students whose English was far from perfect were able to identify those places where a writer diverged from standard usage. The reason is evident enough. While it's fairly easy to translate content and standard mannerisms, when the meaning of a text lies in the distance between itself and what the reader expected, then it is difficult for translator to follow. Looking at all the ways a translation differs from its original, you can begin to get a good sense of how a writer worked and what his particular take on language and indeed life was. Because for each author who has anything interesting to say, the problems are always different. That's what this book is about."

Pandora's Wordbox. It's a mixture of mythology, medicine, etymology and wordlore illustrated with classical paintings. Sure worth a visit to ponder over sentences such as "Imbibing to ebriety may imbibe to imbecile" and to check out the paintings, which are amazing, sometimes eerie.

Dictionaraoke. Now you can hear the on-line dictionary sing the songs of yesterday and today. Smack my bitch up, highway to hell and rock the casbah among the 91 entries.
via the totemic paganist aka blind tangerine

Japan Pop. "Japan is reinventing superpower—again. Instead of collapsing beneath its widely reported political and economic misfortunes, Japan’s global cultural influence has quietly grown. From pop music to consumer electronics, architecture to fashion, and animation to cuisine, Japan looks more like a cultural superpower today than it did in the 1980s, when it was an economic one. But can Japan build on its mastery of medium to project an equally powerful national message?"
Untranslatable Joke? I suspect so, because Herr Professor's humor is impenetrable to me. Plenty of fun to be had at the Freud exhibit at the Library of Congress, though. Noteworthy: Envelope with prescription and wrapper that held cocaine, ca. 1883; image of hysterics under hypnosis at Salpêtrière, from D.M. Bourneville and P. Régnard and the planche is called Attitudes Passionelles.
Banned Books. You can read them online, but not Lady Chatterley's Lover. Prudes. Enjoy the Decameron or JJ Rouseaus's Confessions, which begins with these remarkably ambitious words: I HAVE begun on a work which is without precedent, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I propose to set before my fellow-mortals a man in all the truth of nature; and this man shall be myself. I have studied mankind and know my heart; I am not made like any one I have been acquainted with, perhaps like no one in existence; if not better, I at least claim originality, and whether Nature has acted rightly or wrongly in destroying the mold in which she cast me, can only be decided after I have been read.

Verba Volant Quote. An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.
Adlai Stevenson

When President Translates as "Great Supreme Leader".
GOP's intent lost in translation ''I'm surprised that they wouldn't have gone with a professional translator, and if they did, this translator seems to lack experience in this type of translation,'' said Georgia Seminet, a Spanish professor at Texas A&M University-Commerce. ''Honestly, it looks like they grabbed some volunteer and said, `Hey, you speak Spanish, you do this.'''

Bad Translation Protects American Steel. In Portuguese.

Poetry Wednesday. I am going to follow Dave's example and contribute to this worthy cause with a link to Literary Translation, brought to you via Enig and by the British Council, a paper on translating Paulo Leminski including translations by by colleague and doyenne supreme Regina Alfarano, and the following poem, also by the Polish-Black-Brazilian author: Blade Runner Waltz Em mil novecentos e oitenta e sempre, ah que tempos aqueles, dançamos ao luar, ao som da valsa A Perfeição do Amor através da Dor e da Renúncia, nome, confesso, um pouco longo, mas os tempos, aquele tempo, ah, não se faz mais tempo como antigamente. Aquilo sim é que eram horas, dias enormes, semanas anos, minutos milênios, e toda aquela fortuna em tempo a gente gastava em bobagens, amar, sonhar, dançar ao som da valsa, aquelas falsas valsas de tão imenso nome lento que a gente dançava em algum setembro daqueles mil e novecentos de oitenta e sempre More Leminski in Portuguese and in some Spanish translations by Rodolfo Mata.

Singaporean Colloquialisms. "When we are stumped for words, when no literal translation in English will do justice, when the language of Shakespeare, Milton and Dickens cannot convey the nuances of what we think, feel and mean, we dip into our multi-racial treasury of uniquely Singaporean colloquialisms."

Interview with a Big Man in an Invisible Profession. "Häilä points out that when talking about translations it is easy to inspect the commas, but few people realise what an immense job the translator has done when defining the writer's "tone of voice", his or her way of writing. According to Häilä the "mistakes" are just a marginal area, which should be discussed with a slightly different approach. Reluctantly Häilä gives an example of such a mistake he recently discovered in a book he'd been reading. "In Zadie Smith's White Teeth there is a passage where the author colourfully describes gloomy railway yards, dilapidated buildings, littered alleys, and - rather surprisingly - grease-covered spoons. Well, the translator had failed to grasp that the "greasy spoons" in this context referred to cheap and nasty restaurants instead of unwashed cutlery." (Read more)

Translation Pushes Sales of Popular Books. "Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens" by J.K. Rowling is flying off the bookstore shelves in Berlin, while Clive Cussler's "Il serpente dei Maya" has taken Rome by storm and Stephen Hawking's "O universo numa casca de noz" has captured imaginations from Lisbon to Rio. A quick glance of best-seller lists in major cities around the world reveals that many of the most popular titles are translations from foreign languages. (Read more)

Buzzword of the Day. Scope creep: When a project continues to grow after the contract has been signed. In the end, the vendor does more work than it gets paid for. Sounds very familiar...

Analyzing the Language of Globalization. All that glitters is not global. Translation: Non è tutto oro quello che luccica.

HSBC Gets it Right. Instead of the surveillance cam, I'd rather have the popuperatti display HSBC's new branding campaign on my browser since they have to have their wicked ways. Here's the latest on The Economist: Illustration: lemons and chili peppers. Text: India- Wards off evil; Mexico- Wards off Hunger. Headline- Never underestimate the importance of local knowledge Tagline: HSBC, the world's local bank Maybe it's just a half-hearted attempt by a megacorporation to seem less intent on destroying local identities with their big bucks and monolithic business cultures. Notwithstanding the ideological patrolling of my own psyche, what I like about this campaign is that it is the advertising equivalent of a cultural consulting assignment. There was a great design site aeons ago, with multicultural superstitions, proverbs, body language, alas the Web is now too crowded
Language Rights. Here is a Islamabad scholar making the case against English. Caveat lector: Islamic countries don't have a good track record on defending minority languages, as demonstrated by the oppression of the Berber and Kurdish communities. So read between the lines for that anti-American sentiment seeping through. Among other things, Dr. Tariq says that "American Africans (sic) although they do have distinguishing cultural features and speak Ebonics, they look like imitation products of American Western culture. They lack cultural authenticity." Oh pleeaaase! Metablogging note: I find myself thinking about "A Agulha e a Linha", a short fable by Machado de Assis. I hope that by posting this, I am not acting as a needle for a lowly thread.

Art of Simultaneous Interpreting is More than Just Being Bilingual. "Sasae pointed out that it would be difficult for those in the profession to improve as interpreters unless they tried to develop the "something beyond languages." I think that what Sasae is referring to that holistic conference room awareness that allows the interpreter to recognize that 70% of the attendees have succumbed to post-lunch slumberdoom. Time to let the Sarah Bernhardt within blossom!

Machado de Assis, Translator of Oliver Twist. Machado de Assis, greatest Brazilian novelist, left an unfinished translation of Oliver Twist. This year, the publishing house Hedra called on writer Ricardo Lísias to finish the translation. This project and Mr. Lísias have catalyzed heated flame wars at the Portuguese literary translators mailing list, Litterati last year, if not for anything else, because Mr. Lísias is young, provocative and entered the sacred python pit announcing his project and stating that a good translator should: "(...) dive into the literary text, fuck it, fall in love with it, feel what it has to say. Then come, come and come! Kiss the text, fondle it, arouse it, make it feel the irresistible urge to jump into bed with you. The translator has to make the text beg: fuck me, fuck me, fuck me!" Most literary translators almost died of apoplexia upon reading these words. But in the end, Lísias left the list voluntarily, dishevelled but undisturbed with two or more invitations to a cozy dinner under his belt. At any rate, questions are raised by both the Machado de Assis translation (a "belle infidèle" by definition) and the contemporary translator's patches. The eyebrow raiser issue is that Machado de Assis translated Oliver Twist at the turn of the century, under a completely different conception of what a translation should be. And more, how sucessful was Lisias' emulation of Machado de Assis translation style ?

The Writer Everyone Loves to Hate. Who else could it be but the translator? This article is pure gold. Howard Goldblatt vents off many of our frustations and ends with this magnificent statement of love for the profession: I am sometimes asked why I translate, since to many it seems a thankless vocation. Why, they ask, don't I write my own novels, since I have lived (they assume) an interesting life and must by now have an idea of what a novel should be? I can only say that not all translators are closet novelists, and that I do not consider translation to be a lesser art -- one that ought to lead to something better. The short, and very personal, answer to the question is: Because I love it. I love to read Chinese; I love to write in English. I love the challenge, the ambiguity, the uncertainty of the enterprise. I love the tension between creativity and fidelity, even the inevitable compromises. And, every once in a while, I find a work so exciting that I'm possessed by the urge to put it into English. In other words, I translate to stay alive. The satisfaction of knowing I've faithfully served two constituencies keeps me happily turning good, bad, and indifferent Chinese prose into readable, accessible, and -- yes -- even marketable English books. Amen.

Bilingual Multimedia Storytelling. "Fabula is a free software package for making bilingual multimedia stories with children. Using Fabula, teachers, parents and children can combine texts in two languages, images and sounds to make fun-to-use interactive learning resources. You will also find examples of bilingual Fabula stories made by children from across Europe. We invite you to download and explore these stories yourself. But don't stop there. Send in the stories you make with Fabula and show them to the rest of the Fabula community." Not all languages supported, but the idea is neat.
via textmatters via oddsocks

World's Only Women's Language in Dire Need of Protection. "In a bid to save a special language used exclusively by women of an ethnic group in central-south China, a protection zone will be set up in Hunan Province. The language, on the verge of disappearing, is believed to be the world's only women's language. It is used among women of the Yao ethnic group in Jiangyong County of Hunan. The language was usually written on silks, paper fans or embroidery items. So far, more than 1,200 characters have been identified. Less than 700 characters are in common use." (Read more)

Spoonerisms and Malapropisms. "Let's say you're looking out the kitchen window and there is a deer on the patio. (This happens frequently at our house.) You call your wife by shouting, "Come and wook out the lindow!" Or you come into the house, all hot and sweaty from raking leaves, and your spouse says, "Go and shake a tower!" Spoonerisms are linguistic flip-flops that turn "a well-oiled bicycle" into a "well-boiled icicle." Let's say you're looking out the kitchen window and there is a deer on the patio. (This happens frequently at our house.) You call your wife by shouting, "Come and wook out the lindow!" Or you come into the house, all hot and sweaty from raking leaves, and your spouse says, "Go and shake a tower!" Spoonerisms are linguistic flip-flops that turn "a well-oiled bicycle" into a "well-boiled icicle." As for malapropisms, well, they are a bit like bushisms...
via glossblog

The Hardest Natural Languages. Wasted Bits has started a meme by mentioning a paper entitled "The Hardest Natural Languages" by Arnold Rosenberg in which the author attempts to determine what groups of people feel are the hardest languages in the world. "The paper is speckled with lines like "eto dlya menya kitaiskaya gramota" -- which apparently means 'it's a chinese document to me' in Russian, so therefore the Russians think Chinese is harder." The subject has been picked up by generating over one hundred erudite and not-so erudite comments. High feedback level for an article that is not meant to be serious linguistic fodder, according to one of the commenters.

Double Negatives Defined. A linguistics professor was lecturing to his class one day. "In English," he said, "A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative." A voice from the back of the room piped up, "Yeah, right."
more language jokes

A Linguablog and Other Stuff. Beautiful Glosses is published by Renée, "the journeyman linguist, featuring coverage of languages, folklore & mythology, Mac usability, nonsense, annotated links and, of course, booklore."
via morfa, a weblog in Welsh
Other recent great finds: sophismata, a mathematical weblog. The author is currently involved in a graph design discussion with patriarch Edward Tufte. Definitely worth a look. nonharmful, a medical weblog. This blog has tons of interesting links, such as research findings about breast-feeding pheromones, the number of germs on the hand that types at the keyboard and a history of heroin addiction. sysblog is not topical in content. But the writing and the life story behind it is very poignant. Posts such as rikki and my morning struck a chord in me. consumptive is a grade A blog on art, photography and the uncanny. There I discover a link to a funny page listing signs you've been living in Japan for too long. Maybe The Brazilians has a similar list?
Mobile Gossiping. "Gossip is not a trivial pastime: it is essential to human social, psychological and even physical well-being. The mobile phone, by facilitating therapeutic gossip in an alienating and fragmented modern world, has become a vital 'social lifeline', helping us to re-create the more natural communication patterns of pre-industrial times."
via glossblog

English it is, but not as we it know."Speaking you Internet? Availability now at the engines of search a means there is for foreign words translated to be. And so a language of newness has been birthed. In factual, this tongue no other like is. His specialness from the two things come. First, he is by computer made, seems it by people who get out much don't. Second, when speaking him, no persons a bloody word you say understanding. So, to exhibition of myself, this article in him writing I am; and, to the judging of envelopes from readers receiving, parts other of this newsy paper being in him written also."

Is the Pentagon onto Something? Three hints: it's bi-directional, it speaks Pashto, Dari, Urdu and Uzbek and getting it to work is proving to be more difficult and complicated than expected.

To Speak or Not to Speak. "To be or not to be? That is the question that never gets voiced in the latest production of "Hamlet" to hit the nation's capital." Do we have an extreme sports Hamlet yet?

Communications are Making the World Less Tolerant. A contrarian's point of view.

Sartre in Araraquara. In 1960, Jean-Paul Sartre visited the sleepy town of Araraquara, Brazil to give a conference at a recently founded university. As befitting, his entourage comprised Simone de Beauvoir and Jorge Amado among other figures of note who descended from the intellectual heights to take a long kombi ride to the venue. Ok, I will make a long story short. There was simultaneous interpreting at the conference. Guess who was moonlighting in the booth? Antonio Cândido and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Holy smokes!

Ape-English Dictionary, you know you are going to need it.

How Peculiar. "The ancient Greeks and Romans needed interpreters in large numbers because they generally considered it beneath their dignity to learn the languages of the peoples whom they conquered." From a Brief History of Interpreting. More info here.

Intel's Quixotic Quest for the Next Billion Users. "Humanities majors do have a future in high tech after all. In the heart of chip giant Intel Corp.'s research and development group here in the great Northwest is a small cadre of researchers who don't want anything to do with math, physics or chemistry.

They are anthropologists and psychologists who hang out with teenagers in local hostels, young families in their living rooms, fishermen on their boats in Alaska, American Indians on Navajo reservations and the poor in Brazil.

Their mission is to find out how technology can penetrate some of the unlikeliest places and spell potential future market growth for Intel." (Read more)

Saturday, March 30, 2002

Tongues of the Web. Article on the Economist presents an overview of machine translation and argues that "the Internet changes the game for machine translation: users want speed, rather than quality, and are more likely to accept poor results".

I agree. No-one can eat caviar everyday.

via field and methods, a newly-discovered blog on human language technology

Oxford Online: Will People Pay? The core collection is up and running and there is a 30 day free-trial for organizations and institutions. We are talking 100 dictionaries and reference titles across an array of subjects -- from astronomy to zoology -- into a single cross-searchable resource. But hefty fees are expected, even though part of the collection is available for free at Xrefer. Oxford Reference Online follows the launch of the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2000 as part of the dictionary's first complete revision in its 120-year history. The OED Online charges approximately $550 per year for a single subscription and a base price of $795 for multiple users.

Revamped. The Ethnologue has a new look.

Interpreting Bloopers. "After that wonderful speech, I think we should all give him the clap."

Language is not neutral, it carries the weight of its origin. Two readers want to know why this blog is in English. My justification, based on my experience, is that by choosing English I can reach a wider audience. But upon reading Mother Tongue, interviews with African poets Solomon Mutswairo and Musaemura B. Zimunya I realize that indeed:

"To choose a language is to choose an audience and by the fact of writing in English, French, or Portuguese the blogger has chosen to address members of the Brazilian petty bourgeoisie and English speakers"

nota bene:

"(...) Dambudzo Marechera, the late Shona poet, choose the English language "as a means of escape and mental liberation while at the same time undermining and subverting the former colonial language and its implications."

nota bene:

"When using the English language, the emotional component often gets lost; as a matter of course, writers feel more detached and relate to the language as a tool rather than as a means of cultural identification. Those however who have an equal command of both languages can benefit from the situation of bilingualism. They can choose either language according to specific purpose or feeling."

The emotional component does not get completely lost, in my opinion. It gets subdued. Ha Jin's writing comes to mind as an example. Interestingly, he always conceives his works in English, except when writing dialogues.

Could that be the reason why someone said that this blog seems to be driven by an almost inhuman logic?

Turning PDAs into Multilingual Chatterboxes. "Handhelds from Hewlett-Packard and IBM with built-in talking capabilities are still in development. But one talking PDA, known as the Phraselator, is due to be shipped in the next few days to U.S. troops in Afghanistan."

Big Blue Expands Its Vocabulary. "The additions of Chinese and Japanese as languages that can be translated to English take the number of supported language pairs that the WebSphere Translation Server can translate to sixteen, according to IBM."

Google vs. Altavista. "The folks at Google are very proud that their system defies human tampering. In fact, what they've done is encourage the development of bizarre business models structured to take advantage of their link-based ranking system."

A Far-Off Inuit World, in a Dozen Shades of White. "The Fast Runner" (Atanarjuat) directed by Zacharias Kunuk and based on an ancient folk epic, is the first feature film made in the Inuktitut language by an almost entirely Inuit cast and crew. The film snatched the first feature Camera D'Or last year and New York Times is raving about it:

"The myth that Eskimos have dozens of words for snow may have been discredited by linguists", but Mr. Cohn, using a widescreen digital video camera, has discovered at least a dozen distinct shades of white, from the bluish glow of the winter ice to the warm creaminess of coats made of polar bear fur"

Sounds like paradise for Antipodeans scorching under an unusually hot autumn. Take me away, Nanook of the North.

Yahoo Snafu. Yahoo has changed its privacy policy and has not notified its overseas members that their universal opt-out preferences were automatically changed into universal opt-ins. What do you call that? Cara de pau.

Get multilingual Verba Volant quotations in your mailbox.
Chinese Journals Discard Up-Down for Left-Right Reading. "Imagine the uproar if an American paper suddenly decided that all text would be printed from right to left and that columns would run horizontally instead of vertically."

Google Bombs. Doing it for fun, self-indulgence, justice and profit.

Multilingual Hong Kong a Model. "From the purely utilitarian point of view, mono-lingualism is the most efficient approach. But efficiency doesn't satisfy people's desire to use languages with which they identify and the social cost of such policies is high."

Fake Moustache Translator. Fake Moustache Translator attaches between nose and mouth to double as a language translator and identity concealer. Sophisticated electronics translate your voice into the desired language. Wriggle your nose to toggle between Spanish, English, French, and Arabic. Excellent on diplomatic missions.

thanks Tangerine, you've made my day!

Quote of the Day

One of the most interesting statistics about the Web is that the growth of the Web outside the United States is much faster than it is in the United States, and the growth rate of non-English languages is much faster than the growth rate of English. Of course, English has a head start. So the right thing is that eventually languages like Chinese should be the dominant languages because there are so many more people who speak these languages in the world. Today, we’re working on that.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google in this interview published today at the International Herald Tribune.

Don't Shoot the Translator. "The Egyptian report claims that a poor English translation of the flight's cockpit data recorder led to American speculation of a suicide. The initial translation of the pilot's last word were, "I place my feet in the hands of God."

Women Back on Top in New Kama Sutra Translation. ""Where it advises yelling, I think Burton couldn't imagine that women could have that kind of privilege," said Doniger. "He couldn't believe it possible."

Hey, y'all! Is the Texas accent fixin' to die out? Let's hope not.

via the quite wonderful prentiss riddle, aprendiz de todo maestro de nada

Small World, ain't it? I've signed up as a subject for this research. My targets are a writer in New York, a student in Croatia and a computing instructor in Britain.

What does Portuguese sound like? A new friend has asked me today. Here's a definition from a reader of this blog, a gringo who shares my infatuation with Portuguese: "It is so, so beautiful! I happened to listen in on a chunk of Brazilian Portuguese conversation, and it sounded like a French person speaking Spanish".

What can I say about the language spoken in the Sleeping Giant (which is how the country is depicted in our national anthem) without causing a geopolitical incident? First of all, Brazil and Portugal are nations separated by a common language, as Mark Twain would have said if he had ever tasted a caipirinha and also visited Oporto. Iberian Portuguese is syncopated like a German fanfare. Brazilian Portuguese is delivered in a more leisurely pace and has more slurred endings. To someone who doesn't know Latin languages it may sound like Spanish, much like Czech and Hungarian sound exactly the same to me.

My Andalucian grandmother who was born in Algeria and spent her youth in Catalunya before moving to Brazil wasn't the world's most gifted linguist. Every time she tried to speak Portuguese, the result was perfect Catalan. My Catalan grandfather took offense for this linguistic faux-pas because during all the years in Catalunya she never ventured to say a mere "Véns a banyar-te?". When I was traveling in Italy, my every attempt to speak the Italian I picked up from the "ciao carina" who were trying to pick me up ended up as Frenchized Babelian with a pinch of Spanish. My daughter, the little tunababy, spent months toggling between the US and Brazil before her language skills were completely sound, so now she speaks Consonant-Free Portuguese or Vowelian, her own variation of Baby Martian.

All this to say that it all depends on where, when and who is speaking the language. And most importantly, on the linguistic footprints the listener is able to track down to make a comparison. To me Portuguese will always sound like a refreshing breeze blowing through the Indo-European linguistic stem. It's the language that makes me feel at home, it's the colorful language spoken in neighborhood padarias, sacred conservatories of the country's bonhomie and test laboratories for the latest linguistic quirks. But others may diverge.

To Tangelino, in his capacity of world's foremost authority in Letras Ocultas and Ciências Apagadas (Occult Letters and Erased Sciences) and to the drifters of the Seaweb: what do you think Portuguese sounds like?

New York Times News Tracker Alerts. The Gray Lady grants you three wishes. Mine are Brazil, translation and multilingual.

Lost in Translation. "What happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages?" It gets babelized.

Here's my stab at babelization:

"The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel",
"The sky in the furrow was the color of the television, was attributed died to an advice"
Furrow I of the interior of the sky was the color of the television, attributed died in the recommendation
Furrow of the Innerens of the sky I was attributed I died the color of
the television, in the recommendation (which sounds a bit poetic)

fascinating link via kelegraph

Latin Maxims with English Translation.
When you Don't know Shit from Shinola. Try your luck with the Phrase Finder. But what should you do when you're looking for the lyrics of "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" by Noel Coward? Where did Google put it this time? I'll try to use the advice given to me last week. When you're looking for a lost object meditate and transmutate your protein blob into the object you're seeking. Here I am morphing into a HTML page with the lyrics I covet...ohmmm

Famous Last Words. "Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur" (Marie Antoinette, after treading upon her executioner's toe).
via provenanceunknown.

The Grandpère of Alphabetically-Indexed Wry Wit. Someone has finally had the divine inspiration of putting Flaubert's Le Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues online. We've had the Devil's Dictionary available for some time, so all that is missing is The Pocket Dictionary of People I Know jotted down by Pinto Calçudo in the greatest most funnest book of Brazilian Modernismo, and of course I am referring to Seraphim Grosse Pointe by Oswald de Andrade.

For every action there is a reaction. The market for anti-plagiarism software is expanding. This Economist article explains how it nails copistes.
via Geek Press.

Korean Soldiers Swap Guns for Dictionaries.

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea plans to draft in soldiers as emergency translators to help visitors at the World Cup after failing to recruit enough people with language skills, the South Korean organising committee (KOWOC) says.

Some smaller venues among the 10 cities hosting matches in South Korea have had trouble finding interpreters to help teams and fans from countries with less common languages. Even English, while increasingly popular, is not widely spoken.

KOWOC said the army, navy and air force had agreed to provide translators and help at the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Seoul on May 31.

"We expect the Korean soldiers' support will be of great help to the success of the World Cup," the committee said in a statement on Thursday.

Many soldiers speak English, having worked alongside U.S. troops based in South Korea. Others have trained at military academies in other countries or studied languages in South Korea before their national service.

The South Korean army and defence ministry have also set up committees to prepare for the finals, which are being co-hosted with Japan. The army will supply 2,410 personnel in total.

The armed forces are already heavily involved in security preparations for the tournament and have carried out frequent anti-terrorism drills with special police units.

A new market for software localizers? By the way it looks, soon there will be a new strain of job offers coming from ProZ.

Yet another chimeric sign decoder (on wireless networks this time). Why do scientists keep dreaming of the Universal Translator ? Don't they know it only works aboard the Enterprise? Maybe I am being too skeptical. Everything is possible in a world where Hamlet is translated into Klingon.

Are you with me? Because I want your undivided attention. The 1911 version of Encyclopedia Brittanica is available online. If you're wondering why you should bother about the digital reinstatement of musty old books, head over to Limited Inc. for enlightement with a capital E.

Theta, gamma, sumation etcetera. I've just had to look up what ∑ is.

Know the Way to Monterrey?

(they should have called it The Interpreting Squad of Brancaleone)

MONTERREY, Mexico, March 18 (Reuters) — A German crew providing translation services for a United Nations conference on development financing went to the wrong city.

The crew members showed up in Monterey, Calif., rather than the meeting site more than 1,500 miles away in Monterrey, Mexico, red-faced United Nations and Mexican officials said today.

The crew members, from Brähler ICS, a German company, "planned their trip from Germany and their travel agency erroneously sent them to Monterey in California," an official said.

Trabalenguas So I got it all wrong and I've had my share of strikethrough text in this archive entry so I will just admit to a self-cannibalizing, distortion-prone memory and post below the Catalan tongue-twister where the 16 judges are saved from having their livers eaten by a hangman through the divine providence of a conditional clause. In all truth, the hangman is not even that keen on eating judicial mincemeat, I don't know where I got that from.
And the trabalenguas goes:

Setze jutges d'un jutjat mengen el fetge d'un penjat.
Si el penjat es despenja, els setze jutges del jutjat no podran menjar mes fetge del penjat.

My memory may be toast but I can still google my way to a page with a million trillion billion trabalenguas in a gazillion languages.

More Translation Geekery. Here's a master's thesis submitted to the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2001, discussing the pros and cons of CAT software, and when it is or isn't cost-effective to use. And rest assured, there is a huge difference between machine translation and computer-aided translation.

The Seven Wonders of the Globalized World. Episode One.

A Latin newscast originating in Finland and masterminded by a dedicated nudist who is also big on Elvis.

What kind of geek am I? I'm the kind of geek who appraises João Roque Dias's presentation on Translating Technical Manuals as one of the most exciting talks of 2001. He has a nice collection of glossaries, I mean, not as large as The Glossarist or YourDictionary but surely more focused on Portuguese. He has just written to me, in my capacity as GlossPost moderator, to announce that his collection of online glossaries is now searchable. Excelente, João.

American Dialect Society Words of 2001. My vote goes to misunderestimate.

Isa Mara's E-talk on Literary Translation (continued)

Here are the questions and answers generated by her FAQ.

Questions & Answers

1- From : ROGERIO

Hi Isa,

I am too young to have read the classics, as you suggest. I have never seen a film with Humphrey Bogart and can't answer your question...
What do you advise me to do?
Hello Rogerio,
First of all, congratulations on wanting to learn. This is a good first step!
You have all your life ahead of you. There´s plenty of time to read the classics, watch classic movies and listen to classic songs. It´s all a matter of being interested.

My advice: first of all, rent the video "Casablanca" with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Watch it, love it, get involved. I dare you not to cry when they start playing the Marseillese!
Then watch it again to savor the dialogue in all its beautiful simplicity. Repeat the lines mentally, or even aloud, if you like them.

What's the effect? Besides a wonderful input in English, maybe the film will make you want to know more about WWII, the city of Casablanca, Bogart's movies, Ingrid Bergman's life, Cole Porter's songs or.... who knows what else? Follow your interest. Go look for it! . Find Casablanca on a world map. Find the lyrics of the song that Sam played again. Be curious!!! That's the recipe.

And also - take all kinds of courses. Art History, Music History, film scenarios... Join a theater group, you'll learn a lot. Go to Europe and to the US. Visit the main cities, go to the great museums. Is it expensive? Maybe no more than taking a university course in Brazil. New York and London are a must.

Read good books, newspapers and magazines. No time? How about trading 2 hours of TV for 2 hours of reading every day? That will make all the difference.

Let´s hear from you again -
all the best,
Isa Mara

2- From : OSMAN

I've just finished reading your tips on translation and I can't quite agree with you. Because it seems to me that you're being honest on all aspects but one. When you give the BRISTLES example, I disagree cuz it seems to me that all you translators have the annoying habit of saying that this or that phrase could have only been translated this or that way, and in my opinion there are many ways of doing it depending on the context, to whom the text is directed to and MOST important of it all: Who wrote it! who's the author? What's the character's age(if he or she's describing a scenario for instance) and his or her profile and needs, ambitions, is it a dramatic character or not? etc, etc, etc.
let's take this example of yours.

Let's suppose a 13 years old boy, laconic, intelligent but even still a child describes his homeland to a foreigner; Bristle would become INFESTAR very easily. and I can see other scenes in which BRISTLES would become PULULAR, ESTRAGAR, ENVENENAR, etc, etc, etc.
So I know you're a good translator but you guys seem to be always trying to scare the rest of us away from your area by not telling us the whole truth.
I read a lot, tons of books a year (english and portuguese) and i didn't need to look up the word Bristle in the Dic, but I can understand its meaning, so probably you'll tell me I'm wrong and so on but those aforementioned words could easily fit into various texts depending on a lot of aspects of it.

Hello Osman,

Well, I was not trying to hide anything from anybody, much to the contrary. I was trying to share my thought processes as I grappled with the word BRISTLE in that sentence. I also did not imply that my translation was the only possible one. To the contrary, there are endless possibilities.

The context: a story on Afghanistan published in The Economist, that I translated for the newspaper Valor Econômico. It said the Afghan soil was bristling with mines.
As a reader, you do well in trying to guess the meaning of words from the context; but for a professional translator this is not enough.

I feel it is my first and foremost duty to look up in one or more dictionaries **any** word that I don’t understand, or that is not very familiar to me, or that I’ve never seen in that particular context, or that offers difficulties for translation. Therefore I would never have translated that sentence without knowing the exact meaning of "bristle". It means a stiff hair, like the espinho do porco-espinho and other animals. As a verb it is very expressive here, meaning that the soil has lots of sharp and lethal bristles that are sticking out, ready to kill you or maim you.

I did not find a satisfactory way of introducing the words "espinho", "espinhoso". "eriçar" or similar ones here. That is why I chose to add the adjective "mortífero" to the landmines, to compensate for that loss and give back mines all their threatening force.

This is what is called in translation "o jogo do perde-ganha." If you lose a vigorous detail here, you try to add some more vigor elsewhere. Otherwise – por example, if I had settled for "solo cheio de minas" - you will betray the impact of the original and write a dull, inexpressive translation.

As for your suggestions, "envenenar" would be rather off the mark, but I liked "infestar" very much. It would fit in very well in that sentence: "seu solo infestado de minas." Duly noted!

Let me state that again:
***If you are a real professional translator, or if you take translation seriously, you **don't** rely on your guesses. You look the unfamiliar words up, you research examples with them, you try to understand them really well!
Millôr Fernandes, a great translator, has said he often looks words up in TWENTY or more dictionaries. ***

Thank you, Osman, for your participation and for raising this interesting point.
all the best,
isa mara


I agree with everything Isa Mara has said. But publishing houses are usually too inconsiderate with translators. Besides, it's quite common that the editor in charge has no experience in translation. Unfortunately, if good people are never given a chance, books will keep on having lousy translations.

Hello Fatima!

Unfortunately I must agree with you. I have not received too much consideration from publishing houses in all these years. There is a real problem with revisores that make unnecessary changes. Companhia das Letras is the best, also because all their staff has a much higher level than you find in the other publishers. Even so they hardly ever exchange a word with me about the translations - even though I ask for it, send them my comments etc. I would not say they are inexperienced with translations; it's just that they don't give it too much importance. They care much more about deadlines than about the quality of the work.

As for giving a chance to beginners, here's a tip for you. The first books I translated were those sugary romance stories that sell in newsstands (Julia, Sabrina etc) It is a good translation exercise and a not a bad beginning. You have to write in a pleasant, attractive manner and balance romanticism and eroticism very well in the love scenes so as not to slide to vulgarity. Believe me, it's not so easy! In fact there's quite a lot of creativity involved, since you often are asked to copydesk and/or reduce the story. So I could advise you to read a couple of them and write to the publishers offering to do a test.

There's no lack of work in this area, I suppose. They have this huge output of weekly silly stories to deceive the young girls into thinking they will find Prince Charming... But one has to start somewhere.

Thank you for writing and keep up the good work. If you really like English and translation, you will succeed!

isa mara

4- From : ADRIANA
Oi, Isa Mara,
É bom vê-la aqui no e-talks. Não sou tradutora literária, mas traduzo filmes e séries para dublagem e infelizmente não tenho tempo para ler 5 vezes a minha tradução, mas concordo com você - seria o ideal!
Mas o que mais me intriga é que os tradutores não tenham o "desconfiômetro" de perceber que "algo não está legal" e partir para a busca de mais informações - como nos exemplos que você deu dos "vinhedos da Marta".
Não posso dizer que eu conheça tudo, é claro - aliás, graças a Deus não conheço tudo - mas o tradutor tem que estar sempre atento para algo que "soe estranho", para fazer pesquisas a respeito do assunto. Fico abismada com a falta de cultura geral que alguns "profissionais" demonstram...

Um forte abraço,
Santos - SP

Hello Adriana!
So nice to hear from you. Well, my subject this time is *literary* translation, and that´s why I recommended 5 revisions - let's say 4 at the very least, if you are pressed for time, so that later on you won't open the book and find all kinds of little things that could have turned out better.

Translating movie subtitles is another area altogether, a different reality. I did it for a couple of weeks and I know what it´s like: you get tons of movies to translate over the weekend and there´s absolutely no time for refinements. Moreover, many of them are done in Miami by totally unqualified people.

Even so one would expect them to have a little more common sense and professional pride so as not to produce hilarious mistranslations such as "vinhedos de Marta".

The worst example I've seen so far is the tv movie "Fiddler on the Roof". In the beginnging the matchmaker was translated as "fabricante de fósforos". And worse, later on in the movie they changed it to "casamenteira" but never went back to correct the beginning. What sloppiness!

Anyway, subtitles are not my field, but I am glad to see that there are some intelligent, conscientious people like yourself doing this job -- which reaches millions of people and ideally shoud be done by well-paid, qualified professionals.

See you then and all the best,
Isa Mara


Oi, Isa Mara.
Eu concordo com o que disse a Adriana, realmente a pesquisa é fundamental para que o trabalho do tradutor seja bem feito. O problema é que muitas pessoas que fazem traduções consideram este trabalho como "bico" e então não dispõem do tempo necessário para revisá-las. Isto é bem visível nas séries de televisão, encontramos muitas "pérolas". Vamos torcer para que os "profissionais" a que se referiu a Adriana tomem consciência desta importância!

Oi Ludmilla,

Obrigada pela sua participação.

Creio que esse assunto da trad. de legendas mereceria um e-talk à parte, pois desperta muito interesse. Está dada a sugestão à Renata.

Como já disse, nao é minha area profissional, mas como telespectadora, tb. sou agredida.
E creio que há outros gdes culpados alem dos "tradutores" sem nenhuma cultura que fazem como "bico" esse trabalho massificante e mal pago . Culpada tb é a ganância das legendadoras e das emissoras. Não há interesse em contratar tradutores mais qualificados. Culpada tb. é a passividade do público. Se muitos escrevessem ou telefonassem reclamando das "pérolas", quem sabe a situação melhoraria?
No momento a tendência é piorar, pois o volume de programas de TV a traduzir é cada vez maior, a pressa tb cada vez maior, e nao há revisao quase nenhuma.
Entao só nos resta mesmo fazer um piquenique "nos vinhedos de Marta"!
isa mara

6- From : ROBINSON

Oi, Isa Mara,

É uma honra participar deste e-talk. Não tenho muito a acrescentar neste momento, mas gostaria de expressar minha satisfação por ver que sua primeira recomendação para um bom tradutor de textos literários é que ele ou ela escreva bem em português. Parece algo lógico, óbvio, ululante, mas, sejamos sinceros (como você), é uma coisa raríssima ver textos traduzidos em português cativante, dinâmico, convidativo. Tenho deparado com textos tão esdrúxulos quanto a própria palavra "esdrúxula", que nos fazem ter a sensação de estar passando de carroça por uma rua cheia de buracos e de lombadas!
Precisamos de textos que transpirem naturalidade, com a leveza de uma seda, que comuniquem um espírito bem-humorado, isento das carrancas sintáticas e vocabulares que assustam e afastam qualquer leitor por mais bem-intencionado que seja, que encantem e seduzam o leitor a continuar lendo, lendo, lendo. Queremos textos marcados pela singularidade do português falado no Brasil, corretos, mas brasileiríssimos, belos, mas encharcados de uma simplicidade que comunica, que entra no quintal das nossas emoções e da lógica do raciocínio lingüístico verde-e-amarelo.

Que bom ver você empenhada em ser alguém "que escreve gostoso". Um texto gostoso: que mais pode querer um leitor?

Um abraço.
São Paulo-SP.
Caro Robinson,
Muito obrigada pela sua belíssima contribuição. Sabendo que você é um editor, responsável por uma editora, suas palavras têm ainda mais peso.

De fato, as pessoas se esquecem que o requisito número 1 é escrever bem em português. As faculdades tb. poderiam ajudar mais nesse aspecto. A meu ver um curso de tradução deveria ter tb. aulas de redação criativa em português, para que as traduções fossem, como diz você, "textos corretos, mas brasileiríssimos, belos, mas encharcados de uma simplicidade que comunica."

Ótima definição!

isa mara

Web ethnologue. A new search algorithm developed by NEC could lead to the detection of "hitherto unsuspected communities", says computer scientist and network researcher Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Is this a threat to Google's supremacy? Probably not, Google kicks ass.

Literary Translation FAQ by Isa Mara Lando

Isa has given me permission to post her thoughts on literary translation here. The FAQ served as the basis for an e-talk (more of a talkback forum) at SBS. It's going to make for a long entry. The Translation Journal also features her profile. Her presentations are famous all over Brazil for she is an energetic and hilarious speaker. Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure to introduce you to our very distinguished teacher:

Isa Mara Lando

Some thoughts on literary translation
posted at the SBS site in March 2002

Hi everybody, so nice seeing you here!

After having translated over 70 books (you can check out the list at my website) I often receive e-mails from people who would love to be literary translators and are dying for a chance. So here are some FAQs...

Q.- What does it take to be a literary translator? Do you think I could qualify?

The most important thing is to have a knack for writing well in Portuguese. "Você escreve gostoso”, “Nem parece tradução!” are the most gratifying compliments, that compensate for all the hard work.

I would say a good literary translator is someone who...

...has a natural, fluent, pleasant style in Portuguese.

Having corrected dozens of translation tests for publishers, I know how rare this is. Finding a good translator – someone who shows intelligence, general knowledge, elegance and a sense of humor, someone who can write a text that will keep the reader interested for 200 pages or more – is like finding a rare and precious gem.

Maybe 95% of the tests I have corrected are no good at all. The sentences are long, dull and humorless; they sound stilted and awkward. No wonder people often say they started reading a book but quit because it was boring – more often than not, the translation was boring!

Try and do some soul-searching. Do you enjoy writing? Do you write well? Can you keep the reader interested?

... has a sound knowledge of English that goes way beyond the basics.

Someone who has a rich vocabulary in English and can get the point of a joke, a word play or an idiom; someone who can understand complex English structures without being misled – that’s a real-to-goodness rarity.

... keeps his text interesting, expressive and lively.

English and American writers are often compelling, humorous, highly personal, even if they are writing about finances or technology. But most translators just ignore and kill all that makes their style forceful and appealing.

For example:
- “The catastrophic results" of the atom bomb became “considerable results".
- “Before we can trust them we have to examine seven times if they are hiding seven perfidies in their heart” became “We have to see how sincere they are.”

No flesh, just bare bones... No magic, no poetry, no originality, no soul...

Here’s an attempt at keeping the text vigorous:

"Angola’s fertile soil bristles with mines, its people are permanently hungry and afraid."

I couldn’t find a good equivalent for the verb "bristle", so expressive in the context. (Can you?? Send it over!)

But at least I tried to compensate with “mortíferas” right next to it:
"Seu solo fértil está repleto de minas mortíferas, seu povo sempre com fome e com medo."

... has a vast and diversified general knowledge.

Too often, would-be translators can’t recognize references to famous facts, names or places and make the most terrible blunders. For example,

"As lindas casas em estilo Tuscan...”
“Saímos de Nova York e fomos de carro para a Albânia...”
“O filme foi todo rodado nos vinhedos de Marta...”

(All real examples.)

Or else they have never left Brazil and cannot recognize features of American or British life.

For example,

“Peguei o tubo e fui para Piccadilly...”
“This Disney World fly-and-drive tour gives you unlimited park-hopping” was translated as “estacionamento grátis”.

Young people today unfortunately read very little and seem content with their MTV culture. But remember, “Knowledge is power”.
Develop the habit of reading! That will set you apart from the rest of the herd.

Also, a translator must travel and see the world. Is it expensive? Maybe no more than taking a university course in Brazil.

... can recognize the classics.

Suppose you were reading about someone who used to be very mean and tight-fisted but suddenly had a "scroogean epiphany".
Can you understand this? How would you translate so that the reader can understand it?

How about “Bush’s Orwellian address”?

Or an article on the Arab world entitled “...And the twain shall never meet”.
What do you make of that? Where does it come from?

The "classics" also include music and movies, since literature is full of references to them.
For example,

- When Humphrey Bogart asked, “Play it again, Sam”, what song did Sam play?

- How would you translate “The Rite of Spring”, considering you should adopt the most common and generally accepted form in Portuguese?

And – perhaps most important: if you can´t recognize those references, where and how would you look them up? And how long would it take for you to find them?

...knows how to use the internet effectively to do research.

If you don´t know the answers to the questions above, how would you go about finding out? And how long would you take to find them?

Q.-How many times should I reread my translation before I consider it done?

A. – This is the most important question, but I made it up myself. Unfortunately, no one ever asks it... But they should!

Reread it your text at least five times. It takes a long time to look natural! It’s like a young girl who spends hours dressing and grooming in front of the mirror in order to get that “natural" look. You know, “Wow, you look stunning!” “Oh, I just grabbed the first thing I found in my closet...”

So, don’t reread your work just once or twice, as most translators do. The more you reread it, the more natural and fluent your style will be. Read it a third, a fourth and a fifth time – in a loud voice! It makes a big difference. Listen to your own voice and make your sentences sound more beautiful, pleasant and well-balanced.

Aim for communication. Be clear and concise. Have a sense of humor, for God’s sake!

Then try and show your text to someone else – a colleague, or just anyone that can act as a normal reader – your mother, for example. Ask her: "So, was it interesting and pleasant to read? Is there anything you didn’t like, or that interfered with your understanding? Tell me and I’ll change it!"

Try doing that and you will see the difference.

The problem is, the more you polish your translation, the less money you are making, of course.
But you have to resign yourself to that. It’s the only way you can reread your work later and feel proud of yourself.

I look forward to your comments on this piece! Go ahead and write.
See you!
Isa Mara

Isa Mara Lando

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Isa Mara - Translator's Profile:
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Copyright Isa Mara Lando 2002. All rights reserved.

Forget Translation Memories and Globalization. The two hottest issues in the translation/localization world are client education and translation metrics. I just read the February ATA Chronicle and found three other interesting articles: Translating Official Documents for African Immigrants by Adrián Fuentes Luque, Where do we go from here? a brief overview of the evolution of the localization industry by Tim Altanero and Some Thoughts on the Modern Scientific Principle of Oversimplification by Steve Vlaska Vitek. None of the three are available on the online version of the Chronicle or at the Capital Translator Online, but I found this delightful piece on Music and the Zen of Translation also by Vitek at the NCATA site.

Monday, March 18, 2002

NAJIT's 23rd Annual Meeting & Educational Conference Phoenix, Arizona - May 17-19, 2002 The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators is pleased to announce the 23rd Annual Meeting & Educational Conference at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, May 17-19, 2002. The conference will be a great professional development opportunity for court interpreters and legal translators as it will feature seminars and workshops by top professionals in the field. On May 16, NAJIT will be holding the written component of the examination leading to the credential of Nationally Certified Judiciary Interpreter and Translator: Spanish. Some of the confirmed speakers at the conference: -Guillermo Cabanellas, co-author of "DICCIONARIO JURIDICO" also known as the Butterworth's legal dictionary. -Dagoberto Orrantia, Ph.D., associate professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice--CUNY -Judith Kenigson-Kristy, USCCI, ethics workshop instructor, consultant to the Court Interpreter Work Group for the Tennessee State Court Interpreter Certification Program. -Javier F. Becerra, author of "DICCIONARIO DE TERMINOLOGIA JURIDICA MEXICANA". -Esther Yazzie-Lewis, USCCI, Navajo staff interpreter for the U.S. District Court in New Mexico. -Virginia Benmaman, Ph.D., director, MA Program in Legal Interpreting, University of Charleston. For more information, please go to or call our headquarters at (212) 692-9581.
Teaching translators the tools of the trade "The second Certificate in Translation Teaching program, which will take place in Monterey, California from August 5-16, 2002. This intensive course will provide current and prospective translation teachers at the undergraduate and graduate level with a wide range of skills to help them design curricula, syllabi, learning activities and assessment instruments. We will also deal with the translator's computer-based work station and will investigate strategies for effectively drawing distance learning into translator education. While we will cover a wide range of pedagogical approaches and didactic methods, special emphasis will be placed on cooperative and collaborative teaching methods. Please note that enrollment is limited to 25 participants and that applications should be received by April 1, 2002."

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Trillian is brilliant Instant messaging can be a plague when you're trying to concentrate but it is also helpful when you are working in a team. I've always been annoyed by the fact that one of my buddies uses ICQ, the other uses Yahoo Msgr and I end up with three or four IM applications taking up space in my disk. Enter Trillian, which lets you consolidate all your IM accounts in one neat package and has support for skins. It's early to tell how good it is as I've just downloaded it. But my first impression is positive. But if you're interested, take a look at this freeware.

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