Archive for December 2011

Favourites on this Blog – for Holiday Reading

27 December 2011

Of the one hundred and eleven blogs posted here since 2008, these are the 16 that have attracted most attention. Unlike other more ephemeral blogs, the subject matter seems to remain of interest.

With my good wishes for the New Year.

General
1.
New Hope for Disempowered Women

2.
‘The Fragmentation of Information in Wikipedia’

3.
‘Please dress up the Em dash’

4.
‘Global warming debate. 1’

5.
‘Global warming debate. 2’
‘Global Warming Controversy. Part 2. Global Warming Scepticism: Some Basic Data & Chronological Notes’

6.
‘Julia Owen and bee stings in Bromley’

7.
‘Julia Owen, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and the Media. Part 1’
(Part 2 will follow in the New Year.)

Languages

1.
Of 33 offerings on Translation and Interpreting topics, this item has captured most attention:
‘Translation 8. Fluency in foreign languages. The case of Dr Condoleezza Rice’
(See also ‘Translation. 30’.)

2.
‘Translation 32. David Bellos’s Revealing Book on Translation and the Meaning of Everything’

3.
‘Spanish Pronunciation in the Media’

Spain

1.
‘The European Union’s verdict on the Franco Régime in Spain (1939-1975)’

2.
‘Justo Gallego – the lone twentieth century Cathedral Builder’

India

1.
‘Contemporary India. 1. Basic Sources of Information’

2.
‘A Visit to Sathya Sai Baba’s ashram in October 2008’

3.
‘Sathya Sai Baba: Questionable Stories and Claims. Part 1’

4.
‘Fuzzy Dates in the Official Biography of Sathya Sai Baba. A Re-examination’

Translation 32. David Bellos’s Revealing Book on Translation and the Meaning of Everything. (Reposted)

27 December 2011

(Originally posted on 10 November 2011, and clumsily deleted. Reposted 27 December)

It took a group of fifty scholars from twenty countries to produce the academic tome Translators Through History in 1995 (edited by Jean Delisle and Judith Woodsworth and co-published by John Benjamins and UNESCO. See this review by Alex Gross, with a list of eight other recommended works on translation history). That erudite and expensive collection of 345 pages now languishes on University library shelves, for the convenience of research use by a select minority of researchers.

Sixteen years later, an academic (Professor David Bellos) has distilled a distinguished career as university teacher, researcher and award-winning literary translator into 390 pages of multi-faceted views of “Translation” (and translators), whose title clearly indicates a desire to address a broad swathe of the educated public: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything.
Within a few weeks of its publication on both sides of the Atlantic (Faber in USA and Penguin in UK), the general appeal of Bellos’s very original work has been convincingly demonstrated by a unanimously favourable number of independent reviewers (mostly from widely-circulated culturally prestigious newspapers). Here is the list of eleven reviews (plus a strategic intervention by David Bellos), in order of appearance, with some selected points of view which present flavours of the book:
8 September 2011: The Times Higher Educational Supplement. Matthew Reisz, ‘Derrida had a word for it.’
“At a graduate ceremony at Princeton University, where he is professor of French and Italian and comparative literature, David Bellos recalls “a rather plump, pink-faced parent who came up and started chatting. When I told him I was a translator, he said: ‘But a translation is never a substitute for the original, is it?’ Trotting out a piece of folk wisdom as if it were an important new truth! I was so annoyed that I went home and started writing a diatribe. That’s how the book started.”
[…]
“More generally, Bellos is keen to challenge academic as well as popular misconceptions about translation.”

10 September: The Economist. Loftily anonymous, as is their habit; also hurried, superficial and with errors but very favourable. A good review for the author and publisher to have in the bag.

13 September: The Independent. David Bellos, ‘How Google Translate Works’.
David Bellos posts a book extract about Machine Translation and high praise for Google Translate (with many critical and other comments from readers).

14 September, The Sunday Telegraph. Maureen Freely, ‘A Witty Look at the Dark Art of Translation’.
“Bellos seems to have no anger in him whatsoever. Even as he demolishes the myths of translation, he delights in its chequered past and its contemporary ubiquity.”

22 September: The Guardian. Michael Hofmann, ‘Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos – review. An inquiry into the finer points of translation’.
He implores a section of his readers: “anyone with no interest in translation, please read David Bellos’s brilliant book.”

23 September: The Independent. Shaun Whiteside, ‘No word for fig? Have a banana’.
He refers to Edith Grossman’s recent “stout defence of the translator’s art, Why Translation Matters, to richly deserved acclaim” and confesses to envy for Bellos’s ability to
“entertain while getting difficult linguistic ideas across to the general reader.”

The September issue of The Literary Review, pp. 46-47.
Frederick Raphael, ‘Speaking in Tongues’. A short piece by the eminent novelist and screenwriter’.

1 October: The Spectator. Robert Chandler, ‘Art of Translation’
Chandler makes this distinction:
“This book fulfils a real need; there is nothing quite like it. Why Translation Matters, by Edith Grossman, is equally well written, but it is limited to the field of literary translation. Steven Pinker’s books about language have been highly praised, but they leave me wondering how closely the author has ever wrestled with any language other than English. And ‘Translation Studies’ as taught in universities is a highly theoretical discipline that is beyond the understanding of most practising translators — let alone of the general public.”

8 October: The Irish Times, Theo Dorgan, ‘Mind Your Language’.
“Bellos is a witty and perceptive writer, a provocateur in the best sense of the word. He is particularly enlightening on the linguistic protocols of the European Union – I had not known of what he calls the Basic Rule, originally laid down as article 248 of the Treaty of Rome, which stipulates that the treaty (now encompassing 24 languages for 27 member states) is “a single original” in each of those 24 languages.”

24 October: From the blt [Bible, Literature, Translation] group blog: JD Gayle,‘A Book Review: Is That A Fish In Your Ear?.
An interesting and very favourable review by a an academic and translator. Gayle adds a lengthy lobbying comment on Bellos’s “short shrift” for women, perhaps in deference to the recommendation of the adage “A review, to be worthwhile, must add something.” Gayle also gives us the information (from Bellos) that the paperback is due next year and will include corrections and amendments and that a French translation is in preparation.

28 October: The New York Times. Adam Thirlwell, ‘The Joyful Side of translation’.

5 November: The Australian. Weekend Review. Miriam Cosaic, ‘It’s not all Greek to the Translators’.

Note:
I also learned of the following three reviews through the excellent Omnivore (Criticism Digested) books and reviews website but unfortunately the links are broken by News Limited’s paywall in two cases and for unknown reasons for The Scotsman reference, so I cannot report on them.
10 September: The Times. Michael Binyon.
18 September: The Sunday Times. Robert Rowland Smith.

11 September: Jennie Erdal, The Scotsman on Sunday. Not only a broken link but this review was not even accessible through a direct search on The Scotsman website.

There is a common thread of strong approval running through this rich batch of early reviews: the very broad range of the coverage (variegated facets of Translation, many illuminated for the first time), the author’s engaging style and sense of humour, and his original and sometimes challenging views and questions about what Translation is. (Longer more specialised reviews will, as is customary, take more time to appear but they will undoubtedly provide further food for thought and discussion for translators and others with a close interest in Bellos’s stimulating research and conclusions on the nature and varieties of Translation activities.)

So Is That a Fish in Your Ear? is already well on the way to bestseller status (including Kindle and other e-book versions). Dr Bellos is to be warmly congratulated for significantly raising public awareness of this vital but often misunderstood activity, or group of activities (including Interpreting) and of its hierarchy of practitioners, from the foot soldiers and pedagogues to the élites engaged in international geopolitics and literary translation.

STOP PRESS: Bellos’s success with younger readers is now guaranteed: He has sensibly joined Twitter as D.Bellos@Cinoc123.

In conclusion I add my own very enthusiastic endorsement and gratitude for Davis Bellos’s excellent work and append a few personal comments from a translator’s point of view.

Highlights:

Bellos’s views on translation (the whole book).
His highlighting of Translators as a motley group and his attention to many of their roles.
The author’s agreeably light touch and humour, passim. He even plays with the Font styles of Chapter headings as well as the title of the book.
His emphasis on both practical and theoretical questions.
The welcome absence of detailed discussion of eminent academic theoretical linguists of the distant or very distant past such as de Saussure (p. 326), Whorf (remember the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis?), Bloomfield, Chomsky and George Steiner. Although perhaps provocative, it is also deliberate, as Bellos himself makes clear at the end of the book:

“Readers familiar with translation studies may notice other omissions. Some of them are intentional. George Steiner’s After Babel is still in print, and my reasons for not commenting on Walter Benjamin’s essay, ‘The Task of the Translator’, can be found in Cambridge Literary review 3 (June 2010), pp. 194-206.” (I was unable to locate this.)
Elsewhere (page reference missing) Roman Jakobson is equally quickly passed over.

My favourite chapters:
Chapter 10. ‘ Global flows. Centre and Periphery in the Translation of Books’ (pp. 208-223)
Do not be put off by the title! The chapter deals in fascinating depth with the world translation publishing industry. You may be surprised at the revelations.
Chapter 21. ‘Ceci n’est pas une traduction: Language Parity in the European Union’ (pp. 237-249)
An inside view of one of the European Union’s key institutions. (Especially topical in the context of the current EU financial crisis.)

Perhaps Bellos’s conclusion to the chapter has a wider significance too in relation to the historic European Union venture: “The laudable aim of treating all languages of Europe as equal produces the unwanted but perhaps inevitable result that ECJ [the European Court of Justice] rulings are sometimes so pithy as to defy comprehension in any of them” (p. 249)

Chapter 23. ‘ The Adventures of Automated Language Translation Machines’ (pp. 256-267)
Bellos accords very high praise to the “ Google Translate” venture and makes a confidently optimistic forecast of its future trajectory.
(Still to be taken into account: Google’s undoubted high performance with some highly trafficked languages with huge corpora of data should be contrasted with its inevitably much less satisfactory results so far with less trafficked – but very important – languages like Chinese, Hindi and Arabic.)

Chapter 24. ‘A Fish in Your Ear? The Short History of Simultaneous Interpreting’ (pp. 268-282)
A fascinating in-depth portrait of this very specialised élite (crème de la crème) of the translating profession, for whose almost superhuman members Bellos has nothing but praise. More alarmingly, he also foreshadows a possible shortage of such specially equipped persons in the future, as you will find out if you buy the book.

On page 354, David Bellos admits to the following conscious omissions:
“the uses and pitfalls of translations in the military, in war zones and in hospitals. I plead ignorance. There is surely a lot to be learned from the courageous language mediators who work in those fields.”
I am sure that for future editions he will find collaborators to contribute material on these important themes, especially from the health and forensic fields. In Canada, Australia and USA, a significant body of expertise has been developed over recent decades.

I hope I have added something.

Postscript: For a note on Edith Grossman, see here.

The Australian’s interest in Contemporary India. Part 1.

12 December 2011

On 10 December 2011, Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor of The Australian and a prominent reporter on Asian affairs of many years standing, gave an account of his latest visit to India where he has attended a conference in Kolkata on ‘The Asian Century’, sponsored by the University of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute.

In a blunt 1500 word article titled, ‘India’s rise as a superpower has China on edge’, Sheridan revisits several troubled aspects of China-India relations, as seen by four prominent spokesmen on Indian strategic matters.

Firstly, Sheridan comments on the two themes of the opening speech by M. K. Narayanan, the Governor of Kolkata (and once India’s national security adviser). “One was that Australia had nothing to be concerned about from India’s rise. […] The second notable theme was more blunt. China, he said, was a nation that did not observe international norms. This statement was neither controversial nor emotive. It was matter-of-fact.”

The second reference comes from his interview with Professor Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy, a former Indian ambassador to Australia and to Pakistan and current advisor to the Indian government on security matters. Sheridan reports that Parthasarathy told him that China is “today the greatest proliferator of nuclear weapons technology and missiles” by supplying Pakistan for forty years with “nuclear weapons designs and equipment for enriching uranium”.

Sheridan then visited two more Indian security experts, Ajai Sahni, editor of the South Asian Intelligence Review and director of the Institute for Conflict Management, and Praveen Swami, a strategic analyst for The Hindu newspaper. He relates the anecdotal responses of both experts to the question of possible Chinese involvement with the Maoist groups active in nine states of eastern India.

Sheridan’s final, and perhaps most important source of evidence of “China’s activities to contain or encircle India” is to be found in a recent book, China and India. Great Power Rivals, by the Hawaiian-based think tank scholar, Mohan Malik, whose thesis, according to Sheridan, is that “China is trying to stymie India’s rise”, not only by the nuclear proliferation but by selling arms to five of India’s largest neighbours and by racheting up its decades-long provocative behaviour on the China-India borders, and beyond.

The article ends with some further brief considerations on the relations between USA, India and Australia.

(Part 2 will examine other aspects of The Australian’s (and Sheridan’s) candid pro-India stance in recent years.)

The Durban Spinfest in Perspective. From today’s “Australian” newspaper

12 December 2011

From the Cut and Paste section on page 13 of today’s “Australian”:

“This time it really is the last chance. Fred Pearce, New Scientist May 30 1992:
LAST chance to save the planet?
No single meeting can change the world. But the organisers of the Earth Summit, one of the largest gatherings ever of the tribal elders of Homo sapiens, want to do nothing less than change the direction of our economic development.

Channel 4 News, Britain, August 9, 2002:
MARK Easton: It’s being billed as the last chance to save the planet. Sixty-five thousand people from 174 countries meet in Johannesburg later this month for the second ever Earth Summit . . .

Juliette Jowit, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2007
CLIMATE talks “last chance” to avoid catastrophe
World leaders will converge on Bali today for the start of negotiations which experts say could be the last chance to save the Earth from catastrophic climate change.

From the World Wildlife website, December 5 2008:
POZNAN provides last chance to curb climate change.
Humanity is approaching the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change, according to WWF’s analysis of the latest climate science.

Louise Gray, The Telegraph, Britain:
COPENHAGEN summit last chance to save planet, Lord Stern
The Copenhagen summit is the world’s last chance to save the planet from “catastrophic” global warming, according to a major study led by Lord Stern of Brentford, the country’s leading authority on climate change.

Spero News November 27:
CHURCHES claim Durban conference is mankind’s last chance
Rev Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, who leads the World Council of Churches, says the upcoming climate conference in South Africa is mankind’s ‘last opportunity’ to address climate change.

Fiona Harvey in Durban The Guardian , December 7:
LORD Stern: rich nations should stop subsidising fossil fuel industry

Gavin Atkins on Asian Correspondent.com:
THE strangest thing about all this is that despite believing that it is now too late, several of these people are at the conference, and their items for discussion are not what to do before the end of the world.
Surely Nicholas Stern would be at home drowning himself in alcohol, or at least, making passionate love to strangers in lifts?
In fact, Stern is not only at the Durban conference, he holds a number of prominent positions at COP17 and is even offering people advice about cutting down the use of fossil fuels, none of which seem to involve avoiding these kinds of conferences.
Why cutting down fossil fuel usage is of any use while the end of the world is nigh must be anyone’s guess.”
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And don’t forget the Mayan prediction for 2012 …

Hindi Acronyms are based on English phonetics

4 December 2011

New legislation on FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) has been creating lively controversy in the Indian Parliament and in the streets. (See here and here.)

FDI is an official Hindi term but it is also pronounced as if it were an English acronym: F.D.I. – efdeeaaee. The same is true of all Indian acronyms, including those which are the initials of Hindi words (like BJP – beejepee – or RJD – aarjedee – below).

The following basic reference list of about 150 other Hindi (English) abbreviations which occur in the media may therefore be of use to those who follow Indian affairs from abroad. The interesting linguistic factor is, of course, that (like personal initials in Hindi, e.g. P. J. – Pee jay) they are based on the phonetics of English and the clear majority refer to English words, so once transliterated from the Devanagari script, they are recognisable as acronyms by English speakers. The meaning, or reference, of the acronyms, however, may need further investigation! It is evident that, given the nature of acronyms, Hindi speakers may be unaware of the English words represented, just as English speakers may not know, and, indeed, do not need to know, the exact constituents which have produced the acronyms, only the entity they refer to.
(The handful of glosses missing below will be supplied as soon as possible. Sooner if someone is kind enough to send them to me!)

[‘aaee’ = I.] [‘eee’ is either ee [E] plus e [A], or e [A] plus ee [E]

aaeeaaeetee, IIT = Indian Inst of Technology
aaeeeees, IAS, Indian Administrative Service: (‘Bharateey prashaasnik sevaa’)
aaeeefes, IFS, Indian Foreign Service
aaeeensee, INC. Indian National Congress [Party](The leading member of the current Government coalition. (See yoopeee, UPA.)
aaeeesaaee, 1. ISI (Pakistan) Inter-Services Intelligence
aaeeesaaee, 2. ISI, Indian Statistical Institute
aaeeesoh, ISO International Standard Organisation
aaeeseeaaee, ICI, Imperial Chemical Industries
aaeeseesee, ICC, International Cricket Council (‘antarrashtreeyaa krikat parishad’)
aaeeseeyoo, ICU Intensive Care Unit

aarbeeaaee, RBI, Reserve Bank of India
aardeeaaee, RDI, Rural Development Institute
aarjedee, RJD, Rashtreeya Janata Dal (Bihar) National People’s Party
aarpeeaaee, RPI, Republican Party of India
aarteeaaee, RTI, Right to Information

beeaaeees, BIS, Bureau of Indian Studies
beeesef, BSF, Border Security Force
beejepee, BJP, Bharaateeya Janata Party
beeemsee, BMC, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation
beeesee, BSE, Bombay Stock Exchange
beeesef, BSF, Border Security Force (Seema Surakshaa Bal)
beeespee, BSP, Bahujan Samaj Party (Society of the Majority of the People. The leading party in U.P. The Majority People are the Dalits and others.)
beejepee, BJP Bhaarateeys Janata Party (Indian People’s Party)
beeseeseeaaee, BCCI, Board of Control for Cricket in India

deeem, DM, District Magistrate
deeemaaeesee, DMIC, Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor
deeemjee, DMG, Department of Mines and Geology
deeemke, DMK, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. The leading party of Tamil Nadu
deejeeseee, DGCA, Directorate General of Civil Aviation
deeseepee, DCP, Deputy Commissioner of Police
deeveedee, DVD

deeemaaeesee, DMIC, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor
deeteesee, DTC, Delhi Transport Corporation

eaaeeseesee, AICC, All-India Congress Committee
ebeeseedee (jocular or satirical), ABCD, American-born confused Desi [Indian]
echaaivee, HIV
efdeeaaee, FDI, Foreign Direct Investment

eme, M.A. Master of Arts
endeee, NDA, National Democratic Alliance (The centre-right coalition)
endeeteevee (Indeeyaa), NDTV (India) New Delhi TV
esaaeetee, SIT, Students Islamic Trust
esspee, SP, Superintendent of Police

echdeesee, HDC, Higher Divisional Clerk
ee yoo, EU, European Union
eefespeee [ = e,ef…], AFSPA, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
eeteeef, ETF, Exchange-traded Fund
efaaeeaaee. FII, Foreign Institutional Investors
efdeeaaee, FDI, Foreign Direct Investment
efem, FM, Foreign Minister
effaaeeaar, FIR, (Police) First Information Report

elaaeesee, LIC, Life Insurance Corporation
eldeesee, LDC, Lower Divisional Clerk
elosee, LoC, Line of Control (in Kashmir)

em. phil., M.Phil. (Master of Philology)
emeee, MEA, Minister of External Affairs
emele, MLA, Member of the Legislative Assembly

emenes, MNS, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Maharashtra Reformation Army. A political party.
empee, MP

enaaeee, NIA, National Investment Agency
enaaeesee, NIC, National Integration Council
enaaraaee, NRI, Non-Resident Indian
enaareejeees, NREGS, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
endeee, NDA, National Democratic Alliance
enemteebeeese, NMTBSA, Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association (The world famous lunch delivery “dabbawallas” of Mumbai)
enseeaarbee, NCRB, National Crime Records Bureau
enseeeeartee, NCERT, National Council of Educational Research & Training
enseepee, NCP, Nationalist Congress Party
enseepeearaaee, NCPRI, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information
ensseear, NCR, National Capital Region

esaaeebee, SIB, State Intelligence Bureau
esaaeeemaaaee, SIMI, Student Islamic Movement of India
esaaeetee, 1. SIT, Special Investigation Team
esaaeetee, 2. SIT, Students Islamic Trust
eseebeeaaee, SEBI, Securities Exchange Board of India
eseezed, SEZ, Special Economic Zone
esesaaee, SSI, Small-Scale Industries
espeeo, SPO, Special Police Officer
eteees, ATS, Anti-terrorism Squad
eteesee, ATC, Air Traffickers Association
jedeeyoo, JDU, Janata Dal United, (People’s Association United (Bihar)

jeepeeess, GPS [Sat Nav]
jepeesee, JPC, Joint Parliamentary Committee

obeesee, OBC, Other Backward Classes
oenjeesee, ONGC, Oil and National Gas Corporation

peeaaeeo, PIO, Person of Indian Origin
peeechdee, PhD, Doctor(ate) of Philosophy
peeele, PLA, People’s Liberation Army (China)
peeem, P.M.
peeoke, PoK, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir

seeaaeeaaee, CII, Confederation of Indian Industry
seeaares, 1. CRS, Catholic Relief Society
seeaares, 2. CRS, Congressional Research Service
seeaarpeeef, CRPF, Central Reserve Police Force
seebeeaaee, CBI, Central Bureau of Investigation
seebeesee, CBC [?]
seedee, CD
seeeeoh, CEO
seeem, CM, Chief Minister (State)
seepeeaaee, CPI, Communist Party of India
seepeeem, CPM, or CPI(M) seepeeaaeeem, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
seepeesee, CPC, Communist Party of China

seeseeteevee, CCTV
seeveesee, CVC, Central Vigilance Committee (against corruption & abuse of power)

teedeepee, TDP, Telugu Desham Party (Andra Pradesh)
teeoaaee, TOI (Times of India)
teetee, TT, train ticket inspector
toojee, 2G, The ongoing 2G Spectrum scandal

vaaeetoojee, Y2G [or vaay-] A recent Communications scandal
veeaaeepee, VIP (or ‘weep’)
veep, (or weep), VIP
veesee, VC, Vice Chancellor

yoo es, U.S. (USA)
yoopee, UP (Uttar Pradesh)
yoopeee, UPA, United Progressive Alliance (The ruling coalition)
yoopeees, UPS, [?]
yoopeesee, UPC, [?]

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