QuickPost #2: ‘A Fish In Your Ear’: What Gets Lost In Translation via NPR

‘A Fish In Your Ear’: What Gets Lost In Translation

by NPR Staff

NPR – November 15, 2011

The Russian language has a word for light blue and a word for dark or navy blue, but no word for a run-of-the-mill generic shade of blue. So when translators are tasked with converting “blue” from English to Russian, they’re forced to choose a specific shade.

It’s hard to imagine that this particular choice would have any serious implications, but interpreters are constantly translating concepts into other languages with words that have no exact match.

In his book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos explores the history, the future and the complexity of translation — from the tangled web of simultaneous translation at the United Nations, to movie subtitles and the text on ATM screens.

NPR’s John Donvan talks with Bellos, director of the program for translation and intercultural communication at Princeton University, about the art of translation, and what’s lost — and gained — in the process.

Interview Highlights

On why translation is integral to relating to others

“We translate all the time. If we refuse to translate, refuse to listen to what other people have to say to us, whichever language it is in, we’re not living as fully as human beings as we could be …

For the rest of this wonderful article, click here

One thought on “QuickPost #2: ‘A Fish In Your Ear’: What Gets Lost In Translation via NPR

  1. Some random thoughts on translations:
    I think this is definitely one of the reasons people code switch as it is frustrating when you have an expression in one language that perfectly captures what you are trying to say but nothing similar in another so you can’t help but use what best illustrates your point.

    I also can’t bear to watch English or French movies with subtitles in the one or the other as inevitably I get frustrated by how often the translations fail to capture the feeling.

    There is an interesting crowdsourced translating site called Dotsub.com which has people work on translating videos so that can be shared globally and people can rework and build on others translations.

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