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.
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 …
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