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Review: Through the Language Glass

Through The Language Glass

Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher My rating: 5 of 5 stars This book was a fantastic read. It was quite different to how I initially imagined it to be. As you follow the story is constructively builds a cohesive, rational scientific argument as to exactly how and why different language users perceive the world differently. It is thoroughly thought-provoking and addresses issues that I had never previously pondered about but which are clearly important. There is a clear difference between language speakers across the world, but how does this manifest at a biological level? From colour perception to spatial awareness to use of gender, our language constrains us, in effect imprisons us to perceive the world in predetermined ways. I think that by reading this book I am more aware of the difference in languages and by being aware of that difference it assists one to break their own shackles of a restricted mind. At the very least I have a sturdy amount of scientific examples of linguistic studies with which to embellish my work on the Translation degree I am studying. A good read. View all my reviews

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Review: Translation and Globalization

translation and globalization

Translation and Globalization by Michael Cronin My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book, by Irish author Michael Cronin, explores translation studies from a globalization perspective with specific attention paid to the situation in Ireland. Globalization is a trend which is ever-increasing in our world and it is an undeniable fact. How do translators fit into this movement of culture? They are involved whether they support globalization or not and very often they must remain unbiased in their views. As contact increases between different cultures and language groups across the planet the translator is finding himself ever more involved. Technology issues and localisation are covered and this is particularly relevant to Ireland which has set itself up as a hub for the international technological revolution. The book analyses the different cultural conflicts which arise in translation as a result of globalization. What are the relationships between powerful global languages and more minor ones? I found the final chapter on minor languages, looking in detail at Irish Gaelic, most interesting. When one is a native speaker of English it is difficult to overlook the factors affecting translators of minor languages whose working lives and structure and thinking are markedly different to the bulk of translators. The book is very well written and gives a comprehensive outlook on Translation Studies, never veering too far from the underlying topic of globalization. I found it easy to follow and rich in its definitions and examples. I will be using the specific content on Translation History for my next essay. View all my reviews

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Review: Translation-mediated Communication in a Digital World

Translation-mediated Communication

Translation-mediated Communication in a Digital World by Minako O’Hagan My rating: 3 of 5 stars This book was published in 2002 and obviously a lot has changed in twelve years in the filed of technology. Bearing in mind that it is outdated, there are, however, some very good valid points which are raised about translation-mediated communication in the computer age. Translators need a new set of skills in order to function in the modern age. There is a movement towards machine translation and the way in which it integrates into traditional styles of translation is a new subject for translation studies. The whole internet and the increasing need for webpage translation means that translators need to be aware of web languages and also about the varied nature of websites. The whole language of websites is different. People do not read websites like they do books or traditional forms of media and this the language to be translated is different. I found the whole approach of the book to the translator’s role in globalisation to bring some good far-reaching ideas into my mind about the future of translation. I left this book wondering more about the subject and the possibilities of technology. To be critical of the book, there was an overuse of acronyms. TMC was easy enough to adapt to but I found that the steady introduction of new acronyms in the text just became overbearing and confusing so that I couldn’t remember what was being referred to. There was a fair bit of repetition of ideas and sometimes the language became too over-technical and unnecessarily complicated and was very difficult to follow. I think the authors are obviously talented people in this field and have critical knowledge. I would like to see the book brought up to date for today’s situation. The ideas identified in this work were very prophetic and this indicates the high level of competence in the study. View all my reviews

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Review: Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice

postcolonial translation

Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice by Susan Bassnett My rating: 3 of 5 stars I’ve read a few articles on the subject of postcolonial translation and have found the area to be interesting. I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the subject. This book is a collection of nine extended essays. My first criticism is that there is too much of an emphasis on postcolonial translation in India. Whereas, due to the nature of the Indian multilingual community and its relationship with the British Empire, I can see how it can be an important focus in postcolonial translation, I felt that this book devotes too much to this one region and doesn’t fully explore more exotic regions of the world. There is very little reference to Africa and not much on South America, certainly not the Spanish-speaking part of South America. Thus, the book takes into consideration English as a primary language and the effect of British imperialism. A more varied range of essays with reference to other colonial powers would, I feel, add some spice to the book’s material. The essay on border writing in Quebec, was, I feel, the best essay in the collection. I did also, however, surprisingly, take a lot out of the Hélène Cixous / Clarice Lispector essay. Although, at first glance, the study of a famous French feminist’s obsession with a Brasilian (feminist) writer, may seem a bit trivial, I found that this essay best introduced me to new ideas and ways of viewing postcolonial translation. It is in essence a power struggle of differentials between colonised people and coloniser. When you add in the mix of a feminist outlook into translation, then some truly profound revelations come into play and I felt that the author of this particular essay (Rosemary Arrojo), developed some very interesting and original ideas, which could be applied to the whole field of postcolonial translation. Overall, this book was perhaps a bit too advanced for my tastes and it was rather difficult to maintain elevated excitement throughout the course of reading it. View all my reviews

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Review: Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation

Mouse or Rat?

Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation by Umberto Eco My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book is a collection of essays on the topic of translation. It is constantly exploring the role of the translator as a negotiator is the way he interprets texts for his target audience. Eco points towards an underlying perfect language that writer uses which transcends the individual tongues a work may be written in. What duty does the translator have in presenting an author’s true thoughts? The examples are plentiful and obviously abound from a man with a great deal of real-life experience as a translator. I found the in depth discussion of poetry translation a little over my head and very complicated but it gives you something to aim at as you learn the art and process of becoming a translator. The essays build on the work of other translation scholars and argues for and against their ideas and methods. I found that the text reads very well and is an ideal compliment to the more formal study one gets from course texts. I am sure that after a few rereads Umberto Eco’s message will reveal itself more fully to me. View all my reviews

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million French Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was…

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

Sixty Million French Can't Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau My rating: 4 of 5 stars Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was…

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Review: A History of Spain

A History Of Spain

A History of Spain by Simon Barton My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a concise, comprehensive history of Spain which reads very easily and seems to cover most aspects of Spanish history, if only glossing over parts without going into heavy detail. It does recommend further reading and as a general work I found the text very accessible. It provokes interest in further study of specific areas. I found that sometimes the author Barton, could be a bit imposing and over-generalistic in his views. I have read certain parts of Spanish history in detail and sometimes, in particular, regarding the Arab conquest and the Spanish Civil War, I feel that his views and general summary of events was a bit over-vague and inconsistent with the facts that have been presented by other authors. Having said that, with such a vast history to take on in such a short space, this History of Spain does work and fills the necessary gap of knowledge that newcomers to Hispanic Studies require. Whilst reading the book I made use of literary references to dig out future reading in specialist areas of Spanish history. the book concludes nicely with a well-written glossary and chronology that will be very useful for reference. View all my reviews

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Review: Derrida: A Very Short Introduction

derrida

Derrida: A Very Short Introduction by Simon Glendinning My rating: 3 of 5 stars The philosophy of Jacques Derrida keeps cropping up on my reading in Translation Studies. I’m getting a vague idea of deconstruction but really need to tackle the works of the man himself to truly understand his philosophy. I thought I’d try this short introduction as a taster to better familiarise myself with his ideas. I think that Derrida is slightly more complex and difficult to understand than more traditional philosophers. He gathers poles of thought within the philosophical movement. It seems that either you love or hate Derrida. I think the fundamental precept of Deconstruction is to reevaluate one’s ideals, to tear apart more traditional modes of thinking and to analyse a subject from a completely different, new perspective. This introduction left me, at times, feeling as though I was beginning to understand Derrida, yet at other times things went flying over my head and removed what knowledge I thought I had gained. I think the Derrida work on language is more accessible and I look forward to tackling ‘On Grammatology’. His work with words and language seems more logical and accurate and easier to digest than some of the less direct musings on philosophy or the nature of animals. From reading this book I can see why some people could easily dismiss Derrida. His ideas do provoke strong reactions and nowhere more so can this be seen than the reaction to his honorary degree at Cambridge University. think that what is certain about Derrida was that he was a true intellectual, a clever man with original ideas, who wasn’t afraid of ruffling the feathers of the established ways. The twentieth century was an era of vast change and there is no reason why new ways of dissecting the world should not arise. I anticipate building a deeper relationship with Derridean philosophy once I enter into his actual works. This introduction was enlightening in a sense but can be deconstructed into equally maintaining an illusion of confusion about this complicated man. View all my reviews

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Review: Roads To Santiago

Roads To Santiago

Roads To Santiago by Cees Nooteboom My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Dutch author is, most certainly, an admirer of Spain. He writes passionately about his travels across the land, traversing history, culture, and the role of Spain in the modern world. The style is erratic and it takes a while to get used to the author’s jumpiness, but it all seems to weave together nicely. There are deep forays into the world of art and I found the detail on Velasquez most interesting and it is clear that Nooteboom holds a special place in his heart for the work of Zurbaran. There is a constant flicker of images of old rustic villages and a barren landscape as the author makes his undulating way in a series of neverending detours in his quest to reach Santiago de Compostela. I think one of the giveaways in the book is when our Dutch narrator reveals how he almost joined a monastery. He obviously has deep religious feelings and these manifest in his detailed depictions of the art and architecture of the religious buildings which seem to dominate the direction of his meanderings. The history of Spain can be detailed in the construction of these temples. From the deep antiquity of the Romans through to the Visigoths and Arabs and on into the post-reconquista emergence of a unified state under Ferdinand and Isabella and future Habsburg monarchs up to the tragedies of the Civil War and Francoist Spain and its post-Franco entrance into modern Europe. I think that the translator from Dutch has done a wonderful job and the book reads most freely. It has a deep elegant manner, is of the most floral and descriptive prose and it never fails to produce a deep impression on the imagination of the reader. This genuine work of literary art embeds the image of Spain on the mind and one can feel and breathe the deep-seated knowledge and embracing love that the author has for this mysterious land. View all my reviews

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Review: The Spanish-Speaking World

The Spanish Speaking World

The Spanish-Speaking World by Cl Mar-Molinero My rating: 3 of 5 stars This is an introductory text to sociolinguistic issues in the Spanish-speaking world. As part of my Spanish Studies classes I felt this would be a good text to introduce me to the importance of Castillian Spanish as a global language. The book never goes into much depth and in that sense I was a little disappointed. It does, however, introduce you to many of the key themes and provides a lot of wider reading. There is a big focus on the situation of minority languages within Spain, ie. Catalan, Basque and Galician. I found this interesting and the relationship between these tongues and Castillian Spanish is interesting, in particular within the context of the Diglossia which develops in minority language areas, particularly within the educational environment. The book details the role of Spanish in Latin America and with the growing population there, this is the largest Spanish-speaking area of the world. I found it interesting looking at the role of Spanish in Latin America in terms of post-colonial studies. It was nice to see the resurgence of such important indigenous languages such as Quechua. The book has many questions interspersing the text. The are exercises which aim to further study and provoke response in the student. Some of them were very useful and did indeed provoke thought. However, on the whole, I found these interruptions to be counter-productive and slightly annoying. I felt that when they offered useful information, this could quite have easily formed part of the main text. The book is useful as an introduction to some of the key themes and ideas relevant to the global status of the Spanish language. It could be a useful textbook for a undergraduate course although I feel that it’s lack of depth in general doesn’t assist in the development of the true knowledge of the topic at hand. View all my reviews

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Review: Translation, History, & Culture

Translation, History & Culture

Translation, History, & Culture by Susan Bassnett My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book comprises of a selection of 12 essays illustrating elements of translation studies. Each chapter usually covers an analysis of a detailed example and to what context this example illustrates an element of the emerging discipline that is Translation Studies. There is a global reach of contributors with perhaps an overemphatic balance of Eastern European academics. Some of the chapters are more appropriate for entry level students although I feel that some of the papers go into deep complicated ideas on translation that will require further examination. There is a broad range of topics. I found the chapters which focussed on the history of translation to be enlightening. The establishment of ideas within the discipline usually arise in a historical perspective. The introduction looks at the exciting example of 1001 Nights and the intricacies of transmitting an ancient oral tradition into foreign cultures. It is clear that translation is very much a cultural exercise that widens the view of the world and throughout this book the cultural implications of translations are assessed in detail. Translators have a deep responsibility to remain faithful to the author and source culture, yet to transmit in line with the target culture without subverting too much the original content or the culture into which the translation is entering. The final example in the book, of the difficulties and challenges Milan Kundera’s ‘The Joke’ presented, illustrates how difficult it is for a translator to fully grasp the source language culture and to not betray the original author’s intentions. There is more to translation than a simple metaphrasing, especially where deeply cultural challenging literary works are the subject. Paraphrasing in line with cultural values of both source and target culture is critical. This book introduces some very good examples of translation theory at action in the field. I am sure that I will refer back to it in my ongoing studies of Translation. View all my reviews

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Review: Translation, History, & Culture

Translation, History & Culture

Translation, History, & Culture by Susan Bassnett My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book comprises of a selection of 12 essays illustrating elements of translation studies. Each chapter usually covers an analysis of a detailed example and to what context this example illustrates an element of the emerging discipline that is Translation Studies. There is a global reach of contributors with perhaps an overemphatic balance of Eastern European academics. Some of the chapters are more appropriate for entry level students although I feel that some of the papers go into deep complicated ideas on translation that will require further examination. There is a broad range of topics. I found the chapters which focussed on the history of translation to be enlightening. The establishment of ideas within the discipline usually arise in a historical perspective. The introduction looks at the exciting example of 1001 Nights and the intricacies of transmitting an ancient oral tradition into foreign cultures. It is clear that translation is very much a cultural exercise that widens the view of the world and throughout this book the cultural implications of translations are assessed in detail. Translators have a deep responsibility to remain faithful to the author and source culture, yet to transmit in line with the target culture without subverting too much the original content or the culture into which the translation is entering. The final example in the book, of the difficulties and challenges Milan Kundera’s ‘The Joke’ presented, illustrates how difficult it is for a translator to fully grasp the source language culture and to not betray the original author’s intentions. There is more to translation than a simple metaphrasing, especially where deeply cultural challenging literary works are the subject. Paraphrasing in line with cultural values of both source and target culture is critical. This book introduces some very good examples of translation theory at action in the field. I am sure that I will refer back to it in my ongoing studies of Translation. View all my reviews

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Review: The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Politics Of Translation

The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski My rating: 4 of 5 stars I discovered this book in the Cardiff University library and thought it would provide a valuable insight into translation in history. I am interested in general history of the Renaissance and Middle Ages and found that this book helped to transfer pre-existing knowledge to the field of Translation. The book is a selection of academic papers from primarily North American institutes, There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the French language as a vernacular and also, more obviously, Latin. I suppose that this reflects the importance of French as a cultural language at the time. It precedes English as the global lingua franca by some distance. The general introduction chapters were very useful in terms of setting into context the role of translation during the epoque and the political implications that a translator would consider. The stand out chapter for me introduces the subject of Etienne Dolet, a translation martyr who was sentenced to death and executed as a result of his work. The Dolet tale was an intriguing one and demonstrates clearly how a target-language’s cultural attitudes have to be taken into consideration when working as a translator. I feel that Dolet is a person upon whom I would like to follow up research throughout the course of my Translation degree. I am a keen fan of Montaigne and it had previously eluded me that a lot of his great work was inspired by his activities as a translator. There are two chapters covering his translation of Raimond Sebond and the detailed critique that has ensued regarding the fidelity of his translation and the speculation of the true political motives behind his methodology. I think that very often, in translation, some of the reasoning and suppositions of translation critics fail to address the actual linguistical differences between foreign tongues. There are massive style changes at work that are bound to change the register of the original author and the translator would often introduce new ideas and themes only at a subliminal level, although that could very reasonably be done within the culture and political / historic climate of the current prevailing target-culture. This book covers a wide variety of other topics, some of which are more relevant and interesting than others. I enjoyed The Alfredan Boethius chapter….

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Review: Translation and Identity in the Americas

Translation And Identity In The Americas

Translation and Identity in the Americas by Gentzler Edwin My rating: 5 of 5 stars This was the first book I have borrowed and read from Cardiff University library’s Translation section. As a Translation student focussing on the Spanish language, I felt that this book would offer plenty of interest to me, considering that the Americas has the largest hispanic population in the world. The book is subdivided into five main chapters, each directed towards a certain geographic region in the Americas. The monolingualism of the USA, with its vast multicultural population, displays problems in the cultural struggles created by the way it forces minorities to adapt to English, the arrogance of this coming to light very much in the post September 11th world where military action has often been plagued with troubles of mistranslation and at official levels, an overwhelming dependence upon the force majeure of the official tongue. Quebec offers a unique zone in the Americas and its struggles with linguistic identity and its isolation are clearly demonstrated by Edwin. I found the history of Quebec to be enlightening and was new knowledge to me. The way that its patois language, joual, struggles to define itself in a society dominated by colonial English and French, formed a major role in the Quebecois independence movement and has manifested itself in local theatre and the adaptation of translation as a device for the feminist movement. This feminist translation in Quebec has transcended to borders and come to the forefront of translation studies worldwide. The chapter on Brazilian Cannibalism was, for me, the most interesting of the whole book. It truly indicates a unique way of looking at the post-colonial world. How cannibalism itself can be viewed from within Brazil as a positive force yet to the external viewer it is seen as a negative connotation of savagery, demonstrates the Derridaean deconstruction at play in translation to a relatively understandable level for the novice initiate into translation studies. The cannibalist school of thought shows how translation redefines boundaries and how there is a struggle between cultures in the process. The works of Latin American fiction authors and their relationships to Translation was particularly relevant to me, as a student of Spanish. I discovered some new authors here and have bookmarked their work. I also, as a result of this chapter, plan to reread Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, to view…

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Review: Lost In Translation: Misadventures In English Abroad

Lost In Translation

Lost In Translation: Misadventures In English Abroad by Charlie Croker My rating: 4 of 5 stars I thought I’d try this book out to see some of the problems translators face. The book is a humorous collection of real-life examples of when translators (translating into English) have made embarrassing mistakes… Translation agency’s advertisement in the Moscow Times: Bet us your letter of business translation do. Every people in our staffing know English like the hand of their back. Up to the minuet wise-street phrases, don’t you know, old boy. On a Japanese food package: This cute mild curry uses 100% Japanese apple and cheerful hamster. Finland: If you cannot reach a fire exit, close the door and expose yourself at the window. It’s hard to turn the page in this book without giggling your head off yet at the same time, for the trainee translator, reading the mistakes and attempting to understand how exactly they happened, can be quite a good challenge. View all my reviews

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Review: Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation

Becoming A Translator

Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas Robinson My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is another book I’ve read in preparation for the Translation (BA) at Cardiff University on which I’m about to embark. This book aims not so much at the theories of Translation Studies as in other textbooks I have read but focuses more on life as a professional translator. It is preparation for the world of work and discusses many of the issues which one might encounter if one is successful in this career choice. The book has its own ideas and it does perhaps over-apply its terminologies of pattern-building and intuitive leaps. I found it a bit wishy-washy in places as I am still very new to the ideas of Translation. It is easy enough to understand as a basic concept yet the actual science of translation can be quite complicated. There are some nice, practical exercises at the end of each chapter which are good food for thought. I think that this book was a good introduction to translation and I can see it being a useful source of reference for me in years to come. View all my reviews

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Review: Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications

Introducing Translation Studies

Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications by Jeremy Munday My rating: 4 of 5 stars Ahead of embarking upon a Translation (BA) at Cardiff University, I thought I’d prepare by investigating one of the course textbooks. This introduction to Translation Studies was a revelation in how it introduced me to the new terminology I will be working with. I initially found the introduction of new models and ways of thinking a little daunting, but by the end of chapter twelve I felt that I was making progress in understanding the general gists of translation studies. The chapter on machine translation was the most appealing to me and I see this as an area in which I might specialise. The case studies at the end of each chapter were particularly thought-provoking and useful in allowing you to grasp the concepts at discussion in each chapter. I felt that this book was an ideal way to anticipate my future degree and I look forward to referring back to this text as my studies progress. View all my reviews

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Review: Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners

Babel No More

Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard My rating: 4 of 5 stars I am a keen learner of foreign languages and consider myself a polyglot with experience in about ten different tongues. This book focuses on the search for those rare people in our global society who take the study of languages to the extreme, accumulating masses and becoming masters of Babel. The story begins with the legend of Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a Bolognese cardinal who reached a zenith of 63 languages and used to regularly stun visitors to the Vatican with his linguistic prowess. The author of this book, Michael Erard, tells his journey of discovery and is constantly asking what it takes to be a multipolyglot. I found the book particularly inspiring and I think the advice therein is valuable to any budding linguist. I found the chapters and exploration of tehe brain a little dull but the meeting of various anonymous polyglots across the globe proved inspiring. Analysing little techniques and methods which can help us all improve our minds make this very much a self-help book and to give credit to these talented and unknown individuals is a handsome task. A definite book to read for anyone who is serious about languages. View all my reviews

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Review: Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners

Babel No More

Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard My rating: 4 of 5 stars I am a keen learner of foreign languages and consider myself a polyglot with experience in about ten different tongues. This book focuses on the search for those rare people in our global society who take the study of languages to the extreme, accumulating masses and becoming masters of Babel. The story begins with the legend of Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a Bolognese cardinal who reached a zenith of 63 languages and used to regularly stun visitors to the Vatican with his linguistic prowess. The author of this book, Michael Erard, tells his journey of discovery and is constantly asking what it takes to be a multipolyglot. I found the book particularly inspiring and I think the advice therein is valuable to any budding linguist. I found the chapters and exploration of tehe brain a little dull but the meeting of various anonymous polyglots across the globe proved inspiring. Analysing little techniques and methods which can help us all improve our minds make this very much a self-help book and to give credit to these talented and unknown individuals is a handsome task. A definite book to read for anyone who is serious about languages. View all my reviews

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Review: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

The Language Wars

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings My rating: 4 of 5 stars About to embark, in September, on a Translation degree, I thought it a good idea to brush up on my rather lamentable English skills and thoroughly cast myself into the depths of this book. It is a worthy and interesting read in which the history of our language is explored. What gave rise to the way we speak in today’s world and what, indeed, will tomorrow’s English be? The author introduces a multitude of well-spun anecdotes from the most famous of our English language writers in addition to tales of those people who were, behind-the-scenes, most influential on the evolution of our tongue. I found the contrasts between UK English and international English most enthralling and equally the chapters on dialogue and accent were riveting. It is interesting to note how the future of our language will be shaped not by English English-speakers but by the vast hordes of foreign speakers of English. The language’s rise to international prominence means that many of the traditions and histories entailed in the book will be overlooked as we step towards future’s embrace. This book may be a bit mundane and high-brow to the average reader. I found it suitably challenging, intellectual and enlightening. A goodread good read. View all my reviews

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Review: The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages

The Last Speakers

The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages by K. David Harrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars I found this an absolutely fascinating, inspiring tale that truly opened my eyes to one of the planet’s scariest phenomena… We hear of endangered wildlife and how our modern industrial society is harming the environment. We hear of other worrying global issues. But, often neglected and hardly publicised, is the very real situation of the reduction in global language diversity. (Minor) languages, often spoken by marginalised tribespeople in remote areas of the Earth, are disappearing into the annals of history (or remaining unrecorded) as they fade into extinction. We are losing human knowledge at a great rate. This knowledge has accumulated over a great period of time and has characteristics which simply cannot be translated or encoded into larger, more powerful global languages. We think that in our modern world, we have an abundance of knowledge and have improved communication. The invention of the internet and spread of the English language as the dominant lingua franca for global business gives us a false sense of arrogance and superiority. The erosion of ancient knowledge makes us poorer as a global human society, however… Harrison elegantly argues the case for the desperate need to preserve and revitalise these strange tongues ion far-flung places. I think that one of his most valid points in the argument for preservation of language diversity, is that these languages contain critical knowledge of local environments, usually in places which are at most risk of tipping the scale in the imbalance of climate change and environmental degradation which has been demonstrated to affect us all, wherever we may live, and whatever our chosen first language might be. The book is intellectual, but accessible. It provokes serious thinking and demonstrates the careful study and hard graft put in by researchers and indeed last speakers of the most critically endangered tongues. I have close links to Wales and New Zealand which are both leading the way in the mass revitalisation of endangered languages, ie. Maori and Welsh… The mass education program in schools in both of these countries clearly demonstrates the cultural value inherent in revitalisation efforts and serves as a model to other language hotspots where the loss of culture, knowledge and language is at its most perilous. As a student of language, who aims to continue…

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Review: The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages

The Last Speakers

The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages by K. David Harrison My rating: 5 of 5 stars I found this an absolutely fascinating, inspiring tale that truly opened my eyes to one of the planet’s scariest phenomena… We hear of endangered wildlife and how our modern industrial society is harming the environment. We hear of other worrying global issues. But, often neglected and hardly publicised, is the very real situation of the reduction in global language diversity. (Minor) languages, often spoken by marginalised tribespeople in remote areas of the Earth, are disappearing into the annals of history (or remaining unrecorded) as they fade into extinction. We are losing human knowledge at a great rate. This knowledge has accumulated over a great period of time and has characteristics which simply cannot be translated or encoded into larger, more powerful global languages. We think that in our modern world, we have an abundance of knowledge and have improved communication. The invention of the internet and spread of the English language as the dominant lingua franca for global business gives us a false sense of arrogance and superiority. The erosion of ancient knowledge makes us poorer as a global human society, however… Harrison elegantly argues the case for the desperate need to preserve and revitalise these strange tongues ion far-flung places. I think that one of his most valid points in the argument for preservation of language diversity, is that these languages contain critical knowledge of local environments, usually in places which are at most risk of tipping the scale in the imbalance of climate change and environmental degradation which has been demonstrated to affect us all, wherever we may live, and whatever our chosen first language might be. The book is intellectual, but accessible. It provokes serious thinking and demonstrates the careful study and hard graft put in by researchers and indeed last speakers of the most critically endangered tongues. I have close links to Wales and New Zealand which are both leading the way in the mass revitalisation of endangered languages, ie. Maori and Welsh… The mass education program in schools in both of these countries clearly demonstrates the cultural value inherent in revitalisation efforts and serves as a model to other language hotspots where the loss of culture, knowledge and language is at its most perilous. As a student of language, who aims to continue…

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Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation

Is That A Fish In Your Ear?

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation by David Bellos My rating: 5 of 5 stars I am starting a degree in Translation at Cardiff University next year and I thought I would try to get to grip with this new endeavour by learning a bit more about the art and science of Translation Studies. David Bellos is a professional with an obvious passion for languages. His book is most interesting and covers a very wide range of areas, neatly categorised into concise chapters which flow together seamlessly. The history of Translation opened my eyes and really build on the often misconceived notions a non-specialist may have on Translation. The book was full of very interesting and educated anecdotes which were often humorous and always memorable. I found the development of machine translation most intriguing and the different roles of translators in the modern world was well-covered. It is very surprising how the English language is represented globally and its dominance as a global lingua franca produces some bizarre skews for the world of translation. there is a dearth of foreign language speakers with English mother-tongue which is one reason why I am studying the Translation degree. This introductory book has really inspired me and convinced me that I am on the right course. I feel motivated by the wide range of possibilities further study in this area could bring. I think that it is a most wise study and I can see that this book will become well-thumbed as a reference-point for me in the future. I don’t reread many books but I can certainly see me repeating this work. View all my reviews

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Review: The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation

The Basque History Of The World

The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation by Mark Kurlansky My rating: 4 of 5 stars I live in Wales and there are similar issues here as in the Basque country – We have a certain regional autonomy after devolution, there is a strong national feeling and independence movement, it is an industrial heartland and there is a strong tradition and language, populated by a fiercely proud people. I felt that it would be interesting to study the Basques as their struggle tucked in a small borderland between France and Spain is most certainly an interesting one. This book is well written and has a lot of variety, covering history, culture, traditions, political events and even cookery. The more ancient history of Euskadi I found particularly thrilling and most of the information was new to me. As a language student I found the details on the Euskadi language and its history and development fascinating. The struggles against in particular the Spanish state are well-documented and the independence movement culminating in the rise of the infamous ETA can be understood from a Basque perspective, though without being overly biased. Franco’s commitment against regionalism is contrasted with the autonomous areas which came about through democracy and accession to the European Union. The differences and similarities between the French and Spanish sides of the region are well covered, with their great historical characters such as Ignacio Loyola well mentioned. The importance of their land as an industrial and commercial centre from its days as a great fishing community to its rise through the industrial revolution. The occasional Basque recipes thrown in for detail are pleasant interjections and show that the author is a accustomed to writing about this topic in his other works. It’s a shame the book hasn’t been updated to cover the last decade where there have been developments in the Basque land, with more autonomy granted and ETA having declared a permanent ceasefire. The book is a great overall study and introduces plenty of further cultural refeneces which I may take an interest in researching. View all my reviews

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