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Review: Through the Language Glass – by Guy Deutscher

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 – by Michael Cronin

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: Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation

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

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: 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 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? 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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