Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Round-Up of Articles

This set of articles should keep you happily occupied for awhile!

Yesterday was the Nobel Prize ceremony. Literature prize-winner Doris Lessing was too ill to attend, but she recorded a lecture from the UK. You can read it

article in English in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter gives a little insight into the way the Nobel Prizes are decided.

As this funny
article shows, one mispronunciation can really change the meaning.

The much-beloved Paddington Bear is being updated to reflect the times. See this brief article for more on the new Paddington book.

A recent
story from the Guardian is on on translating to Arabic and a project aiming to eventually publish 500 translations a year. “Four years ago the UN’s Arab human development report identified a lack of translated foreign works as an issue restricting Arab intellectual life. The UN report noted that Spain translates in one year the number of books that have been translated into Arabic in the past 1,000 years.”

article is on translating the Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

As someone who has studied Latin, I was interested in this
editorial on why studying Latin is useful. There is some talk of translation in the article too, such as in the following quote: “learning to translate Latin into English and vice versa is a tremendous way to train the mind. I think of translating concise, precise Latin into more expansive, discursive English as like opening up a concertina; you are allowed to inject all sorts of original thought and interpretation. As much as opening the concertina enlarges your imagination, squeezing it shut — translating English into Latin — sharpens your prose. Because Latin is a dead language, not in a constant state of flux as living languages are, there’s no wriggle room in translating. If you haven’t understood exactly what a particular word means or how a grammatical rule works, you are likely to be, not off, but just plain wrong. There’s nothing like this challenge to teach you how to navigate the reefs and whirlpools of English prose.”

I had no idea that
Papua New Guinea Has Four Times As Many Languages As Europe. I also found it interesting to know that: “Only about 10,000 words in modern English date back to the Anglo-Saxon language used by the authors of Beowulf and the Battle of Maldon; the rest of the roughly 500,000 words in common use have been arriving for centuries from all directions.”

The A Word A Day newsletter recently included a link to this article about the Salish–Pend d’Oreille language and language death in general.

Finally, more children are studying Chinese today, according to this story. A quote says: “The number of elementary and secondary school students studying Chinese could be as much as 10 times higher than it was seven years ago, says Marty Abbott, spokeswoman for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. When the council surveyed K-12 enrollment in foreign language classes in 2000, there were about 5,000 students of Chinese, Abbott says. The council is collecting data for another survey, but Abbott says early figures suggest the number of students now studying Chinese has “got to be somewhere around 30,000 to 50,000.”” Another quote points out: “Interest in languages comes and goes. Latin was the sine qua non- from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century. French has always been the language of culture. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, German was the choice among those interested in science.”


Eric Dickens said...

A few comments on the Nobel article from Dagens Nyheter:

I agree with Clas Barkman that the Ă–sterling comment does rather clash with the idealistic idea of Nobel himself that the nationality should play no role. Spain was fascist at the time and the Nobel committee no doubt did no end of wangling to be politically correct while taking quality into account.

For instance, I regard the Estonian Jaan Kross as Nobel material, but he's the same age as Doris Lessing, so he'll probably never get it. The Swedes are still extremely sensitive about sending some five-hundred Baltic (including Estonian) conscripts to the Wehrmacht back to the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, so that they all ended up in Siberia as having been in the German army during the war. So Sweden likes to let sleeping Balts lie, so to speak.

Jaan Kross is said to have been in the running, along with Fleming Hugo Claus, when Nadine Gordimer won the prize in 1991. Where this titbit of information came from I cannot remember, but I think that it's true.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for your comment, Eric! It is pretty much assumed that nationality plays a role -- think about how people like to play the Nobel guessing game each year, in which you try to figure out what country might get the prize based on which religions/countries/ethnicities have gotten it in recent years. Ideally, it wouldn't affect the decision (except, perhaps, if they are truly considering what is best for the author, as you mentioned), but it definitely seems to.

Best wishes,

Dan P. Carr said...

Man... this is a neat blog. And I mean neat in all the meanings you can derive from it (opened like a concertina). Good stuff.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for your comment, Dan! I like the concertina metaphor, I have to say. I hope I'll be able to keep entertaining readers with the concertina!

Best wishes,