Monday, April 27, 2009

Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little

When I was on a trip to Vienna, I stayed with a friend (a fellow translator) who had a wonderful book collection. I didn’t have time to read them all, unfortunately (I’m hoping she invites me back so I can!), but I did read Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little. The title is entertaining, as is the whole book. Basically, it’s a light romp around the world’s languages in 200 pages.

Ms. Little’s book is about grammar and how it works in different languages. She claims (or admits, it’s hard to tell which!) that she isn’t very good at learning languages, but she does enjoy thinking about how grammar works around the world. Among other things, she writes about the 18 cases in Hungarian and the 17 in Basque and she discusses deponent verbs (i.e. verbs that look passive but are actually active). She gives examples from Swedish, Sami, Swahili, Khmer, Tibetan, Hausa, Tlingit, German, Ngiti, and many other languages in order to show what is similar or different among the many languages and their grammar.

My one complaint is the lack of a bibliography, but nevertheless, it was enjoyable for me to read one chilly night in Vienna.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Håkan Nesser on Translation

At the SELTA meeting in London last month, the Swedish writer Håkan Nesser gave a guest talk. Mr. Nesser is best known for his crime novels (he mentioned that “life is reflected in death,” which is one reason why he writes such works), but he has also written literary fiction as well.

He was very entertaining and, as befits the setting, he spoke in part about translation. Mr. Nesser’s works have been translated to many languages and he said he’s received questions or comments from about half his translators. He said that he once offered some comments on an English translation and got the following response, “Håkan, I thought you knew English!” After that, he’s avoided critiquing translations. The way he thinks about the translated target texts is that they are “written by the translators with [his] books as the basis.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Call for Submissions

Here is a literary magazine interested in translation. Their call for submissions reads:

We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced)
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format)
* Translators must hold the necessary rights and permissions for the original work, unless it is in the public domain. Please append short (1-2 paragraph) biographies for both the translator and the original author. Translators who wish to have their contact information published with their bio should provide it. For excerpts, please also include a brief synopsis of the work as a whole.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Medical Translation

I have only once done a medical translation and that was a very unusual situation (my beloved grandfather had come to visit me in Sweden, gotten quite sick, spent his entire first day in the hospital and then was sent back to the US the next day, and I translated the records from his stay at the Swedish hospital for his doctor back home). Other than that, I have stayed away from medical work, partly because of the bad memories it brings up and partly because I simply do not feel qualified to do it, and I think it is important to recognize one’s strengths and weaknesses as a translator.

Nevertheless, it can be interesting for me and useful for other translators to check out this blog on medical translation.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Language Map

I was sent this link to a language map and I think it is actually rather attractive and interesting.

Sunday, April 05, 2009