Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Plagiarism Concerns for Translators

Long-time readers of this blog may remember the very interesting guest post by Sarah Alys Lindholm on interpretation versus translation. Ms. Lindholm has now written an article on plagiarism concerns for translators, and it is definitely worth a read.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More on Nordic Voices

I've mentioned the Nordic Voices blog here before. I've recently joined it and will be posting there once in awhile about particular Nordic issues (see, for example, posts on 17 June and 20 June). I hope you will check it out once in awhile!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Encyclopedia of Translators

This encyclopedia of translators is a very interesting and useful resource. As it points out, translators are often forgotten. But the main page quotes Birgitta Trotzig, who said that translators are "half of our national literature." What a true statement.

At the moment, this encyclopedia is only in Swedish and only focuses on Swedish translators. I don't know if there are any plans to translate it. But I do wonder if other countries have similar encyclopedias of translators or if they are developing such things.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Saving Endangered Languages

About two years ago, I read Dr. K. David Harrison's book When Languages Die and subsequently posted about it here. Dr. Harrison then suggested that I read a book called Saving Languages, by Lenore A. Grenoble and Lindsay J. Whaley.

It is very interesting to read and think about these two books. Dr. Harrison writes about what happens when we lose a language and Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley write about how we can prevent that from happening, and thus they should be read in that order.

Saving Languages talks about working in a "community-driven, bottom-up" way, which means that it is the people themselves who should decide whether to save their tongue and how, and not the government or other authorities. Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley also give suggestions for how languages can be revitalized.

In their book, they discuss issues of literacy (which is a very important topic, in part since many people are not literate and/or written language is not always prioritized or emphasized, how language policies in countries can affect revitalization (for example, Syria apparently bans the use of Kurdish), attitudes towards language, and the influence of religious groups (Bible translations can be the first or only texts in certain languages or missionaries can be the first foreigners to learn a certain tongue). They also give information on different kinds of revitalization systems, such as total-immersion programs (which they say are the best but are not always possible), partial-immersion or bilingual programs (which they say tend to develop into transitional programs, and they do not advocate this idea), teaching the language as a second language, community-based programs, master-apprentice programs (so elders work with language learners, and this takes place solely in the language to be taught and involves real-life situations and activities, and focuses on oral skills), language-reclamation models (reviving languages that are not longer spoken, and also documenting (though this is not really resuscitating a language, merely recording it, though it helps in reviving a tongue).

In addition, they discuss creating or standardizing a written form of a language, issues of orthography, the usage of different scripts (some groups choose a certain script or other aspects of orthography deliberately to avoid having one like that of the majority language, such as how the Inuit based their alphabet on a Cree one rather than the Roman one, as a way of showing identity, or how Croatian uses the Roman alphabet while Serbian uses Cyrillic). And they give advice for creating a language program, looking into financial, language, and human resources, assessing the vitality of a language, and the needs of the community as well as their attitudes; as well as for avoiding potential problem situations, both internal and external to the community. And Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley use case studies to explore different ways of saving and revitalizing languages.

Dr. Harrison's When Languages Die and Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley's Saving Languages are fascinating books, and I recommend them both.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Vote for Brave New Words!

Some readers may remember that last year, Brave New Words made it to 78 on a list of the top 100 language blogs. Well, BNW has been nominated again this year and now readers have to vote for their favorites. So if you enjoy this blog and would like to see it listed amongst the top language blogs in the world, please visit this site.

As we say in my hometown of Chicago: vote early and vote often!

Thank you for your support!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Translating Poetry

I find this quote interesting:

Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer

I think Samuel Johnson was a bit off here. Who in the world could realistically learn all the languages she or he wants to, all in order to read poetry in its original tongue? It sounds like an idealistic viewpoint and this is simply not possible.

Poetry can be translated and is translated. There's no way around the fact that if we want to read foreign texts (and we do and we should), we must have translation. Nevertheless, it is also obviously a good thing to learn other languages.