Tuesday, September 27, 2011


This is not a post about odd English phrases or bad translations but rather about a play I saw when I was last in my hometown of Chicago,

The play is Chinglish by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang and while it does include some funny or awkward English sentences and some humor at the expense of translation or language skills, that isn’t the main point. Really, I think the play is about the translated self, and how communication changes and selves change when we speak another language. As someone who spent a number of years living in another language, I could really understand the characters and their attempts to make themselves understood in a different culture/language.

Chinglish is heading to Broadway next and I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

International Fiction Reading Group

I run an international fiction reading group at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library here in Norwich, England. It meets once a month, on the second Wednesday of the month at 1.30 – 2.30 pm. The group is relaunching for the new academic year on 12 October and the first book we’ll be reading and discussing is Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller. Everyone is welcome.

You can read more about it on the library’s blog.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Good Review

I’ve sometimes felt that reviewers of translated books don’t seem to really understand translation. They might write that a review is “fluent” or “poor”, but they don’t say what they mean by those terms, and they don’t usually compare the source text to the translated text. They often appear to judge translations based on how they read in English.

So I was really pleased to see the recent review in the 29 August issue of the New Yorker by Daniel Mendelsohn, whose work I always find worth reading. In this article about Arthur Rimbaud’s career, Mr. Mendelsohn names various translators (sometimes even that is beyond reviewers), compares translations, and shows knowledge of the source text, which helps him to analyze the translations.

This is a well-done translation review and I wish more reviewers would review and think like Mr. Mendelsohn.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eugene Nida

As many of you in translation studies will already have heard, Eugene Nida has died. While he worked in the field of bible translation, he had an influence on translation studies in general due to his work on dynamic and functional equivalence.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Round-up of Articles

Here’s another round-up of articles to read.

Here is a piece on funny movie title translations.

My lovely cousin Chad Lieberman sent me this article on untranslatable words.

Thanks to Jens Hillman for this piece on language.

We translators already knew about the bilingual advantage, but it’s nice to read about it again.

My friend, the Swedish-to-German translator Dagmar Brunow, sent me this article about the first translation from Swedish to Yiddish.

What are the 50 foreign words every English-speaker should know?

Here’s an article about the 10 most lucrative languages.

The next piece is on invented languages.

And finally, here’s an article about reviewing literary translations.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Words Per Day

We know that how many words you can translate per day depends on what sort of text you’re working on. Some texts are so difficult a translator counts him- or herself lucky if 500 words get translated in one day. Other texts are a breeze.

I’ve heard from a number of people that 5000 words are about the maximum any translator can do in a day. Beyond that, our brains just get tired. But then I have a friend who claims to whizz through 1200 words per hour.

What do you find your average daily counts are? What’s a good day of translating for you?