Everyone enjoys giggling over translation challenges when they pop up in daily life: Chinese food menus, amateur signs or banners, and idioms that get twisted and contorted when one tries to speak a new language. These linguistic quirks are honest reminders that all people are humbled when trying to operate outside of a familiar language. In Is That a Fish in Your Ear?
David Bellos goes beyond the curiosities of translation to probe at the harder questions about translation and its relationship to what he bravely defines as "everything": philosophy, humor, history, technology, international affairs, and the human condition.
Bellos's occupation as a professor of French and comparative literature at Princeton becomes evident a few pages into the book. The subtitle, Translation and the Meaning of Everything
, conveys ambitiousness, but in some regards the content...
Beyond the Book
It is a universally acknowledged truth that Google has changed the world we live in, and one of their newer features, Google Translate, is also likely to have a big impact on the future of language and translation.
Traditionally, mechanical translation has relied on systematic matching of word meanings between languages, and reordering words based on different grammatical and structural rules. This literal methodology is faulty and full of pitfalls. The vocabularies and grammars of languages do not always line up in perfect or equivalent ways, which - though the linguistic diversity is beautiful - can make mechanical translation a frustrating process. According to an article in Slate
, this is "the kind of process that translates kindergarten