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Word's worth

Published: February 6, 2009 (Issue # 1446)


Hey, all you translators out there ever notice that the people writing about translation are mostly people who have never translated a word in their lives?

I cant figure it out. A dance critic may never have danced Giselle, but he knows something about the art of dance.

Translation theorists dont seem to have ever tried rendering a text into another language. In fact, they might tell you in the words of one memorable theorist the text doesnt exist at all. Try telling that to your client.

Translation theory gets screwy on the subject of translatable and untranslatable words. Since there are no exact equivalencies between languages, nothing is really translatable.

And since its all relative anyway, nothing is really untranslatable. Oh, right. Tell that to a translator who has spent the afternoon on one word that defies translation.

Take, for example, the lovely word . If you are buying new windows for your Russian apartment, you will be offered the service of finishing work on the something-or-others. You flip open your dictionary and find that is a slope, which doesnt fit. Then you open specialized dictionaries and find jamb and reveal.

Then you open your English architectural dictionaries and read definitions like the outer side of a window frame.

Then you smoke three cigarettes trying to envision the outer side of a window frame.

By now you have figured out that in deep-set Russian windows, is the inner wall stretching vertically from the sill to the top of the window enclosure and horizontally from the window to the room wall.

You have also realized that the windows in your U.S. home dont have any because the walls are a measly five centimeters thick and the windows are set flush into them.

In desperation, you start calling English-speaking friends who might know something about architecture.

By this time the sun has set, youre not taking calls from your client, and its time for another cigarette run (and since its after 5 p.m., make that a cigarette and booze run). Finally, you decide that whatever an English-speaking architect would call , a nonspecialist would call it the inner wall of a recessed window.

You hate it, but you have just calculated that, due to one word, you are now earning 14 cents an hour for this translation. You type it in, attach the translation to an e-mail, and hit send.

And then you curse translation theorists down to the 12th generation.

Then you fantasize about making one of those theorists translate your window company text.

Michele A. Berdy





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBAs and Capital Legal Services event Arctic Expedition this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



To have your event included in All About Town, email tot@sptimes.ru



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