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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

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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