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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





 


Times Talk

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Apr. 23


Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of societys most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.



Thursday, Apr. 24


Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.


AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.



Friday, Apr. 25


Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from www.culturalkitchen.fi.



Saturday, Apr. 26


At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.



Sunday, Apr. 27


Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.



Monday, Apr. 28


The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.



Tuesday, Apr. 29


Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.