23 April 2014

Translation choices (can) transform our language and our experience of the world

The Words Without Borders blog has published a post by Sean Cotter entitled The Un-X-able Y-ness of Z-ing (Q): A List with Notes. The main list is drawn from internet and library catalogue searches of article, chapter, blog and book titles for variations on the translation while others were compiled using the Ngram reader to search Google's corpus of scanned books published in English.

Some quotes:
  • Milan Kundera opposed using "the unbearable lightness of being" to title the English translation of his Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, even though it is relatively close to the Czech original.
  • (Michael) Heim's translation, like a spot of dye, dropped into the flow of culture and altered the hue of English as it diffused downstream.
  • A meme before memes, the breadth of this title's reach lets us see something we know is true but can rarely prove: translation choices transform our language and our experience of the world.
  • We have to turn to Biblical comparisons to find serious contenders.

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