Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation by David Bellos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am starting a degree in Translation at Cardiff University next year and I thought I would try to get to grip with this new endeavour by learning a bit more about the art and science of Translation Studies. David Bellos is a professional with an obvious passion for languages. His book is most interesting and covers a very wide range of areas, neatly categorised into concise chapters which flow together seamlessly. The history of Translation opened my eyes and really build on the often misconceived notions a non-specialist may have on Translation. The book was full of very interesting and educated anecdotes which were often humorous and always memorable. I found the development of machine translation most intriguing and the different roles of translators in the modern world was well-covered. It is very surprising how the English language is represented globally and its dominance as a global lingua franca produces some bizarre skews for the world of translation. there is a dearth of foreign language speakers with English mother-tongue which is one reason why I am studying the Translation degree. This introductory book has really inspired me and convinced me that I am on the right course. I feel motivated by the wide range of possibilities further study in this area could bring. I think that it is a most wise study and I can see that this book will become well-thumbed as a reference-point for me in the future. I don’t reread many books but I can certainly see me repeating this work.

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Review: The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future

The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future
The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future by Victor Cha
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book gives a unique perspective on North Korea as it is written by a man who held a senior position in the White House as an advisor to the President on East Asian affairs. Victor Cha’s experience extended to a an official visit to Pyongyang but perhaps the best insights can be gained from his direct meetings with DPRK officials to discuss the various international concerns on the Korean Peninsula. Obviously, one has to take account that there is a potential bias as it is written ‘by the enemy’ of North Korea. It seems clear to me, however, that the author has a deep concern for the Korean people and I think that his judgements and analyses are fair and educated based on what I have already learnt about the global anomaly that exists in this far east region. Nuclear provocations are covered in detail and I found the insights into the human rights situation in the DPRK to be invaluable. It was quite surprising to hear about George W Bush’s genuine concern for the victims of the human rights abuses in this isolated state. I found that the author has some very interesting ideas on how to resolve the whole situation. He stated some of the problems that reunification faces but his views were in general quite positive. I think he sees a transition to peaceful unification as being a possibility and the regime seems quite likely to be undermined by the gradual dispersal of information about the world to the North Korean people. I’d recommend the book as essential to all those who share an interest in developments in North Korea.

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Review: The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation

The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation
The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation by Mark Kurlansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I live in Wales and there are similar issues here as in the Basque country – We have a certain regional autonomy after devolution, there is a strong national feeling and independence movement, it is an industrial heartland and there is a strong tradition and language, populated by a fiercely proud people. I felt that it would be interesting to study the Basques as their struggle tucked in a small borderland between France and Spain is most certainly an interesting one. This book is well written and has a lot of variety, covering history, culture, traditions, political events and even cookery. The more ancient history of Euskadi I found particularly thrilling and most of the information was new to me. As a language student I found the details on the Euskadi language and its history and development fascinating. The struggles against in particular the Spanish state are well-documented and the independence movement culminating in the rise of the infamous ETA can be understood from a Basque perspective, though without being overly biased. Franco’s commitment against regionalism is contrasted with the autonomous areas which came about through democracy and accession to the European Union. The differences and similarities between the French and Spanish sides of the region are well covered, with their great historical characters such as Ignacio Loyola well mentioned. The importance of their land as an industrial and commercial centre from its days as a great fishing community to its rise through the industrial revolution. The occasional Basque recipes thrown in for detail are pleasant interjections and show that the author is a accustomed to writing about this topic in his other works. It’s a shame the book hasn’t been updated to cover the last decade where there have been developments in the Basque land, with more autonomy granted and ETA having declared a permanent ceasefire. The book is a great overall study and introduces plenty of further cultural refeneces which I may take an interest in researching.

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