Review: Through the Language Glass – by Guy Deutscher

Through the Language Glass
Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a fantastic read. It was quite different to how I initially imagined it to be. As you follow the story is constructively builds a cohesive, rational scientific argument as to exactly how and why different language users perceive the world differently. It is thoroughly thought-provoking and addresses issues that I had never previously pondered about but which are clearly important. There is a clear difference between language speakers across the world, but how does this manifest at a biological level? From colour perception to spatial awareness to use of gender, our language constrains us, in effect imprisons us to perceive the world in predetermined ways. I think that by reading this book I am more aware of the difference in languages and by being aware of that difference it assists one to break their own shackles of a restricted mind. At the very least I have a sturdy amount of scientific examples of linguistic studies with which to embellish my work on the Translation degree I am studying. A good read.

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Review: Translation and Globalization – by Michael Cronin

Translation and Globalization
Translation and Globalization by Michael Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, by Irish author Michael Cronin, explores translation studies from a globalization perspective with specific attention paid to the situation in Ireland. Globalization is a trend which is ever-increasing in our world and it is an undeniable fact. How do translators fit into this movement of culture? They are involved whether they support globalization or not and very often they must remain unbiased in their views. As contact increases between different cultures and language groups across the planet the translator is finding himself ever more involved. Technology issues and localisation are covered and this is particularly relevant to Ireland which has set itself up as a hub for the international technological revolution. The book analyses the different cultural conflicts which arise in translation as a result of globalization. What are the relationships between powerful global languages and more minor ones? I found the final chapter on minor languages, looking in detail at Irish Gaelic, most interesting. When one is a native speaker of English it is difficult to overlook the factors affecting translators of minor languages whose working lives and structure and thinking are markedly different to the bulk of translators. The book is very well written and gives a comprehensive outlook on Translation Studies, never veering too far from the underlying topic of globalization. I found it easy to follow and rich in its definitions and examples. I will be using the specific content on Translation History for my next essay.

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Review: Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation

Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation
Mouse or Rat?: Translation as Negotiation by Umberto Eco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of essays on the topic of translation. It is constantly exploring the role of the translator as a negotiator is the way he interprets texts for his target audience. Eco points towards an underlying perfect language that writer uses which transcends the individual tongues a work may be written in. What duty does the translator have in presenting an author’s true thoughts? The examples are plentiful and obviously abound from a man with a great deal of real-life experience as a translator. I found the in depth discussion of poetry translation a little over my head and very complicated but it gives you something to aim at as you learn the art and process of becoming a translator. The essays build on the work of other translation scholars and argues for and against their ideas and methods. I found that the text reads very well and is an ideal compliment to the more formal study one gets from course texts. I am sure that after a few rereads Umberto Eco’s message will reveal itself more fully to me.

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Review: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong

Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong
Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by Jean-Benoît Nadeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book was written over a decade ago, it is a great study of the French people that is still relevant today. It is an anthropological assessment and takes a broad stance in how it assesses France. The authors are a Canadian couple so many of the ideas and comparisons are taken from a North American standpoint. A two year study of the French yields many quaint anecdotes as to how and why the French are as they are. In my own experience of France, the French, French language, culture and cuisine, I felt that I was already a true Francophile and knowledgeable about this great country. This book takes my understanding to a deeper level. It points out the reason for many intricacies of French behaviour that I had previously not properly understood. The tendency of French people to be over-correcting about language use is something I have noticed and although, I personally enjoy my linguistic skills being polished, I appreciate that the French do this in a seemingly pedantic way which some foreigners may find offensive. When you get to see the importance of l’Académie française and how it has affected the French language you can understand the pride the French take in their use of words and it is no surprise to learn that literary standards are on average a great deal higher in France than in other developed nations. The book does focus very heavily on the nature of French government. I now understand exactly what Jacobin is: the centralist tendency of French government, with power totally focused on Paris. It is interesting to see how the whole political system has developed, from early autocracy with supreme leaders to a well-balanced modern democracy. There were good explanations and descriptions of the French passion for food and their natural links to the peasants who work the land. I hadn’t realised about the French education system and the way they foster elites, in particular to train to work for their huge civil service. I had thought it was a university system similar to that of Britain or the USA but it quite apparently isn’t. I felt that the book overall gave me a great deal of insight into different aspects of France and opened the door for future study. The book was definitely worth reading as it improved my knowledge. It is a vital text for French studies.

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Review: Translation and Identity in the Americas

Translation and Identity in the Americas
Translation and Identity in the Americas by Gentzler Edwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the first book I have borrowed and read from Cardiff University library’s Translation section. As a Translation student focussing on the Spanish language, I felt that this book would offer plenty of interest to me, considering that the Americas has the largest hispanic population in the world. The book is subdivided into five main chapters, each directed towards a certain geographic region in the Americas. The monolingualism of the USA, with its vast multicultural population, displays problems in the cultural struggles created by the way it forces minorities to adapt to English, the arrogance of this coming to light very much in the post September 11th world where military action has often been plagued with troubles of mistranslation and at official levels, an overwhelming dependence upon the force majeure of the official tongue. Quebec offers a unique zone in the Americas and its struggles with linguistic identity and its isolation are clearly demonstrated by Edwin. I found the history of Quebec to be enlightening and was new knowledge to me. The way that its patois language, joual, struggles to define itself in a society dominated by colonial English and French, formed a major role in the Quebecois independence movement and has manifested itself in local theatre and the adaptation of translation as a device for the feminist movement. This feminist translation in Quebec has transcended to borders and come to the forefront of translation studies worldwide. The chapter on Brazilian Cannibalism was, for me, the most interesting of the whole book. It truly indicates a unique way of looking at the post-colonial world. How cannibalism itself can be viewed from within Brazil as a positive force yet to the external viewer it is seen as a negative connotation of savagery, demonstrates the Derridaean deconstruction at play in translation to a relatively understandable level for the novice initiate into translation studies. The cannibalist school of thought shows how translation redefines boundaries and how there is a struggle between cultures in the process. The works of Latin American fiction authors and their relationships to Translation was particularly relevant to me, as a student of Spanish. I discovered some new authors here and have bookmarked their work. I also, as a result of this chapter, plan to reread Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, to view it from the perspective of the Translation theme which is not so obvious on a first read of the great novel. The last chapter of the five focusses on border areas and the identity struggle that cultures face there. Mexico and the Caribbean have their own issues with border areas. Criollism in the Caribbean is now on the rise as a fashion and old concepts and prejudices are being redefined by the local linguists. I think the whole frontera issues on the Mexican – US border were very intriguing and analysing the history of the area plus the effects of bilingualism and the culture that arises from it, could be an area in which I would maybe consider focussing an eventual dissertation for my degree.
Each chapter concludes with a deeper analysis by the author and there is a thoroughly wholesome introduction and conclusion. If there was any criticism, then perhaps there is a repetition and over-reliance on the analytical deconstruction models of Jaques Derrida. However, I feel that this book was useful in that it successfully drew me to the attention of this man’s ideas and that had been something that prior to reading this work, I had only skirted over and had not adequately understood.
I found this book to be very readable and interesting. It broadened my mind to some of the wider issues that Translation Studies scholars have to consider. I’m sure that I’ll be returning to the library to reborrow it for reference purposes in my later studies.

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Review: Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners

Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners
Babel No More: The Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a keen learner of foreign languages and consider myself a polyglot with experience in about ten different tongues. This book focuses on the search for those rare people in our global society who take the study of languages to the extreme, accumulating masses and becoming masters of Babel. The story begins with the legend of Giuseppe Mezzofanti, a Bolognese cardinal who reached a zenith of 63 languages and used to regularly stun visitors to the Vatican with his linguistic prowess. The author of this book, Michael Erard, tells his journey of discovery and is constantly asking what it takes to be a multipolyglot. I found the book particularly inspiring and I think the advice therein is valuable to any budding linguist. I found the chapters and exploration of tehe brain a little dull but the meeting of various anonymous polyglots across the globe proved inspiring. Analysing little techniques and methods which can help us all improve our minds make this very much a self-help book and to give credit to these talented and unknown individuals is a handsome task. A definite book to read for anyone who is serious about languages.

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Review: The Language Wars: A History of Proper English

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English
The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About to embark, in September, on a Translation degree, I thought it a good idea to brush up on my rather lamentable English skills and thoroughly cast myself into the depths of this book. It is a worthy and interesting read in which the history of our language is explored. What gave rise to the way we speak in today’s world and what, indeed, will tomorrow’s English be? The author introduces a multitude of well-spun anecdotes from the most famous of our English language writers in addition to tales of those people who were, behind-the-scenes, most influential on the evolution of our tongue. I found the contrasts between UK English and international English most enthralling and equally the chapters on dialogue and accent were riveting. It is interesting to note how the future of our language will be shaped not by English English-speakers but by the vast hordes of foreign speakers of English. The language’s rise to international prominence means that many of the traditions and histories entailed in the book will be overlooked as we step towards future’s embrace. This book may be a bit mundane and high-brow to the average reader. I found it suitably challenging, intellectual and enlightening. A goodread good read.

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