glinda: wee Amelia Pond from Dr Who, text 'chan eil mi Sassenach' which is gaelic for 'I'm not english' (gaelic Amy/not english)
[personal profile] glinda
Found an interesting piece on the history and evolution of languages in Scotland (and to a lesser extent the rest of the Atlantic Archipeligo) which I thought might relevant to some people's interests. It's in several parts and not yet complete (they've got as far as 1400 now I think) but it seems to be updating fairly reguarly.
dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)
[personal profile] dhobikikutti
Via [personal profile] azuire:
Using a Private-sphere Language for a Public-sphere Purpose: Some Hard Lessons from Making a TV Documentary in a Dying Dialect by Nancy Dorian
The awkwardness of the situation I found myself in arose from the kind of functional restriction that takes place in contracting minority languages as they come to be spoken less. Some other more favored language, typically the official language of the nation or the region, expands into most of the public spheres (government, education, the legal establishment) --and the small minority language retreats into local village life and even eventually just into family life within the home. It becomes a private-sphere language, used with your neighbors and your kinsfolk in relatively intimate, face-to-face circumstances. In those settings, feeling free to borrow words does have a positive effect, since it makes it possible to avoid switching back and forth between whole languages and to stick instead to your own language: you can talk about more or less anything by drafting whatever loanwords might be necessary to bridge the lexical gaps you run into.

But a larger problem is created by this whole development -- because the retreat of a local language into purely private spheres of use may change the sense of what a language is for. Monolingual speakers of standardized languages don’t have to think much about this question. They would probably say that languages are for communication, and since communication covers most of what we do with language, their answer would be that a language is essentially for all communicative purposes. Bilinguals who happen to speak two standardized languages well would probably say much the same, though immigrant bilinguals who speak one standardized language almost entirely at home and the other everywhere else may have more sense of a functional difference between their languages. Bilinguals who speak one standardized language and one non-standardized minority language (that is, one unwritten language) are much more likely to feel that languages are not necessarily always for the same thing at all.

Sometimes it's obvious that one of a bilingual's languages has some functions that the other doesn’t have: if you've never had schooling in one of your languages, you probably wont be able to recite the multiplication tables in that one, and if you've never heard one of your languages used in a formal meeting, you probably wont have any terminology with which to second a motion, table a discussion, or raise a point of order in that language. But much more broadly than that, if you use one of your languages only with people whom you know personally, and always in a face-to-face setting, that language is likely to develop an association with intimacy and informality that makes its use with "strangers" feel inappropriate.[...]

Things get tougher still if a bilingual person one of whose languages is associated with intimacy is expected to communicate not just with strangers, but about relatively abstract and formal topics in the "intimate" language. [...] I was going to need to talk like an intelligent child: someone who might know the answers to some of the questions that would be raised but who didn’t have a large and specialized vocabulary to answer them with.[...]
Until I faced the TV camera armed only with East Sutherland fisherfolk Gaelic, my take on this sort of situation was about as realistic as Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign against the use of drugs. I thought minority-language supporters should "Just Say Yes": if they wanted to create a future for their languages, they should just make up their minds to use their languages all the time and get busy and do it.

What I didn’t reckon with is the personal difficulty of moving a private-sphere language, with all its homely, intimate aspects, into the public sphere where it seems to fit very poorly and feels inappropriate. And along with that essentially functional problem comes the additional problem that very small minority-group languages are often stigmatized, so that their speakers are braving all sorts of associations with backwardness and poverty when they speak their languages in public. And last but not least there's the problem of limited up-to-date lexicon and the need to press a lot of borrowings into service in order to stretch the hearth-and-home language into new contexts of use.

All in all, these are formidable problems, and I begin to understand not just why the aspiring Mexicano teachers held all their workshop sessions in Spanish, but even why young minority-language parents who make a decision to raise their children as first-language speakers of the ancestral language are so often learners rather than native speakers. The answer must be in part that they bring less baggage to the undertaking. They are less likely to have experienced stigmatization personally, they have bigger "modern" vocabularies because they've acquired the language at least partly from books, and they don’t have the deep, hard-to-break association of the ancestral language exclusively with intimate, hearth-and-home settings.
yasaman: picture of woman wearing multi-colored headscarf that covers her mouth (yasaman; base by enriana)
[personal profile] yasaman
As difficult as I've found translation to be, I've never quite thought of it as harshly as the Italian saying in the subject line suggests: after learning of Daniel Ladinsky's "translations" of Hafez's poetry, I now begin to understand the sentiment.

So, my cousin is getting married this weekend, and she asked me to help her find an English translation along with the original Persian of a relevant poem about love or marriage. At the wedding, my father would read the Persian, and I'd read the English. I agreed, and told her to email me with her choices, and I'd do my best to match translation to original or vice versa. Today, she emailed me with what she thought was a translation of a poem by Hafez, and asked if I could source the original for my dad to read. Here's the poem she found:

"The Gift" by Daniel Ladinsky

Our union could be like this:
You feel cold
So I reach for a blanked to cover our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body
So I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.
You ask for a few words of comfort and guidance
I quickly kneel at your side offering you a whole book as a gift
You ache with loneliness one night so much
you weep, and I say
here is a rope, tie it around me
Hafiz will be your companion for life.

It's a nice little poem, but there's a problem: Hafez never wrote a poem like this. This supposed translation doesn't correspond to any of Hafez's original works, and the "translator" neither speaks nor reads Persian. I guessed that it was a at best loose translation with the use of the word "potatoes": potatoes did not reach Europe or Asia until the 16th century C.E., and Hafez died in the 13th century. I could think of no good reason for a translator to change one vegetable for another while translating, and so the rest of the poem became suspect. I spent a fruitless half hour searching for ghazals by Hafez with the word "union" or "marriage" in the first line, hoping one of them would correspond to this one. No luck. Instead, when I dug a little bit deeper, I found these two articles on the specious nature of Ladinsky's "translations" of Hafez: A.Z. Foreman's gloriously scathing review of The Gift, and Murat Nemet-Nejat's review of the same. I'll let Foreman sum it up nicely:

"Dan Ladinsky's The Gift: Poems from Hafiz the great Sufi Master is perhaps the most inexcusably excruciating book bearing the name "translation" I have ever had the displeasure read. For absurd reasons, it is still widely popular and seen as successful, despite a decade's worth of hindsight since its first printing in 1999. So let me do my part to call this book what it really is: an awfully-written, narcissistic, colossally unintelligent act of charlatanry which derives its success largely from exploiting (and grossly perpetuating) some of the most shameful traits of the American public: ignorance of Islam and Islamic languages, unbridled consumerism, poor literary sensibility, stereotypes of "The East" and reviewers' reticence to say anything negative."

Read more... )

Are there any other examples you can think of where translation becomes betrayal? How can we promote non-appropriative, faithful translations, and how can we even be certain that the translations we read are faithful and respectful to the traditions they originally come from?
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
[personal profile] troisroyaumes
I just read this amazing essay by Heinz Insu Fenkl: Asian American Literature and Korean Literature: Common Problems and Challenges from a Segyehwa Perspective.

Note: segyehwa = 세계화 = 世界化 = globalization

(As context, Fenkl is biracial and grew up in Korea. He wrote Memories of My Ghost Brother, which I have not read myself, but [personal profile] thistleingrey has a thoughtful review.)

Noteworthy quotations )

What do people think?


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