People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbors’ languages—as did many ordinary Europeans in times past (Christopher Columbus knew Italian, Portuguese, and Castilian Spanish as well as the classical languages). But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes; we wouldn’t even be able to put together flat-pack furniture.
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. Among many other things, David Bellos asks: What’s the difference between translating unprepared natural speech and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What’s the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why?
But the biggest question Bellos asks is this: How do we ever really know that we’ve understood what anybody else says—in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty, and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about how we comprehend other people and shows us how, ultimately, translation is another name for the human condition.
How do you give directions if your language has no &quot;left&quot; or &quot;right&quot;? Why would you need a word for the number 1.25? And how do you translate a joke? David Bellos looks at the peculiarities of language and the art of translation as a part of his book IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? TRANSLATION AND THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING.
Avatar is a fantasy about sameness and difference. The hero is a human being. He's the emissary of a human mining company who is transformed by a fantasy scientific process into something else, into a native of this other planet, Pandora. So, his job is to infiltrate this other culture, this very other place, so as to feedback to his human controllers the information they need to pursue their mining project.
David Bellos on Big Think: In his book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and The Meaning of Everything, master translator David Bellos argues that “Babel tells the wrong story. The most likely original use of human speech was to be different, not the same.”
“[Bellos] offers an anthropology of translation acts. But through this anthropology a much grander project emerges. The old theories were elegiac, stately; they were very much severe. Bellos is practical, and sprightly. He is unseduced by elegy. And this is because he is onto something new . . . Dazzlingly inventive.” —Adam Thirlwell, The New York Times
“In the guise of a book about translation this is a richly original cultural history . . . A book for anyone interested in words, language and cultural anthropology. Mr Bellos’s fascination with his subject is itself endlessly fascinating.” —The Economist
“For anyone with a passing interest in language this work is enthralling . . . A wonderful celebration of the sheer diversity of language and the place it occupies in human endeavour. Conducted by a man who clearly knows his stuff, it is a whirlwind tour round the highways and byways of translation in all its glorious forms, from literary fiction to car repair manuals, from the Nuremberg trials to decoding at Bletchley Park.” —The Scotsman
“Bellos has numerous paradoxes, anecdotes and witty solutions . . . his insights are thought provoking, paradoxical and a brilliant exposition of mankind’s attempts to deal with the Babel of global communication.” —Michael Binyon, The Times
“This informed book props open the door to the idea of translation with pop culture . . . This broad-ranging book reads like a survey course in translation, providing a look at its history, detractors, challenges, future—if computers are the future—and current practice, both spoken and written . . . The result is arresting.” —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
“David Bellos writes like a person who chooses his words not only carefully but also confidently and pragmatically. Translation is a challenging enterprise, but one he embraces vigorously and without the gloomy pessimism that leads some to declare that it's impossible . . . Rich, often playful chapters.” —Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[A] witty, erudite exploration . . . [Bellos] delights in [translation’s] chequered past and its contemporary ubiquity . . . He would like us to do more of it. With the encouragement of this book, we might even begin to enjoy it —Maureen Freely, Sunday Telegraph
“Is That A Fish In Your Ear? is spiced with good and provocative things. At once erudite and unpretentious . . . [it is a] scintillating bouillabaisse.” —Frederic Raphael, Literary Review
“Forget the fish—it’s David Bellos you want in your ear when the talk is about translation. Bellos dispels many of the gloomy truisms of the trade and reminds us what an infinitely flexible instrument the English language (or any language) is. Sparkling, independent-minded analysis of everything from Nabokov’s insecurities to Google Translate’s felicities fuels a tender—even romantic—account of our relationship with words.” —NATASHA WIMMER, translator of Roberto Bolaño’s Savage Detectives and 2666