Linguistics & Translation
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The Latin Alphabet - Consonant Pronunciation

We may not speak Latin anymore, but that doesn't mean we don't know how it's pronounced. This video covers consonants, which are mostly the same as our Engli...
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Learning Latin with Virgil 1

Learning Latin with Virgil is a completely new and original Latin video series. I hope to bring you engaging, effective and regular lessons to enhance your k...
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August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to ... - The Independent

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to ... - The Independent | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to ...
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How To Separate Mediocre, Good, and Great Stories in Translation

How To Separate Mediocre, Good, and Great Stories in Translation | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
How To Separate Mediocre, Good, and Great Stories in Translation

Via Charles Tiayon
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Charles Tiayon's curator insight, August 29, 2014 12:23 PM

Translator Max Shmookler, who is currently co-editing a collection of Sudanese short stories with ArabLit contributor Raphael Cormack, explores the tension between what Sudanese readers think is a great story and the story that will appear “great” in English translation. This post is the first in a series, and originally ran on Baraza:

By Max Shmookler

One of the unexpected benefits of preparing an anthology is the chance to read through enough mediocre literature to begin to ask yourself what “mediocre” actually means. This summer, as Raph Cormack and I co-edit a book of Sudanese short stories in English translation, we are finding out that our attempts to distinguish the great stories from the mediocre raises interesting questions about competing literary aesthetics. Figuring out which stories to include and how to justify our selections to the publisher has been a hands-on lesson in how a literary canon, even a marginal canon such as Sudanese Arabic literature in English translation, is formed.

In our work, the basic tension is that some stories generally regarded among Sudanese readers as “good” do not translate into “good” literature by Anglo-American standards. It’s not that Anglo-American standards are superior to the Sudanese, largely because that way of speaking presumes we have some outside standard by which these two literary aesthetics could be properly compared. We don’t. But we do know that some of what is written, printed, appraised and ultimately bought and sold in the Arabic speaking parts of Sudan is quite different than what is appealing to English readers. As translators, we must either conceal or explain that difference to our imagined English readers. These essays are a first attempt to do the latter: to explain those aspects of my encounter with Sudanese Arabic literature that I cannot properly translate. In large part, I’ll be looking at different aspects of the marvelously complex relationship between the two literary critical traditions, call them for the sake of convenience Sudanese and English, brought together by global trade relations, colonial dominance, educational and cultural exchanges, and the emergence of specific technologies and revolutions in literary form that they entail.

But we do know that some of what is written, printed, appraised and ultimately bought and sold in the Arabic speaking parts of Sudan is quite different than what is appealing to English readers.

Raph and I are constantly shuttling between these two aesthetics as we weigh which stories will faithfully represent the Sudanese literary scene while also appealing to a small, self-selected English readership. On the one hand, our scholarly training helps us to appreciate the Arabic literary context in which these stories were first imagined and now circulated and consumed. We pick up on stylistic nods to Classical Arabic, the use of characters and imagery from modern Sudanese folklore, Qur’anic allusions, political jokes, jabs at other writers and schools of thought, and so forth. We have both spent time in Sudan and the wider Arabic speaking world, and recognize some of the broader societal and historical factors that continue to influence the development of Sudanese literature.


The current atmosphere of political repression, for instance, has transformed protest literature from the category of kitsch and sentiment to a powerful act of witnessing, and implicitly objecting to, moral wrong-doing. The writer as social critic and moral voice is a vital element of the Sudanese literary aesthetic, one that helps to explain the preponderance of political satire and critique in the short stories we’re reviewing. If you dig further back, you’ll find that many major literary figures from the late 1920s onwards were writing nationalistic poetry, frequently with an anti-colonial slant. In an ironic post-colonial twist, the very state those earlier poets were demanding is now, two generations later, the object of routine critiques by their literary progeny. This does not change the fact that many Sudanese literary figures and their readership see a deep connection between politics and literature. For us, the question is how to translate such works to an English reader who lives – and reads – in the comfort and safety of a Western life.

Regardless, it is an arena in which creativity trumps the emulation of past forms, individual psychological characterization is valued over ideal types, and images that confirm the deepest liberal biases (biases I should say that I personally share) for individual freedom of expression, human dignity, and the inherent value of subversion.

In other words, we must keep in mind the expectations of the publisher, a small progressive press in the UK, about what comprises a “good” story. In part, they want the book to adhere to a principle of multiculturalism, both in who they publish and the overarching portrait of Sudanese society that emerges from our anthology. Hence, we want to include female writers and those representative of ethnically and politically marginal voices in Sudan. The ultimate aim of the book project, however, is to give voice, an English voice, to writing that is technically good. It conjures up notions of novelty, of subversion and resistance, perhaps of great beauty and certainly of extraordinary creativity. This is the bar – and I must admit it is one that I admire, in principle at least, insofar as it treats Sudanese writers as equal contenders in the arena of literary excellence. In practice, that arena is – and perhaps should be – an unabashedly English one. Regardless, it is an arena in which creativity trumps the emulation of past forms, individual psychological characterization is valued over ideal types, and images that confirm the deepest liberal biases (biases I should say that I personally share) for individual freedom of expression, human dignity, and the inherent value of subversion.

Shuttling between these two aesthetic sensibilities has helped me appreciate some of the larger questions at the intersection of the study of literature, literary history, and aesthetics. In the essays that follow, I will try to make my musings on mediocrity and translation more concrete by discussing those short stories that made the cut–and why.

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More primary schools to offer Latin and ancient Greek

More primary schools to offer Latin and ancient Greek | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
Latin and ancient Greek are to make a comeback in state schools under Government plans to introduce compulsory language lessons for seven-year-olds.Related StoriesGirls at risk because of 'pressure to be perfect' at schoolOfqual: grading of GCSE English...

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Push for protecting languages whose speakers a minority - Indian Express

Push for protecting languages whose speakers a minority - Indian Express | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
Push for protecting languages whose speakers a minority Indian Express Taking note of erosion across states of languages spoken by a minority, the commission has observed that in almost all states, learning the state official language has been made...
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Translating Shakespeare

Translating Shakespeare | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
What happens when Shakespeare’s work is translated into foreign languages? Is it still Shakespeare? Or does something fundamental to the original evaporate in the process? "Bless Thee! Thou Art Tra...

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Charles Tiayon's curator insight, August 29, 2014 8:13 AM

What happens when Shakespeare’s work is translated into foreign languages? Is it still Shakespeare? Or does something fundamental to the original evaporate in the process?

“Bless Thee! Thou Art Translated,” a podcast in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Unlimited series, raises these thought-provoking questions.

A translator can retain the story, characters, and ideas of a play, but the intricate wordplay proves much more difficult. For one thing, it’s impossible to translate Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter into a language like Korean, in which poetry is based on syllable counts, not stresses. And what is to be done with those well-crafted puns?

However, translation also opens up possibilities for new depths of meaning, as the familiar recedes and a different perspective takes over.

Sound interesting? Go ahead – take a short break from back-to-school prep and listen to this delightful podcast.

Do you have any of your own stories to share about encountering Shakespeare in a different language or culture? Tell us in the comments.

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How translation amplifies ideas: TED speakers show appreciation

How translation amplifies ideas: TED speakers show appreciation | Linguistics & Translation | Scoop.it
Shortly after model Geena Rocero gave the TED Talk “Why I must come out,” she was Skyping with an LGBTQ activist in Hong Kong. This activist mentioned how powerful it would be for Chinese speakers ...

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Charles Tiayon's curator insight, August 29, 2014 12:24 PM

Shortly after model Geena Rocero gave the TED Talk “Why I must come out,” she was Skyping with an LGBTQ activist in Hong Kong. This activist mentioned how powerful it would be for Chinese speakers to be able to watch the talk.

Rocero logged on to TED.com to find out how she could get her talk translated. To her surprise, she found that Chinese subtitles were already live—along with subtitles in Hebrew, Romanian, Thai, Vietnamese and Spanish.

Today, Rocero’s talk is available in 28 languages. And as she travels the world speaking about LGBTQ issues with her organization Gender Proud, she sees the impact of that. “The places I’m going, there’s either no law at all about how you can change your name and gender marker on your legal documents, or a lot of steps before you can do it,” says Rocero. “People are becoming aware of the law that exists in the United States. Suddenly, they’re asking, ‘How come I can’t have that right?’ People are realizing that they can demand these rights.”

This is the point of TED’s Open Translation Project, a global volunteer effort that enables the amplification of ideas across languages and borders. When a talk goes live on TED.com, translators around the world have an open invitation to subtitle it in their language. Over time, OTP volunteers subtitle each talk in more and more languages.

Speakers are taking notice and reaching out to thank translation volunteers for their efforts. Rocero, for example, took to Facebook to publically thank the OTP network for amplifying her idea. Meanwhile, TEDxUNLV speaker Cortney Warren (watch her talk “Honest liars—the psychology of self-deception”) was so thrilled to find out that her talk was being translated by volunteer Adrienne Lin that she sent her a copy of her book and offered to do the same for anyone else who worked on the talk. “That’s such a generous service,” Warren said.

Repeat TED speaker Mikko Hypponen also sends personal thank-yous to his translators. He even translated two of his talks—“Fighting viruses, defending the net” and “Three types of online attacks”—into Finnish. “These translations made my talks accessible to a group of people that would otherwise miss them completely,” he says. “For example, my father has never studied English and wouldn’t be able to follow my talks.”