We’d like to draw your attention to the general linguistics podcast, Lingthusiasm, the creation of Gretchen McCulloch (author of the very interesting Because Internet) and Lauren Gawne. Of particular interest to visitors to Ponying the Slovos is Lingthusiasm’s recent podcast episode (#49), which is on the topic of translation.

This episode talks about the new translation of Beowulf and why translating its first word hwaet as ‘Bro…’ is an appropriate choice. This discussion takes in a comparison of the approaches taken by Seamus Heaney (published 1999) and by the new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley and why new translations are important. Poetry is a rich area for translation, since it’s impossible to capture all the aspects of the original (rhyme, metre, alliteration etc.) simultaneously, a topic covered in this fascinating Radiolab episode (see ‘100 Flowers’).

Another rich area for translation covered in this episode is established classics from other cultures such as the Tale of Genji. Gretchen & Lauren lingthusiastically discuss the sorts of issues this raises.

Perhaps the most pertinent topic for us is the translation of fictional languages (see past posts, e.g. this one, this one and this one). This topic is broached with reference to the P.M. Freestone Shadowscent series for which Lauren Gawne created the Aramteskan language (see here for Lauren’s blogpost on creating the language and the interesting concept of smell-based evidentials). This means that of course translators then have to deal with replicating the language and the effects it has on readers within the constraints of their own languages.

Not mentioned in the podcast but very much related is how translations from English into languages with noun gender (e.g. many languages spoken in Europe) deal with invented nouns. This is a topic that our collaborator on the project, Sophia Malamatidou, has investigated in translations of Nadsat nouns into French, German, Greek and Spanish and is a highly recommended (though quite technical) read.

A final topic which the Lingthusiasm episode touches on is the misadventures in Scots Wikipedia, a topic that has even reached the pages of the Guardian. This is a cautionary tale regarding the dangers of word-for-word, naive translation.

One thought on “Getting lingthusiastic about translation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.