Sunday, May 31, 2009

What is Translation for the Monolingual?

The problem with translation is that those who need it are largely unable to examine it, and those who can examine it have little need of it. The more you need it, the less you understand it, and we generally take accurate translation in the news for granted. In fact, we tend to forget that it even happens a lot of the time, unless a particularly tricky issue comes up. Even if we do spot a difficult translation, the debate is always a limited one, and only fluent speakers of both languages can really comment with any authority. And of course, having lots of people from the same country or culture dominating the debate can prejudice it. You can’t really do much about that. You can only really argue in depth about translations if you know the language. But even if you don’t know a word of a the source language, by careful reading of the English version and thinking about what you know about other languages, you can often spot the potential pitfalls and difficulties the translator faced. That is what this blog will attempt to do, sort of as and when it crops up in the news and blogosphere and stuff.

If you are interested in contributing to this experiment, please comment.

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