Always Learning!

The world through the prism of my mind

Archive for September, 2006

Happy International Translation Day!

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on September 30, 2006

I always feel impressed by translators. Recently, I have finished reading the english translation of NightWatch and it was very well done. I have read the russian original a number of times and could not see how a translation could make it justice. Yet it did and did it well. Congratulations to Andrew Bromfield on that one.

Today (30th of September) is an International Translation Day. I want to say a delayed thank-you to those people who allowed me to read Pippi Longstocking, The Three Musketeers and Don Quixote de la Mancha in my native Russian by translating those works from Swedish, French and Spanish correspondingly. Even though the Russian language has many great books of its own, it was exciting to feel and see other cultures with the invisible assistance of good translators. I think my world would be much smaller and much more boring, if someone’s work and passion did not involve finding exactly the right words to pass on the meaning of the original text.

While neither my English nor my Russian is of the quality to do real translation, I have been recently trying to educate myself on what actually goes into the translation process. I feel that in the rapidly flattening world, being able to transfer the text sense from one language to another (even imperfectly) is an increasingly important skill.

In the process of looking for the information, I was pointed at a paper that is interesting as a background reading, but is – unfortunately – not well linked to. It is the Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts, but it is applicable to other areas as well. And it is even available in 6 languages (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Japanese), so can serve as a translation case study itself.


Posted in General Education, Language acquisition | 1 Comment »

Of Cabbages, Kings and e-books

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on September 22, 2006

I have 100+ blog and search feeds that I keep track of in my online world. A couple of them are general techie feeds that many other people subscribe to as well. Most, however, are very specialised in topic and theme they discuss. I guess I am one of those people that helps to wag the long tail of online distribution model.

Among those feeds, TeleRead is a blog that I rate very highly. It talks about E-Books, software and devices that allow to read those e-books and issues that will affect us all negatively, if we don’t pay attention to them now.

As a voracious reader, I find that e-books are easier to carry around, easier to keep and even, in some way, easier to acquire (at least russian fiction is). And because a large book and a small book make no weight difference inside an e-book reader, I have also discovered some new interesting authors that I would have never read otherwise due to the unwieldiness of their output.

So, it was my pleasure to actually be quoted in TeleRead’s recent blog entry. And not just quoted in passing, but also invited to contribute to their stories on the ongoing basis. I have, of course, agreed.

I think the future for e-books is bright. And I hope that by combining my message with the messages of others writing about the same topic, the long tail of e-book readers and creators will wag that much stronger.

Posted in e-books, Publishing | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on a best teacher to learn a language from

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on September 18, 2006

When I was studying French, my teacher liked to measure out the knowledge at her own pace. If you asked about something that in her study plan was a couple of weeks later, she would pretty much tell you to learn what you are supposed to know first.

Being the kind of person who likes to connect the dots and figure out what’s important and what’s not himself, I was somewhat annoyed at this spoon-fed method.

Now that I started Spanish, my new teacher is completely opposite. She would answer any question, go into long – dare I say rambling – discussions of what rules and exceptions apply where and how spanish Spanish would be different from a south-american Spanish. She would even throw in linguistic/phonetic terms (like Alveolar) while trying to explain pronunciation differences.

This does not seem to work too well either. It is probably slightly easier for me, since it is not a first foreign language I am studying (4th ?!?), but other people seem to be rather confused at times. And even for myself, I have to double check online some of the points afterwards.

And that’s just third lesson. I am not looking forward to the second semester, unless Spanish is so much easier than French that everything just falls into place with enough practice.

Still, given a choice, I would probably go for the teacher I have now and supplement it with my own parallel study.

We shall see if this is this opinion will keep all the way to after the exam…..

Posted in Language acquisition, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Spanish – a hell of a surprise

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on September 11, 2006

French and Esperanto are taking a bit of a long break. I am learning Spanish now. I heard that it was easier to start learning than the French (though of course not as easy as Esperanto). I was looking forward to it.

So, the first lesson was a bit of a shock. Turns out that when the language book talks about Spanish being phonetically regular and pronounced as written, they meant the regularity within one particular Spanish-speaking group. Maybe even regular just within that textbook. But between Spain, Argentina and couple of other places, the letter J apparently can be pronounced in about 7 different ways from russian й то russian ж. I have no idea how to tie these sounds to the English alphabet.

And then there is a ll letter. Not a double-l, but actually an ll letter. And it just happens to sound completely different from a single l. On the other hand, b and v are supposed to sound the same even though they are different letters in the language.

And the rolling-r‘s! I can’t roll my r‘s, but have been surviving without through Russian, English and bad French. But Spanish apparently has a difference between r and rr, the later of which may or may not be a special letter like ll. And since there has to be a difference in the sound, I might actually have to learn to roll my r‘s somehow. Suddenly I understood much better the plight of chinese and japanese people with English which -differently from their own language – actually has l and r as separate letters/sounds.

And finally the spanish for I is Yo! In USA (and in american movies), Yo is so engraved as a rough/street version of you, that it is really hard to now think that it refers to me instead.

On the other hand, the adjectives agrees in gender (and probably other things) with nouns. To me – with Russian and Esperanto experience – this was nearly a relief. I did not even blink at the suggestion that you could drop the pronoun if it was obvious from the gender-matching adjective. I could see some other people completely lost however.

All in all, I can already predict that Spanish will require a lot of relearning and readjusting. Hopefully, it is all worth it.

Posted in Language acquisition, Spanish | Comments Off on Spanish – a hell of a surprise

Is Esperanto converting people to vegetarianism

Posted by Alexandre Rafalovitch on September 9, 2006

Many people say that they become vegetarians because they can not keep thinking that the meat they were eating came from a real animal – cow or sheep.

The rest of us can handle this problem by not thinking about the connection in too many details. Fortunately English, Russian and probably other languages help us by disassociating the name of the animal with the name of the meat that comes from it.

Esperanto does no such thing. Due to its suffix system, any animal meat has to use the suffix -aĵ. Worse yet, the meat that comes from the baby animal (like calf – a baby cow) has to also have suffix -id. Makes it easy to remember the words, but much harder to see the connection.

Let’s see this in the table for one animal:

English Russian Esperanto
Cow Корова Bovo
Beef Говя́дина Bov-aĵ-o
Veal Теля́тина Bov-id-aĵ-o

Makes it a bit harder to swallow, doesn’t it?

Posted in Esperanto | 3 Comments »