The (almost) speechless translator
Thread poster: Victor Dewsbery

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
May 21, 2014

I have just published a blog article, "The (almost) speechless translator", at http://language-mystery.blogspot.de/2014/05/the-almost-speechless-translator.html

It contains linguistic reflections on my recent visit to Israel, together with a few photographs.
It does not include any statement on political or religious conflicts, it merely gives my subjective reflections as a translator.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:32
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Nice blog May 21, 2014

...but with all due respect, what is your point? That you don't speak 7000 languages (nobody does), or that is now that you find out that there are 7000 languages?

Please don't take this the wrong way, but what is it you want to tell us we don't already know?


 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
TOPIC STARTER
Different approach May 22, 2014

Hi Robert, I am intrigued by your approach to such blog posts and your evaluation which seems exclusively based on the newness of the information presented.

My approach is to communicate content which I find fascinating and intriguing, in the hope that some readers will also find this material interesting and attractive.

In my view, neither approach is right or wrong, they are simply different. For me, this is a fascinating example of the variety of cultural expectations that can be found among educated language experts.

By the way, I assume you realise that in British English, phrases like "with all due respect" and "please don't take this the wrong way" have decidedly negative connotations, although they may be perfectly harmless in other brands of native and international English. This, too, is a fascinating example of the cultural variety which we have to deal with.


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:32
Spanish to English
+ ...
Weasel words May 22, 2014

Victor Dewsbery wrote:


By the way, I assume you realise that in British English, phrases like "with all due respect" and "please don't take this the wrong way" have decidedly negative connotations, although they may be perfectly harmless in other brands of native and international English. This, too, is a fascinating example of the cultural variety which we have to deal with.


Big agree here. I take these quaint expresions to mean "I'm about to insult, attack or denigrate you or your opinions, etc".


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:32
Russian to English
+ ...
Not necessarily to insult May 22, 2014

--just to say something that you may think might be slightly unpleasant for someone to hear.

I think the point was that if you do not speak the language of the country you feel lost there. Yes, it might be true, but then each country has the right to use the language/languages that most of their residents want them to use. I felt like that in Quebec since my French is really very limited. I understand more or less all other European languages (not necessarily Indo-European), except Albanian and Romanian, perhaps, but French usually makes me feel like I am in a foreign land--totally isolated.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:32
Chinese to English
I don't like travel May 22, 2014

This is underlined whenever I travel to a country where one of these 99.9996% of languages is spoken. Over recent years I have had language adventures in Italy, Mexico, Spain, Kenya, Turkey, Iceland and Israel. In all of these countries I am dependent on people who speak an “international” language. Usually this is my native English, sometimes my adopted German.

One of the big shocks of my adult life was finding that I don't like holidays and travel in foreign countries. When I was young, I said, along with everyone else in the universe, "I love travel!" When I left university, I travelled half way round the world, and started living in China. But then when I was about 27, I suddenly realised that I don't much want to go on holiday to Tibet or Germany or Egypt. I can't talk to the locals there, and I don't have much interest in looking at buildings. I prefer reading about these places and taking my holidays in places where I can get around easily. It's not like I've exhausted the cultural wealth of either my native country or my adopted one! These days I find that sensation of going into a foreign language environment quite unsettling.


 

Alex Khanin  Identity Verified
Germany
German to Russian
+ ...
I still don’t know what the author wants me to do May 22, 2014

The traffic sign above the yellow one on the first picture conveys the same message, but without words.

 

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 16:32
Turkish to English
+ ...
Somebody who came away from Israeli-controlled territory with a rather different impression: May 22, 2014

http://cyprus-mail.com/2014/05/18/breaking-the-silence-inside-the-west-ban

 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
TOPIC STARTER
Country of contrasts May 22, 2014

Tim Drayton wrote:
Somebody who came away from Israeli-controlled territory with a rather different impression:
http://cyprus-mail.com/2014/05/18/breaking-the-silence-inside-the-west-ban

Yes, I realise that my experience was not representative of the whole country, and I admit that we didn't go to any of the points with significant conflict potential. We only passed through the West Bank on main roads and didn't explore the settlements. We travelled through the Golan Heights and were impressed by the beauty of the scenery and the peaceful atmosphere, even when we were within sight of Lebanon and Syria. But here, too, I realise that our experience was superficial.
However, a couple of points to reflect on:
1. Although the peaceful, multilingual and multicultural impression of Israel which I gained is not the whole picture, it is something that can be built on and developed further, and reporting on it could encourage people in the country to continue on this path..
2. You are quite justified to point out that there is "another side of the picture" when I report on a peaceful and positive visit to Israel. But are we as quick to point out the other side of the picture when we read a report about conflicts in the country? Or do we tend to correct good news, but let bad news stand uncorrected? (This applies not only to news about Israel, it can apply to any tendency to think that "good news is no news").


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:32
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
No insult meant May 22, 2014

Hi Victor,

No, I didn't realise the negative connotations, if I did insult you, my sincere apologies. I am Dutch and the last thing I wanted to do was insulting you (hope this isn't an insult tooicon_smile.gif). All I wanted to say is that I didn't (and still don't) understand the purpose of your thread. I am sorry (no bad connotation meanticon_smile.gif), nice blog, but what is the new information?



[Edited at 2014-05-22 19:45 GMT]


 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:32
TOPIC STARTER
The point of it all May 23, 2014

Robert Rietvelt wrote:
All I wanted to say is that I didn't (and still don't) understand the purpose of your thread. I am sorry (no bad connotation meanticon_smile.gif), nice blog, but what is the new information?


Hi again Robert,
To put it briefly, NEW INFORMATION is not the point.
To judge by the number of comments here, the number of retweets, the comments on the blog etc., my concept of taking known information and presenting it in a subjective way seems to be accepted by many people, and my sense of wonder at various elements of linguistic diversity has actually been taken up by a number of folk.
Not by all (e.g. not by you). Ho hum, such is life. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

One mystery remains. You call it a "nice blog" (for the second time). But I have no idea what you think is nice about it - all you have actually mentioned is the things which you don't like about it, so your term "nice blog" does not seem to have any information content.


 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:32
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Because,... May 23, 2014

... it is, really!

Hi again Victor,

You had an experience, and you want to share it with the whole world. What is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, I actually find it quiet sweet (NO INSULT!).

The way I read your blog is like somebody who visited an "other" country, where he isn't able to read the signs, and is spontaneously and honestly surprised (and this is the last time I say it "no insult meant"), which is good, and is wondering about his position as a translator.

I travelled a lot and had the same experience more than once. The first time I went to China, when it just opened her borders for backpackers back in the eighties, I had to talk with hands and feet, because we couldn't exchange one word with each other, not even "Coca-Cola" (had that experience too in a desolated part of Thailand).

So I read your blog, it is nice and I am happy for you that you had so many responses, but I sincerely (personally) was wondering why you published it, and I still do. Maybe I am the only person in the world who does.

I also think that this conversation went out of hand. Take a deep breath, it isn't that heavy as it looks like.icon_smile.gif

Kind regards,

Rob


 


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