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Are translators different from normal people? Split personality?
Thread poster: rsl

Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 28, 2002

While getting more and more into translation I started to think whether I am still the same. When the second language becomes a part of you, probably here appears split (dual) personality. Language forms thinking, therefore two languages form two different ways of thinking. Does it enrich or impoverish an individual? Individuals who aquire a lot of languages, are they persons of integrity? Can foreign language aquisition lead to a mental desease?

It would be interesting to know your opinions.


[Edited at 2003-12-01 11:45]

[Edited at 2003-12-01 11:47]


Leonardo Parachú  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:48
English to Spanish
+ ...
Well... Jun 28, 2002

So far I can speak Spanish, English and a little Portuguese. My mother tongue is Spanish but I usually feel more confident speaking in English, and, in some cases, in Portuguese. I don´t think there´s nothing like a split personality going on in me. What is true is that different aspects of MY personality spring up in the three languages. For example... Speaking Portuguese I´m a funny guy, speaking English I´m a gentlemen and speaking Spanish I tend to be a brute.

I enjoy this, hey it might be the only thing I can do well in this life. And if it will help me to earn a living I fully welcome it.

Good luck,

Boa sorte,

Buena suerte.


Marisapad  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
+ ...
why not? Jun 28, 2002

…a person leaves as many lifes as the languages he knows…

(ancient Hebrew saying)

… learning languages means learning to travel,

but traveling does not only mean leaving and arriving;

learning other people\'s languages means also…

learning to love them ….

Ivano Fossati (living Italian poet)

(apologies to Ivano Fossati for this very bad translation of his wonderful song)

I mean: it\'s an absolutely enriching situation, I wouldn\'t say we have a split personality, I would rather say we have a double personality, or even more, that is, we receive inputs that increase and enrich our life, not that divide(split) it!


Maurizio Spagnuolo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
Mental disease? You bet Jun 28, 2002

My experience as a translator tells me that this category is the most exposed to mental disease and that this is very difficult to recover once you entered this profession.

Actually I think that most translators (yours truly included, of course) are just a bunch of weirdos.

What do you think about it?


Antonio Costa (X)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Oscarito manja português? Jun 28, 2002

Então você é o famoso moita, né? Vamos ter que usar nosso portunhol a partir de segunda feira, tá?

Só eu sofrendo para dar respostas em espanhol e a dondoca respodendo em espanhol ou inglês, no maior sossego!!!. Tá certo, Oscarito. Segunda nóis se fala.

Por mientras, um abraço para você e para os argentinos, em especial à N...

Antonio Costa


Marisapad  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
+ ...
...ooops Jun 28, 2002

how many typos in my Hebrew saying!

Hope you all understood what I mean, and want to say to Maurizio Spagnuolo that we all are surely very exposed to mental diseases...

...but in a constructive and positive and enriching way!!!!

Keep languages mentally separated and you\'ll have several ways of thinking, and be assured that you\'ll not loose your integrity!

On the contrary, you\'ll be more tolerant and more incline to understand cultural and social differences.

keep on tracking!


Valentina Modeo Patti  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
+ ...
I agree with Maurizio Jun 29, 2002

I think that psychiatric care expenses for our category should be included in our translation and interpreting rates.




Maurizio Spagnuolo  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
I was just kidding :-) Jun 29, 2002

but some projects can drive you crazy...




Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Marisa, Jun 29, 2002

Could you quote Ivano Fossati in the original, please?


Marisapad  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
+ ...
for Jacek Jun 29, 2002

and for everybody who can understand our sweet language:

… imparare le lingue del mondo, imparare a viaggiare

a passare tra la pioggia e la polvere, fra la terra ed il mare

ma viaggiare non è solamente partire e tornare

imparare le lingue degli altri

è imparare ad amare

Title: \"Cuore di cane\"

normally sung by Fiorella Mannoia only.

I\'ll try to find more about this, and if successfull, I\'ll let you know


Elena Sgarbo (X)  Identity Verified
Italian to English
+ ...
RSL, your question has been pondered over the years by a number of thinkers... Jun 30, 2002

Probably \"the\" linguist who has written the most compelling essays about language, tongues, and thought, is Benjamin Whorf. Whorf (a chemical engineer by training) was inspired, in early XX century, by the language studies of another thinker, Sapir, and Whorf went on to formulate his Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis.

The central principle of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis is that language classifies experience, and hence, language shapes thought. A corolary of this is that, depending on what language you speak, your vision of the world will be shaped one way or another. (Don\'t we all incorporate new concepts as we learn new languages? Concepts that were not exactly provided by our mother tongue?... Take for example the Hopi language: in it, verbs have no future tense !!).

A detailed account of Whorf\'s hypothesis can be found in his own writings, and also in a more condensed manner in:

• JB Carroll (ed). Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1956.

The great contemporary semanticist Umberto Eco expresses similar concerns to Whorf\'s in Eco\'s essay \"Kant e l\'ornitorrinco\" (in Italian). In chapter 2, Eco poses the example of Marco Polo meeting a rhinocerous for the 1st time, and labeling it from his own linguistic paradigm as a \"unicorn\":

... [Siccome la sua cultura gli metteva a disposizione la nozione di unicorno, come appunto di quadrupede con un corno sul muso, egli designa quegli animali come unicorni. Poi, siccome è cronista onesto e puntiglioso, si affretta a dirci però che questo unicorni sono abbastanza strani...].

This ability (pointed by Eco) to perceive the disonnances between languages is what several linguists find questionable about Whorf\'s hypothesis. A great treatise discussing and questioning Whorf\'s theory is:

• Lucy JA. Language Diversity and Thought. A Reformulation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. New York, NY. Cambridge University Press; 1992.

I personally find all investigations about language and linguistics fascinating; some of my favorite writings include:

• Berlitz C. Native Tongues. New York: The Putnam Pusblishing Group; 1982.

• Jennings G. Personalities of Language. New York, NY. Thomas Crowell; 1985.

• Crystal D. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press; 1987.

• Rheingold H. They Have a Word For It. Los Angeles, CA. Jeremy Tarcher; 1988.

I\'ll stop here, for now... great question, RSL!



Giancarlo Avellino  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Italian
+ ...
We're all 100% insane.... Jul 1, 2002 a matter of fact we\'ve been following this thread! icon_wink.gif

My shrink and his split personalities agree, mine were sick and tired of sitting at a pc and went out for a walk. The others are taking a snooze...

Gute notte, everyone! icon_smile.gif


PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:48
English to Polish
+ ...
I'm not insane. Everybody else is. Jul 1, 2002

Well, you can begin to worry when you translate (in your mind) everything you read, including chewing gum wrappers, junk mail in your mailbox etc.


Paul Skalinski


aivars  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:48
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
but a great answer Elena Jul 9, 2002

I´ve heard about Whorf´s compelling theories, but I am not sure whether knowing both English and Spanish entitle you just by that to see life from different perspectives.

I guess that with Hopi it must be a different can of worms.

It´s quite extended that one would attribute his or her activity a higher scope than it might \"really\" have.

I ´ve been working with translations for more than 10 years now and don´t find nothing extraordinary in it. (category that applies to so many other jobs) . I even visualize how our job is steadily invaded by a cold army of translating robots.


Raisa Gertsberg (X)
United States
Local time: 00:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Good news for all of us! Jul 13, 2002

Guys, you must be making tons of money, working days and nights icon_wink.gif). If not, how come you haven\'t heard the good news? Mental work is actually VERY good for your brain. Keeps it in excellent shape, no Alzheimer’s for us on the horizon.

Relax, you are just tired, not going crazy. What you need is more sleep (8 hours a day) and exercise. Try dancing, works as a charm. For me, anyway.

Happy translating!

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