Friday, May 17, 2013

Nataly Kelly & Jost Zetzsche's "Found in Translation": Book Review

As a contributor to the Huffington Post as well as a court interpreter and market researcher, Nataly Kelly and her co-author, the technically oriented linguist and translator Jost Zetzsche, start off the volume with lively anecdotes and interviews gleaned from political, legal, multicultural, diplomatic and military situations. A couple of early [Amazon] readers of this accessible and casual but learned book offered in-depth reviews, so mine will be briefer.

The pace is casual, full of pop culture, and very rapid, perhaps suited to those skimming these short factoids and small features within each chapter. Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Google Translate, TED, IKEA mix with biblical, literary, sports, and musical lore. It's similar in tone and insight to what you'd peruse online or as a sidebar in a magazine. This proves a refreshing counterpart to the stodgier academic treatments of translation studies.

Sometimes I wished for more depth. Even in the snippet on how "adult" content challenges "search engine optimization," certainly an intriguing topic, the lack of "hardcore" examples puzzles. It's a brisk look rather than exhaustive investigation, however, pitched more at the casual language buff or curious bystander who may happen on this in a bookstore. I admit that's what pulled me in!

I picked this up, as one who likes language but never learned another one easily. As a longtime, struggling adult learner of Irish, the inclusion of Gaeilge here early on delighted me. It even shows how Shakespeare borrowed in his themes and lyrics from the Gaelic. But this entry comes right after life-and-death issues of translation in the first chapter that had begun with court cases and interpreters within predicaments of danger, so I was unsure why the sudden entrance of my ancestral language.

Also, a statistic as to speakers in 1890s New York City refers to the edition of essays in which the scholarly article appeared which analyzed this case study. But the endnote only gives the general editors and the book title, not the actual essay by another professor, and it's uncited as to the page itself to back up the claim of 75,000 Irish speakers in the city back then. This may be overly picky, but given other references are paginated, to be noted for those using Found in Translation to track down the primary sources the authors list.

Overall, I enjoyed this. I wondered about diacritics and keyboards, and how users of other languages who must mix them in one document fare. I have seen Kindle texts unable to insert Greek, for instance, into older English works from a time more learned than ours. I figure, as the text ends with futurist Ray Kurzweil, that soon we will figure out many problems that challenge and stimulate us by the medium we share online here. (11-28-12 to Amazon US.)

(P.S. Nataly Kelly posted there on 11/30:
... thank you so much for your kind review! I am glad to know that you enjoyed the book and in particular the story about Irish, a language close to my heart as well. The page in the book referenced is Page 274 (in Chapter 10). I will send the page reference to the publisher so we can update this in time for the next printing. Appreciate your careful reading!)

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