Linda Jaivin spends even more of her time thinking about language. Linda is an author in English, and a translator from Chinese. She specialises in subtitles for film and television, but she has also translated lyrics, poetry and fiction and worked as an interpreter. She is perfectly placed to write an essay musing on the importance of language, translation and culture.
Linda tells us right on page one that "translators are used to labouring in the shadows". She reminds us that unless we "speak all 7000 languages that exist in the world, or abide in a cave without even a copper-wire connection" that we live in a world found in translation.
Translation lays the tracks over which news, trade, aid, diplomacy, ideas and culture travel. Translation is the invisible skein that binds our world.
I've been thinking more about books in translation since reading the amazing article Why Don't French Books Sell Abroad last December. Linda tells us that "about half of all the books available in translation around the world have been translated from English, and only 6% are translated into English"!
|For the third year running, Guillaume Musso is the most read author in France.|
And I'd never heard of him before.
It's often only through travel that we step outside our language comfort zones. As a native English speaker, living in an English speaking country it's all too easy. Our comfortable Anglophone existence is rarely shaken. I will always remember our first trip to Paris with 9 year old Master Wicker back in 2010. He knew we were going to France obviously. He knew that they spoke French there. But it was only as we sat down in a cafe for lunch within minutes of arriving and he was handed a menu that he really realised it. "But I can't read this". Yes Dorothy, there is a whole French speaking world out there.
Linda reminds us that we native English speakers can be lazier than speakers of more niche languages. And we are lazy. Only 12% of year 12 students in Australia now study a language, compared to 44% back in 1968. And yet
Forty-five percent of Australians were born overseas or have on e parent who was born overseas. Between us we claim more than 300 ancestries and 200 ancestral homelands. After English and Mandarin, the most commonly spoken languages in Australia are Italian, Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Vietnamese, Tagalog/Filipino, Spanish and Hindi.
I'd never really thought of how our Anglophone habits affected our lives in other ways.
not just binge drinking but obesity, abuse of recreational drugs, overindulgence in cosmetic surgery, status-oriented spending, television and free-market ideology were also far more widespread in the Anglophone world.
Are we really fat because we speak English? Do we binge drink because we speak English?
Linda tells us that "a culture doesn't grow just by talking to itself." Although English is not the only culture in the world to protect their own language. The French famously set up their own institution, Académie française, to protect and guard their national language, from the many, often English words that "daily besiege its fortress". As well they should, because English is imperial, and it is becoming too pervasive, we need to maintain the unique visions of culture and civilisation that exist in other languages. Even swearing is cultural, helping us to understand "what is forbidden, what is permitted and what is held sacred".
This is an important, far reaching essay on such a broad topic, there is so much to ponder. I hope it's being widely read, see what Lisa at ANZLitlovers and Whispering Gums thought of Found in Translation recently.
|Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme|
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog