What Translators Can and Can’t Do

posterfix-449x700I watched “Arrival” this weekend. For the uninitiated, it is a movie about aliens arriving on Earth and the world’s attempts at communicating with them. The main character, Louise Banks, is supposedly one of the best linguists in the world, a translator whose work has greatly helped the United States, and naturally she is recruited to translate the alien language. Whether I liked this movie or not is besides the point, what I want to address in this post is the portrayal of Loiuse.

While I’m absolutely thrilled that there’s a movie that paints us translators as the real MVPs (because let’s face it, we’re not the most exciting bunch around), and sheds light on the importance of languages… during run time, I was just thinking, “Um. That’s… not how translation works?” Now that some time has passed since I watched it, I think I can finally put my finger down on what was bothering me.

Translators can translate one language into the other, provided that they do know both languages before hand. 

Translators cannot translate a language that, until two days ago, had not existed and there is no record of it anywhere. They cannot be expected to translate anything that is given to them. They are not walking dictionaries, for goodness sake. I was absolutely baffled when the MC was approached with some voice recording and asked to translate it. Like… are you even for real?  Continue reading

Back to Ink and Paper

Inky hands, correction pen stains, crumpled up paper, doodles on the corners… that was more or less my perpetual state as a writer when I was younger. Then computers came along and I migrated to the digital forms of writing, leaving my notebooks behind to collect dust while I sang the praises of Microsoft Word, with its pristine fonts and formatting options and the ability to start over and delete words with the click of a button.

Lately, however, I have been having difficulty even coming up with words to delete.

To be fair, when I was younger, I never had to approach a computer screen with a work mentality – it was a tool for fun and procrastination, but now I mostly associate it with translation and proofreading. I was also not involved with the Internet as I am now, and knew only a handful of websites. Social media wasn’t rampant, and my attention wasn’t diverted every few seconds by new tweets, Instagram posts, blogs, videos and forum replies.

I knew I needed to take a step back if I were ever to pull myself out of this neverending loop of distraction, disconnect a bit from my laptop, build my focus… and so I decided to go back to the basics. I think I went too far back though, because I bought myself a typewriter.

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I cannot get over how beautiful it is.

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Level Up

I turned 27 last October, and try as I might to pretend that age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel (20!), I still can’t deny that my thirties are just around the corner. I don’t like it. The 20 landmark was awesome, but the 30 one… not so much. No offense to any readers older than 30! You’re all wonderful people, but this is just something I’m trying to handle on a personal level.

So recently my friends and I adopted a particular system. As of this year, we are no longer “aging”. We are leveling up.

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Of course this came with a whole new set of rules and variables. In the game of life we’re now playing, things like eating and sleeping have a whole new meaning.  Continue reading

Sweet Snapshot Sunday #5

It has been such a long time since I did one of those… and not for the lack of sweet things either! If you check out my Instagram, you’ll find it full with pictures of food and sweets (and the occasional stack of books or nature shot); given where I live, there’s never a shortage of delicious things to try.

Sunday is the beginning of the week for us folks in Dubai, so it’s the equivalent of a Monday for almost everyone else. I was in no mood to work. Plus I had an eventful weekend and I couldn’t coerce my mind into getting with the program and accepting that today’s a work day. To shake off my Sunday blues, I went to my favourite dessert shop after work and grabbed myself a cupcake. Got home, changed into my PJs, made myself some karak chai* and curled up with a soft blanket and watched some How I Met Your Mother reruns.

Absolutely relaxing evening.

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Just a tiny slice of Zen heaven.

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Fourth NaNo’s a Charm?

For the past three years, I have failed at NaNoWriMo… and it was not for lack of ideas either. As of now, I have at least six ideas in mind that need – no, are begging – to be written, but have been forced to stay in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind because I simply do not have the time. Life does not allow you to sit down and write when you’re juggling a team of 20 people, freelance work, housework and a growing social life… not to mention a hunger for reading that isn’t getting fulfilled either. Sigh.

BUT this year I have come prepared. This year I have equipped myself with the ultimate writing desk!

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The best things in life are surprising.

I am someone who has no patience for surprises. I have this urge to find out about things before they actually happen, and get all antsy when I don’t know what’s coming my way, even if I know for a fact that it will be good. When I think about it, it really is an amazing feat on my part that I do not flip to the last chapter with every book I read. But endings are sacred to me – and let’s face it, you can’t really enjoy an ending without knowing the beginning.

Still, I have to admit that sometimes it is better not to know.

I was jolted awake yesterday morning with the insistent ringing of my doorbell. I was greeted – after hobbling around for a couple of minutes frantically looking for pants to go with my short, short night shirt – with purple balloons, cake and streamers and a whole chorus of “Happy Birthday, Zen!” Let it be known that I have never been surprised on my birthday. I always expect or know what’s going on, and I already thought we had a plan for the day… so for them to show up at my door like that, I was actually so speechless I forgot to blow out my candles, and I just stood there with puffy eyes, grinning like an idiot, before I got pulled into hugs and kisses and a little bit of, “Zen, why are you in jeans?”

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It’s my favourite month again.

It’s been a year, but the best month has finally rolled around. Of course I’m a bit biased. Okay, very biased, but my birthday month trumps all. Around this time of year I list down reasons to try and convince you of the glory that is October. I’ll be doing that again this time, only… I have one more reason to celebrate.

You see, on the 18th of October, I will have made it through my first year of living here in Dubai, by myself, completely independently. This is a huge milestone. One of the biggest in my life. Many thought I couldn’t do it, that I’ll cave and go back to the shelter of my parents’ home in a few months, but… here we are. I don’t have everything figured out yet, but I feel genuinely proud that I’ve managed to come this far. Despite all the hardships and the struggles, I’m happy.

Now that we’ve got all the mushy stuff out of the way, let’s get on to the list. I know everybody likes a list.

tumblr_mtjjk0PQAT1qaxstho1_12801. FALL. In Dubai we don’t get to experience all the lovely colours of autumn, but the temperatures have definitely dipped. On my way to work the other day I actually enjoyed the littlest of cool breezes and didn’t arrive to the office in a melting mess. Continue reading