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

Blind.

Blindness has always been a great fear of mine. So much in my life depends on my eye sight that I feel I would be completely lost without it – writing, reading, translating, chatting with my fiancé over IM, staying in touch with my overseas friends, even watching TV and going to the movies… or just simply going about my normal life unassisted. I know these might sound like mundane things in the grand scheme of things, and I know there are probably alternatives, but these mundane things are an essential to me, and losing any of them would send me spiraling down a bottomless pit of depression.

Before I say anything else… no, don’t worry – I’m not going blind. However, during this past week, I’ve been forced to live like a blind person for a couple of days. It wasn’t some sort of dare or social experiment… but rather a result of my severe clumsiness syndrome; basically, I accidentally scratched my cornea with a pen.

Yes, it is as painful as it sounds. Continue reading

Lost in Translation.

No, I’m not talking about the movie; I just thought it was high time I talked about my field of expertise. What brought this up now? An excellent translation of a German novel that made me wonder whether I would’ve enjoyed the story as much if I’d read it in its main language, and a translation of a Swedish novel that is supposedly hilarious but has so far failed to make me crack a smile.

Back in university, the one thing professors often drilled into us was that translators are mirrors. A good translator would create a perfect reflection of the source text in a different language, while a bad translator might just as well be doodling all over the mirror with a black felt-tip pen. I may not have much experience under my belt, but I do recognize a bad mirror when I see one. Continue reading

Lebanon in a Nutshell

For something different today, I’ve decided to talk about my country – the little place called Lebanon located in the Middle East on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s pretty obscure, and more often than not, when I tell people I’m Lebanese they backtrack and say, “You’re a lesbian?”, upon which I have to pull out a map and show them where Lebanon is.

We really do exist!

Travel brochures will tell you that Lebanon is the Paris of the Middle East, but I’m about to give you the nitty-gritty version, complete with our crazy drivers, famous foods and ridiculous expressions.

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I’m not just a writer.

I’ve noticed that among all the blogs I come across and the bloggers I interact with, people define themselves as writers. Sure writing might be the skill we’re all most proud of, but I’m sure there are other things too by which we can defined. Let’s take me for example, I’ve been writing since I was five or six, and I like to think I’m good at it… but it’s not all I can do!

I’m a foodie. I love trying out new things when it comes to food. When I go to dine somewhere I try to pick a different dish every time, and I’m not deterred if it’s something too unusual. I love Italian food, even though I dislike garlic and onion, and almost any chicken dish is a winner in my book! Cooking, however, is not something I’m good at. I can’t even fry an egg properly.

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