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Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

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Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything Cover

ISBN13: 9780865478572
ISBN10: 0865478570
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
One of The Economists 2011 Books of the Year
 

People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbors languages—as did many ordinary Europeans in times past (Christopher Columbus knew Italian, Portuguese, and Castilian Spanish as well as the classical languages). But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes; we wouldnt even be able to put together flat-pack furniture.

 

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. Among many other things, David Bellos asks: Whats the difference between translating unprepared natural speech and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? Whats the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why?

 

But the biggest question Bellos asks is this: How do we ever really know that weve understood what anybody else says—in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty, and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about how we comprehend other people and shows us how, ultimately, translation is another name for the human condition.

Review:

"Written by an award-winning translator and professor of comparative literature, this book is informed by considerable culture and an original, probing intelligence with a mostly light touch — the title riffs off of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, whose babel fish, when inserted in one's ear, could translate any imaginable language. If only it were that easy. Bellos gets readers to think in new ways about the implications of moving a series of words from one language and society to another. Of the 7,000 tongues currently used by humankind, works are translated between roughly 50. The preponderance of translation is into English, which explains why translating is a well-paying profession in Japan, Germany, and France but not here. Whether translating Astérix comics or caustic Chinese doggerel, puns and wordplay or even legalities at the groundbreaking Nuremberg Tribunal, translators are far more than a kind of literary middleman. It is a breeze to get lost in translation, and for this reason Bellos cannily exclaims, 'We should do more of it.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
One of The Economists 2011 Books of the Year

Funny and surprising on every page, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? offers readers new insight into the mystery of how we come to know what someone else means—whether we wish to understand Astérix cartoons or a foreign head of state. Using translation as his lens, David Bellos shows how much we can learn about ourselves by exploring the ways we use translation, from the historical roots of written language to the stylistic choices of Ingmar Bergman, from the United Nations General Assembly to the significance of James Camerons Avatar. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across human experience to describe why translation sits deep within us all, and why we need it in so many situations, from the spread of religion to our appreciation of literature; indeed, Bellos claims that all writers are by definition translators. Written with joie de vivre, reveling both in misunderstanding and communication, littered with wonderful asides, it promises any reader new eyes through which to understand the world.

In the words of Bellos: “The practice of translation rests on two presuppositions. The first is that we are all different: we speak different tongues, and see the world in ways that are deeply influenced by the particular features of the tongue that we speak. The second is that we are all the same—that we can share the same broad and narrow kinds of feelings, information, understandings, and so forth. Without both of these suppositions, translation could not exist. Nor could anything we would like to call social life. Translation is another name for the human condition.”

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About the Author

David Bellos is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. He has won many awards for his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare, and others, including the Man Booker International Translators Award. He also received the Prix Goncourt for George Perec: A Life in Words.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Cliff Hansen, November 12, 2013 (view all comments by Cliff Hansen)
For anyone interested in language, words, or translation, "Is that a Fish in your Ear?" is a brilliant introduction to how we communicate with each other around the world. The book has many interesting historical examples and is also quite contemporary exploring new domains of machine translation. It's funny and educational, accessible to linguists and the popular audience.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780865478572
Author:
Bellos, David
Publisher:
Faber & Faber
Subject:
Translalating & Interpreting
Subject:
Reference-Editing
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20111031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8 Black-and-White Illustrations, Notes,
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Linguistics » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies
Reference » Editing

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything Used Hardcover
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$18.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Faber & Faber - English 9780865478572 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Written by an award-winning translator and professor of comparative literature, this book is informed by considerable culture and an original, probing intelligence with a mostly light touch — the title riffs off of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, whose babel fish, when inserted in one's ear, could translate any imaginable language. If only it were that easy. Bellos gets readers to think in new ways about the implications of moving a series of words from one language and society to another. Of the 7,000 tongues currently used by humankind, works are translated between roughly 50. The preponderance of translation is into English, which explains why translating is a well-paying profession in Japan, Germany, and France but not here. Whether translating Astérix comics or caustic Chinese doggerel, puns and wordplay or even legalities at the groundbreaking Nuremberg Tribunal, translators are far more than a kind of literary middleman. It is a breeze to get lost in translation, and for this reason Bellos cannily exclaims, 'We should do more of it.'" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
One of The Economists 2011 Books of the Year

Funny and surprising on every page, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? offers readers new insight into the mystery of how we come to know what someone else means—whether we wish to understand Astérix cartoons or a foreign head of state. Using translation as his lens, David Bellos shows how much we can learn about ourselves by exploring the ways we use translation, from the historical roots of written language to the stylistic choices of Ingmar Bergman, from the United Nations General Assembly to the significance of James Camerons Avatar. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across human experience to describe why translation sits deep within us all, and why we need it in so many situations, from the spread of religion to our appreciation of literature; indeed, Bellos claims that all writers are by definition translators. Written with joie de vivre, reveling both in misunderstanding and communication, littered with wonderful asides, it promises any reader new eyes through which to understand the world.

In the words of Bellos: “The practice of translation rests on two presuppositions. The first is that we are all different: we speak different tongues, and see the world in ways that are deeply influenced by the particular features of the tongue that we speak. The second is that we are all the same—that we can share the same broad and narrow kinds of feelings, information, understandings, and so forth. Without both of these suppositions, translation could not exist. Nor could anything we would like to call social life. Translation is another name for the human condition.”
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