Monday, 24 August 2015
Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything,
David Bellos, Penguin, 2011, page 122
Bellos' comments about the trust that people may or need to place in a translator should rightly make us think. He continues:
But that trust is never granted without reservation. To conduct the negotiation or the trade between two communities speaking mututally incomprehensible tongues, the principal relies on the translator and is in his power, just as the translator serves one master only and is entirely in his power. The situation is guaranteed to create anxiety, suspicion and mistrust.
Those involved in overseas mission work will recognise the difficulties communicating with potentially hostile and primitive peoples. Ned Saint and his colleagues might still be (physically) alive today if there had been language skills available in their context.
However, another area of possible trouble comes where cultures need translation as well as words; where words exist with different meanings in two parallel cultures, so that those speaking may think that the other understands until it becomes obvious that they haven't. Consider the different values and perspectives built into the word Shabbat by the Christian and Jewish worlds. And, given the historical barries between the two cultures, who can be trusted to translare?