A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘language conflict

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Al Jazeera looks at Ello, considers the controversy over language fluency requirements in Navajo elections, looks at Malaysian criticism of a pro-dog event in that Muslim country, wonders what will happen to the Caucasus, looks at the issues of some religious minorities in American schools, examines the geopolitical challenges of falling oil prices, looks at Sioux problems with child custody in the United States, and notes that new British immigrants from the European Union contribute more than they cost.
  • Bloomberg suggests sanctions are starting to cause a Russian brain drain, looks at controversy over reports a Japanese kidnap victim died in North Korea in 1994, and suggests North Africa will become a key natural gas supplier to Europe.
  • Bloomberg view criticizes the patience of Sony shareholders in Japan, notes the Israeli prioritization of settlements over friends, provides recommendations on diminishing separatist movements, and looks at the role of immigration in possibly galvanizing the British desire to leave the European Union.
  • CBC notes that former Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller is suing Kahnawake council for its racial restrictions on residence, and notes Lynn Gehl suing in Ontario to get her status back.
  • The Inter Press Service suggests Israel is set to deport Bedouins from the West Bank, notes the plight of Pakistan’s Ahmadis, looks at the resettlement of Iraqi Christians in Jordan, and notes the departure of Kyrgyzstan’s teachers for higher-paying unskilled jobs.
  • MacLean’s notes Vice media’s new television channel, looks at the association of Muslim converts with terrorism, and criticizes an egg-freezing program.
  • Open Democracy looks at media freedom in the former Yugoslavia, and considers separatism generally and in Catalonia particularly.

[LINK] “Slow translation and the revival of the Catalan language”

Open Democracy’s Alessio Colonnelli has a nice article examining the role of trabnslation in ensuring the survival of minority languages, starting from the exceptional case of Catalan.

The oldest profession in the world is….translation. That’s what Catalan-language writer and poet Francesc Parcerisas tells us in a delightful book entitled Sense mans. Metàfores i papers sobre la traducció (No hands! Metaphors and papers on translation).

In the past, state ambassadors used to heavily rely on translation. Today, in a world perpetually connected, everybody uses it; often resorting to quick, error-prone methods. That is, Google Translator’s way: really fast and since translations are truly indispensable, the automatic translator has finally managed to combine necessity and practicality. Hence its success. The traditional version, i.e. the good old editorial one – created almost by hand and with the aid of dictionaries (often still paper ones) – is a rather slow, delicate, painstaking activity that feeds on shades of grey; one that doesn’t allow for syntax errors.

Take for instance a region of Europe which has sparked much debate in recent years, Catalonia, of which Parcerisas is a native. The region is the historic cradle of Catalan, a language spoken by roughly one out of four citizens in the Kingdom of Spain (it is also used in the region of Valencia and the Balearic Islands). A language that has been able to resist intimidation and repression. They say it’s in excellent health, according to the official language academy Institut d’Estudis Catalans: the small publishers popping up everywhere testify to this, along with its widespread use on social media. It’s never been in better shape, really, at least since the fall of the Franco regime.

One could almost argue that instead of losing a language, Europe has celebrated the comeback of Catalan. A grandee of the Continent’s age-old cultural heritage – Catalan was indeed born in the early Middle Ages. Not a dialect of Spanish, as many believe, but one of the evolutions of late-empire Vulgar Latin. An astonishing linguistic recovery. Those who care about diversity in general of any kind can’t fail to be happy about it. Diversity is good. Mankind embodies diversity. Fellini, who knew a thing or two about visions and wide angles, said that each language offered a unique point of view on the world. Surely, the renowned Barcelona-based London journalist and author Matthew Tree would also agree with that. Trilingual, he’s been writing professionally and successfully, mostly in Catalan, for over thirty years now.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • blogTO shares pictures from last weekend’s Ukrainian Festival.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly started a discussion of the merits of small town life or vice versa, coming down decidedly against.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the concept of the Venus zone.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a study suggesting that the Moon’s gravity is not high enough for humans to orient themselves.
  • Eastern Approaches looks at the elections in Crimea.
  • Language Hat examines the story of the endangered language Ayapeneco, apparently misrepresented in an ad campaign.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the American left is starting to win on cultural issues.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the collapse of Scotland’s industrial sector has led to a certain deglobalization.
  • The Planetary Society Blog’s Emily Lakdawalla notes the discovery of a potential landing site for Rosetta.
  • Torontoist looks at a local model airplane club.
  • Towleroad notes the lead writer of Orange is the New Black has left her husband and begun dating one of her actors.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests many Westerners haven’t taken the shift in Russian politics fully into account.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares pictures of Queen Street in the 1980s.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly considers the idea of a digital detox.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper noting strange occultations of TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper suggesting plants can grow in simulated (and fertilized) Martian and lunar soil, and speculates Russia will be trying to build a space station of its own or to cooperate with China.
  • Eastern Approaches examines the shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Joan Rivers was an early HIV/AIDS activist of note.
  • Language Hat summarizes a paper suggesting that language death and economic success are correlated.
  • Marginal Revolution considers Scottish separatism, wondering about the sense of either a currency union or a separate currency, and noting the increased possibility of separatism according to betters.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog critiques Mark Adomanis’ critique of Masha Gessen’s article on Russian demographics.
  • Savage Minds notes that, alas, Joan Rivers never majored in anthropology.
  • Torontoist notes that NDP Joe Cressy, defeated in his run for the Canadian parliament, is now running for city council.
  • Towleroad notes the firing of a pregnant lesbian teacher by a Catholic school, and observes the hatred felt by some anti-gay people who would like books celebrating children pleased when their same-sex parents die (among other things).
  • Understanding Society examines the sociology of influence.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy disagrees with Henry Farrell that laissez-faire ideology contributed to the Irish Famine.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian hostility towards the Crimean Tatar Meijis, reports on things Ukrainians think Ukraine should do doing the ceasefire and things Russians think Ukrainians should do (federalize and accept the loss of the east), notes high rates of childlessness in Moscow, and suggests that the Russian victory in eastern Ukraine is exceptionally pyrrhic.
  • At the Financial Times‘s The World blog, the point is made that a Scottish vote for independence would have profound implications worldwide.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Antipope Charlie Stross announces his support of Scottish independence on political grounds. Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen takes issue with him.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes movingly about self-critical voices.
  • The Cranky Sociologists’ SocProf shares sociology-related World Cup infographics.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Homo erectus picked up the herpes virus from chimps.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes that German attitudes towards the United States and the United Kingdom have cooled in recent years.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the election of out lesbian Kathleen Wynne as premier of Ontario.
  • Language Hat notes the increasing prominence of languages other than English in India, particularly in mass media.
  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the economic effects of recessions make people in recessionary economies more inclined towards racism.
  • Torontoist notes that many employees of the provincially-owned Beer Store chain have been active on social media in arguing against allowing convenience stores to sell beer.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes 2MASS J05233822-1403022, 40 light years away, a very low-mass star that’s just barely massive enough to be an actual star, not a brown dwarf. (The lowest-mass, in fact.)
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the peculiarities of giant planets orbiting giant stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to a paper analyzing archeological remnants (shell middens) of the earliest Maori settlers in New Zealand.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Roman Catholic cleric Robert Carlson, testifying about sexual abuse cases during his tenure as a bishop in Minnesota, stating he wasn’t sure if priests having sex with children was criminal.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair takes another look at the situation with the Arabic-language translation of Frozen, noting similarities and differences between the sociolinguistics of Arabic and Chinese.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the use of slave labour–often immigrant–in the fisheries of Thailand.
  • Marginal Revolution comments on the exceptional difficulty of reforming Pemex, the Mexican state oil company.
  • The Search looks at the results of a conference on community digital archiving, noting that the actual software is only a small portion of the overall effort.
  • Savage Minds’ Simone notes the importance of text and tourism, looking at guide books to the Nordic Faroe Islands.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs describes a proposed urban development in Scandinavia, uniting Norway’s Oslo, Denmark’s Copenhagen, and the west coast of Sweden.
  • Towleroad notes that Hong Kong is not allowing Britons the right to marry–including same-sex marry–at the British consulate in that city-state.
  • Window on Eurasia notes potential problems with new Russian legislation on dual citizenship.

[LINK] “Translating “Frozen” Into Arabic”

Writing in the New Yorker, Lebanese linguist and writer Elias Muhanna takes issue with Disney’s version of the hit musical Frozen for the Arabic-speaking market. His argument, that the Modern Standard Arabic chosen for the translation doesn’t connect with the different forms of the Arabic language spoken by different peoples, makes a certain amount of sense. There’s also the non-trivial question of identity: having a version of Frozen in an Arabic theoretically common to everyone might well have ranked highly in Disney’s prospective market.

There has never been a Disney musical so widely translated (or “localized,” in industry-speak) as “Frozen.” There has also never been a Disney musical so loaded with American vernacular speech. Princess Anna may have spent her childhood in a remote Scandinavian citadel, but she talks like a teen-ager from suburban New Jersey. Singing about her sister’s impending coronation ceremony, she says, “Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone,” and confesses to a need to “stuff some chocolate in my face” at the prospect of meeting a handsome stranger at the party. Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were more demure in their longings, and sang in a register of English more readily amenable to translation.

One of the forty-one languages in which you can watch “Frozen” is Modern Standard Arabic. This is a departure from precedent. Earlier Disney films (from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Pocahontas” to “Tangled”) were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, the dialect with the largest number of speakers in the region, based in a country with a venerable history of film production. Generations of Arabs grew up watching Egyptian movies, and the Disney musicals capitalized on their familiarity with this particular dialect.

Modern Standard Arabic is very similar to Classical Arabic, the centuries-old lingua franca of the medieval Islamic world. Today, it is the language of officialdom, high culture, books, newscasts, and political sermonizing. Most television shows, films, and advertisements are in colloquial Arabic, and the past several years have seen further incursions of the dialects into areas traditionally reserved for the literary language.

Ironically, though, children’s literature has remained deeply resistant to the trend toward vernacularization. “If we read to them in dialect, when are they supposed to learn real Arabic?” is the answer I usually get when I ask other parents about this state of affairs. As a scholar of Classical Arabic and a native speaker of Lebanese Arabic, I have always felt this to be a false choice. Setting aside the fraught question of what constitutes real Arabic, there is surely something to be said for introducing children to literature that speaks to them.

It’s tricky to describe the quality of a literary text in a formal language to a speaker of American English or any other language that does not contain the same range of linguistic variety as diglossic language families like Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi. One way to put it is that Modern Standard Arabic is even less similar to regional Arabic dialects than the English of the King James Bible is to the patter of an ESPN sportscaster.

The Arabic lyrics to “Let It Go” are as forbidding as Elsa’s ice palace. The Egyptian singer Nesma Mahgoub, in the song’s chorus, sings, “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 2, 2014 at 8:01 pm

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