Russian has a word for light blue and a word for dark blue, but no word for a general shade of blue. So when interpreters translate "blue" into Russian, they’re forced to pick a shade. It’s one of the many complexities of translation David Bellos explores in his new book, Is That a Fish in Your Ear?
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Cross Talk — There’s no English translation for the Dutch word "Gezellig."Are there things that can never be understood, expressed or experienced outside their home culture?We’re wandering the unmarked maps of cultural translation!
In the introduction to their eye-opening new book, Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, co-authors Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche make the case that translation “affects every aspect of your life—and we’re not just talking about the obvious things, like world politics and global business. Translation affects you personally, too. The books you read. The movies you watch. The food you eat. Your favorite sports team. The opinions you hold dear. The religion you practice. Even your looks and, yes, your love life. Right this very minute, translation is saving lives, perhaps even yours.”
A bad translation may even be responsible for the longstanding anti-Semitic notion that Jews have horns. Listen as Bob Garfield and I talk with Kelly, a certified Spanish interpreter and former Fulbright scholar in sociolinguistics.