Translators are proving their worth twice in this week’s World in Words podcast: in New York, they’re helping elderly Russian speakers fill out their census forms; in Louisiana and Mississippi they’re interpreting for Vietnamese-American fishermen whose livelihoods are threatened by the big oil spill. Also, which tastes better: Silverfin, Kentucky tuna or Asian carp? Plus, a conversation about counting: some languages are more numerate than others.
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In this week’s podcast, the U.S.Census Bureau is firing on all linguistic cylinders to ensure that non-English speakers are counted in this year’s census. Things don’t always go smoothly: in Vietnamese, the word “census” got translated into something closer to “investigation”. Also, how to pronounce that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, Scrabble obsession beyond the English-speaking world, and five unique Japanese expressions.
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.
Linguist Christopher J. Moore has made a career of searching out some of the world’s most "untranslatable" expressions â words from around the globe that defy an easy translation into English. Moore shares a few of his linguistic favorites from his new book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World.