Say What?


on audiovisual and literary translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

To Err

still from the film "Inception"Translation is hard work, requiring sharp organizational skills, linguistic dexterity, and stimulants.  And for anyone who does it professionally, the latter can be a big part of the job, as penetrating below the surface of language and really messing around linguistic sub-basements, under often unruly time constraints, can make the film Inception seem like an inspirational human interest tale.  (And I’m not even going into the whole human v. MT conundrum here.)

It was then with embarassing recognition and not a little shame that I read this sober yet ironic posting recently.  I liken translation to shattering some kind of object, and meticulously piecing it back together.  And getting cut up quite a bit in the process, so that our linguistic serum enters into it.

Myself, I make mistakes (something the author and I’d venture most translators are averse to admitting), strive for perfection, and learn to be humble.  But since the space between languages and cultures is never finite, always fluctuating, and extremely human, translation requires much more than good linguisitc “engineering” skills.  Rather, a greater parity between the right and left brains.


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Personal sidebar: ‘Midnight in Paris’

Anyone who’s followed Woody Allen’s trajectory inevitably bemoans he don’t make ’em like he used to.  Perhaps so much the better!

His new film which makes allusions to both his earlier films (Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall) and other contemporary ones (Inception), is a wonderful testament to both Paris and France, as well as the power and allure of history.  The ideas of being out of time, from a different one, and an expert (or not) are all batted around with comic tenderness.

While I wasn’t crazy about the ending, the film reminded me that repetition for its own sake isn’t a particularly creative endeavor.  But doing what one loves versus the “same-old-same old” is key, whether it’s in Malibu or Paris.

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