Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

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Penguin Books Limited, Sep 1, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 390 pages
4 Reviews
People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbours' languages - as did many ordinary Europeans in times past. But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes, and we wouldn't even be able to put together flat pack furniture. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. What's the difference between translating unprepared natural speech, and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What's the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why? The biggest question is how do we ever really know that we've grasped what anybody else says - in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about us, and how we understand each other.

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Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

User Review  - James Wayne Proctor - Goodreads

Bravo! Clear, easy prose make this a fine book for understanding the confusing art of translation. It's a bit like taking a course in the subject, with a friendly, smart prof who knows his subject to the bone. Extra points for the Hitchhikers' reference in the title. Read full review

Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

User Review  - Will E - Goodreads

Granted I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this is by far the most engrossing piece of non-fiction I've ever read, and it's not just because I have a vested in the topic. Bellos is just a great writer with a lot of great stories and ideas. Read full review

About the author (2011)

David Bellos is Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also Professor of French and Comparative Literature. He has won many awards for his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare and others, including the Man Booker Translator Award, and received the Prix Goncourt de la biographie for his book on Perec.

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