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

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Penguin Books Limited, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 390 pages

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 (Christopher Columbus knew Italian, Portuguese and Castilian Spanish as well as the classical languages). 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. Among many other things, David Bellos asks- 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 he asks is this- 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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IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

User Review  - Kirkus

An award-winning translator describes and defends his profession.Bellos (French and Comparative Literature/Princeton Univ.; Romain Gary: A Tall Story, 2010, etc.) has a broad definition of translation ... Read full review

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About the author (2011)

David Bellosis Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University. He is well known for his many translations and for his biographies Georges Perec- A Life in Words andJacques Tati. David Bellos was awarded the first Man Booker International Translator's Prize in 2005 for his translations of Ismail Kadare's novels.

David Belloshad his first taste of translation when he read a Penguin Classics edition of Crime and Punishmentwhile sitting in the attendant's hut in the car park at Southend Airport; that same summer, he got his first interpreting job - helping a seafood seller to import Portuguese oysters from a middleman in France. He went on to teach French language and literature at Edinburgh, Southampton and Manchester, but it was only when he encountered Georges Perec's Life A User's Manualand was so convinced it should be read in English that he dared to think he too could become a translator. Since then he has translated many books from French and won numerous prizes, including the first Man Booker International Translator's Award and the Goncourt Prize for biography for the French translation of Georges Perec- A Life in Words. He is now Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, where her directs

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