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

David Bellos

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

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? 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. 3.8 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Language & Linguistics
Format Hardback
Pages 304
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication September 2011
ISBN 978-1846144646
Publisher Particular Books
 

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? 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.

Reviews

The Guardian

Michael Hoffman

A frolicsome cover, and a title and subtitle that perform in two different registers of cool, mask a disquisition of remarkable freshness on language, speech and translation … I could say anyone with an interest in translation should read Is That a Fish, but there wouldn't be very much point; instead, anyone with no interest in translation, please read David Bellos's brilliant book.

24/09/2011

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The Independent

Shaun Whiteside

I can quite imagine translators, particularly those who also do a spot of teaching, being consumed with envy at Bellos's ability to entertain while getting difficult linguistic ideas across to the general reader. I was consumed with envy myself. The odd minor cavil aside ... Is That a Fish in Your Ear? is essential reading for anyone with even a vague interest in language and translation — in short, it is a triumph.

23/09/2011

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The Scotsman

Jennie Erdal

... a wonderful celebration of the sheer diversity of language and the place it occupies in human endeavour ... It is clear from the sexed-up chapter titles ("Bible and Bananas", "How Many Words Do We Have for Coffee?", "Avatar") that this book is aimed at the ordinary reader — albeit one at the top of his game, given the incursions into linguistic jargon, as well as some indigestible charts and tables. But these are quibbles. For anyone with a passing interest in language this work is enthralling.

11/09/2011

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The Times

Michael Binyon

Bellos has numerous paradoxes, anecdotes and witty solutions to the ultimate challenge — translating puns and jokes. There are a few longeurs when he goes into the philosophical conundrums of meaning. But mostly his insights are thought provoking, paradoxical and a brilliant exposition of mankind’s attempts to deal with the Babel of global communication.

10/09/2011

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The Economist

The Economist

… appealingly jaunty … This is a book for anyone interested in words, language and cultural anthropology. Mr Bellos’s fascination with his subject is itself endlessly fascinating.

10/09/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Maureen Freely

[A] witty, erudite exploration of translation and its history

11/09/2011

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The Literary Review

Frederic Raphael

At once erudite and unpretentious … Is That a Fish in Your Ear? is spiced with good and provocative things.

01/09/2011

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The Sunday Times

Robert Rowland Smith

There are patches of fluency and authority, but elsewhere Bellos pitches queasily between the pedantic and the populist. He rubs his hands over the difference between hypernym and hyponym, but also tells anecdotes about family members. Perhaps that is the curse of the translator: addled by too many languages, references and idioms.

18/09/2011

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