Newsletter Archive

Articles, Books, Events, French, Language Acquisition, Literary Translation, Recommendations, Spanish, Translation

New Words #11: Greetings, Dear Lady!

It’s happening again. I’m getting LinkedIn messages from total strangers that open with phrases like “Hey, dear Nagle!” and “Greetings, dear lady!”

These greetings are jarring, especially in the context of a cold business contact, but it’s easy enough to imagine how they developed. If you’ve been taught that it is polite to use dear when opening a letter in English but also that Dear Ms. Nagle is too formal for online messages, you might attempt to strike a happy medium by doing a mash-up of formal and informal terms. And if it’s acceptable to address a crowd as “ladies and gentlemen,” then it must be polite to address an individual woman as “lady,” right? Well, not exactly.

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Links, Literary Translation, Translation

New Words #10: Translating Formal Poetry

I used to say I would never translate poetry—especially not formal poetry. Conveying meaning and overcoming gaps in cultural knowledge is tricky enough, so adding rhyme and meter into the mix just struck me as unreasonable.

That changed about two years ago when I read Íntimas, the 1913 novel by Adela Zamudio, a writer, educator, and activist who is remembered as the foremost figure in Bolivia’s feminist movement. I loved the novel’s morally complex protagonists and the author’s use of acerbic wit to offset the sentimentality of the plot, and since it has never been published in English, I decided to translate a sample to see if I could get a publisher interested.

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Films, Literary Translation, Recommendations, Translation, TV series

New Words #9: Meet My Pal Hyacinthe

Folks, it’s high time I introduced you to this fine fellow.

A nineteenth-century lithograph depicting an older man with a large white mustache sitting on the floor and playing a small stringed instrument.
Lithograph of “Hyacinthe Maglanovich” by F. G. Levrault, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There he is, in all his glory: Hyacinthe Maglanovich, outlaw turned cowherd, renowned poet, virtuoso of the gusle, the finest bard in all of Dalmatia, and my unlikely companion through the early days of the Covid pandemic.

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Books, Recommendations, Translation, TV series, Writing

New Words #8: Why the Computers Aren’t Coming for My Job

This is not a newsletter about ChatGPT (if you want to read one of those, I’d recommend this one), but our topic this time around was prompted by reports of the chatbot just plain making up “facts.” That has disturbing implications—if there’s one thing we’ve already got plenty of, it’s online misinformation—but it didn’t surprise me. After all, for nearly two decades, I’ve been bombarded with confident-sounding nonsense spewed by the translation apps that supposedly threatened to render my work obsolete.

Credit where credit’s due: Google Translate and similar tools have improved somewhat since the ubiquitous “paper jam” / “mermelada de papel” screenshot was taken. But being programmed to recognize commonly used two-word phrases is not the same thing as understanding context, much less recognizing nuances or errors in a source text.

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