Monday, October 23, 2006

el número dos?

It wasn't the ay! writ aye! that disoriented me in the profile "Arriba" in the Oct 23 issue. That hardly seems like an error one could definately attribute to the author Dan Baum. Doesn't The New Yorker have a crack copyediting staff?

But as someone who cannot read Spanish, I was struck by the translation of "'Asi es, diario.' This is how it is, every day." (36) Thanks, New Yorker! But is it possible that the magazine isn't very consistent about translating languages-that-are-not-English? I've been left with untranslated French on my hands more than once. And not in the fiction, either.

It seems hard to imagine that editors would assign this story (about a Latino radio talk show host) to someone who doesn't speak Spanish, but one might read the ay misspelling and the inclusion of translation that way. Or one might interpret the inclusion of translation from a language-that-is-not-English here, but not everywhere, as an assumption, on the part of the editors, that the readership doesn't speak Spanish but does speak, say, French.

All this makes the untranslated moment, "But then he [Almendárez] winked and said, 'I oprimo el número dos. In reality, you can live well in America without English'" all the more interesting. I assume Almendárez was winking at Baum (but maybe he wasn't), Almendárez assumes Baum knows what he's saying (even if Baum doesn't speak Spanish, but maybe he does), and The New Yorker assumes its readership can translate this particular phrase on its own. But not other phrases.

Thank god I got into the italics habit. Now you can't stop me.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

¿La letra cursiva es adictivo, no? Italics are addicting, aren't they?

10:00 AM  
Anonymous carolita said...

Oh, I can explain the "I oprima el numero dos" for you. It's what they say after "Press 1 for English" on every recorded outgoing telephone message. So TNY rightly assumes we understand.

I was impressed by the "diario" translation, which was perfect, and which could have been more awkward if it had not been translated properly into spoken English. Which is why I was all the more suprised by the "aye!"

Perhaps there's some kind of precedent in "aye" that they based that on, just for the fun of making us stop and wonder. To this effect, whether intentional or not, TNY printed "barbeque" in Remnick's Clinton profile, which, as a person who spent 15 years in France, threw me for a loop. I'd read it and heard it in my head as "barbek", not "barbekyu". I was stumped for a second. Then I realized it was the alternate spelling for "barbecue."

I was going to hunt Remnick down and ask about what I saw as an obstinate use of the alternate spelling (well, that was my little fantasy -- all I ever do when I do see him is stutter and flubb), but then someone informed me that this is how a certain well-educated section of our country spells it!

The point being that a French person would, like me, have been thrown by that spelling. So there's no consistent empirical evidence for a translation bias. Maybe TNY just likes to keep us on our toes!

PS- how do you like my italics? ;)

11:58 AM  
Blogger zp said...

Thanks for stopping by and adding that barbecue mystery; I didn't read the Clinton profile. Wouldn't it have been amazing if TNY had written it bar-B-Q instead? Or should that be italicized? These italics, and translations, are a can of worms, I tell you.

I did get A's reference to "oprima el numero dos" . . . What struck me about NOT translating that phrase is that TNY assumes that an audience that needs other translations from Spanish does not need the translation of that particular phrase. That is, TNY assumes that their readership's knowledge of Spanish is precisely limited to a phrase the reader might hear as a consumer, over the phone, being addressed to someone else.

12:25 PM  
Anonymous carolita said...

Maybe not. Maybe TNY is just being polite by translating phrases that aren't practically clichés. Aye, I think that might be it! Arrr!

1:05 AM  
Blogger zp said...

cliche = language that needs no translation . . .

11:07 PM  
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