Book Review – “Found In Translation”

As a Polish translator, one of the best books that I came across on the topic of translation is “Found in Translation”, authored by professional translators Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche. They give a remarkable tour of the world of translation services through this writing. The book is full of gripping stories about different types of translations. It talks about the importance that good translation holds and what happens when translations go wrong. It is a great piece to add to your list of readings on the next vacation!

The authors Kelly and Zetzsche have more than 40 years of experience in the realm of translation. Their book’s contents consist of a brief introduction, followed by seven chapters, acknowledgements and some end notes. The book covers almost every aspect from translations of religious texts to translations of hurricane warnings, poetry and peace pacts. It gives language lovers a complete view of how translation helps spread culture and nourish the world’s economy. The book further discusses interesting examples of translation with reference to Facebook, NASA, United Nations, Google, Olympics and many more.

The book asserts that simply speaking two languages does not mean that you are also competent enough to translate. Translation is a specially designed skill that takes years to develop and polish. The best thing about this book is that it gives hilarious real-life examples of how translations can often go wrong. One of my favorite examples was that of US President Jimmy Carter. When the President visited Poland in 1977, the US State Department hired a Russian translator who knew the Polish language but was not well-versed in it professionally. Due to his incompetence, Carter ended up saying things like “when I abandoned the United States” (instead of “when I left the US”) and “your lusts of the future” (instead of “your desire for the future”). These blunders were widely publicized in the media. I enjoyed reading several other stories recorded in the book which I would not mention here for fear of spoiling readers’ interest.

If I were asked to point out any flaws in this book, it would have to be a shortage of information on how the markets of specific languages are structured and the working environments under which many translators are forced to work. Do round-the-clock translators ever get a lunch or restroom break? How are they paid for their shifts? The book did not highlight any of these areas.

Nonetheless, for the lovers of the language, “Found in Translation” is a must read. I guarantee that reading this book will revitalize your love for language as it did mine. By the end of this book, I was certain of one thing: I’m thoroughly convinced that translators and interpreters are smarter and considerably wiser than I thought them to be!

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