Babbling Barbarians: How Translators Keep Us Civilized - A Conversation with David Bellos

by Howard Burton (Author)
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Ever heard people say things like, “A translation is no substitute for the original” or “Humour can’t be translated into another language”? In this thought-provoking book, based on an in-depth filmed conversation between Howard Burton and Princeton University Professor David Bellos, author of the bestselling book, Is That A Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, many fascinating features of language and translation are explored at length.

This carefully-edited book includes an introduction, Teaching a Man to Fish, and questions for discussion at the end of each chapter:

I. Introductory Musings - On Perec, Chomsky, and other matters
II. An Illustrative Capture - Learning from The Great Escape
III. Getting the Joke - Translating Humour
IV. Probing the Foreign - Dickens, word order, and Anglo-Italian gibberish
V. Films in Translation - Subtitles, dubbing, and “The Bergman Effect”
VI. The Varieties in English - In search of a middle form
VII. Asserting Our Individuality - Language as an expression of our identity
VIII. Translation and Meaning - Extending the Principle of Effability
IX. Mathematics and Music - Pushing the boundaries of “language-like”
X. Language and Thought - Plato, Hopi, and jumping mind-grooves
XI. Paying Respects - Valuing the translator in our midst

About Ideas Roadshow Conversations Series:

This book is part of an expanding series of 100+ Ideas Roadshow conversations, each one presenting a wealth of candid insights from a leading expert in a relaxed and informal setting to give non-specialists a uniquely accessible window into frontline research and scholarship that wouldn't otherwise be encountered through standard lectures and textbooks. For other books in this series visit our website:

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Publication date
September 30, 2020
File size
1 MB

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