Friday, February 20, 2009

A proposal

I was going to recommend the Google translator for people wanting at least some kind of a leg-up for Hebrew-language media, but when I tried it out on the lead story in Maariv this morning, I got a text that concluded this way:
Cshnhno victory occurred in the disputes Ohtahdno. Ntahd Next Onslb us Onbtih the future of country our children.
And a little earlier there was a reference re the Netanyahu talks to "rectangular striped bass."

Google translator fans will perhaps remember the early days with Arabic when the top American officials were referred to as Colin Urine (Baul, urine); Cheyne-cock (diik, a rooster); and General I-decorate (Zinni, from zayn, to decorate). That was both entertaining and encouraging. But this "onslb us onbtih" business I do not find useful at all. And I wonder how much Hebrew you'd need to learn to figure out the rectangular striped bass reference. I cannot recommend it.

____________________

I have a serious suggestion for people who recognize the importance of making some attempt to understand material in the actual languages of the people. (Particular if your government is going to be making war on them, and you are facing a propaganda and "public-diplomacy" blitz in your own language, but not only in those cases, obviously).

What I suggest is a co-op blog with postings by people able to read one of various languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Pashto (40 million Pashto speakers in the current US war-zone). The posts would be short, with extracts from local texts and limited commentary (both re language-points where necessary, and content). Contributors could help one another with tough points in any of the languages (or with English). Emphasis would of course be on points of view that don't make it into the standard English-language discourse.

Something tells me I am not the person to organize something like that, but I think the need for it is pretty obvious, and I would be willing to do my part. The whole thing including frequency of posting, would be voluntary.

What do people think?

5 Comments:

Blogger Parvati said...

Great idea! Suggestion: as a lot of the people who translate articles-etc on the internet have their own blogs and/or post on forums covering various international-zone topics, one way to go could be to set it up as an aggregator-blog - members to post at least the article title + link whenever they translate something online? I translate from Italian into English for a living, and as I'm an internet-forums addict whenever I see anything that strikes me as "internationally significant" in the Italian press, if it's not being reported by the international agencies I usually end up translating some of it somewhere, maybe subdivided by regions/main topics? It would be wonderful to have a one-stop blog to bring such efforts together.

Here's a sample offering from me, dateline yesterday - nothing to do with ME politics though, it's a report on anti-US ventings by Chinese govt. bigwigs:
"Chimerica" under strain: the Chinese POV"

8:37 AM  
Blogger Parvati said...

Ooops - the phrase "maybe subdivided by regions/topics" got inserted in the wrong place - what I meant was that the blog could be organized/have an archives system organized on that basis.
Why I think that it should be organised by regions/countries/topics rather than directly by languages - looking back on the early years of the Iraq war, I remember how much valuable info came out/was leaked through the Italian press and media via journalists such as Giuliana Sgrena, Renato Caprile (who published a long-long interview with al-Sadr a few years back) and the Rai News24 TV special on the seige-massacre and use of white phosphorus in Fallujah = translations from "non-local" languages too can be useful.

8:59 AM  
Blogger badger said...

Parvati, that Reppublica piece is an excellent example of what I was trying to get at! Obviously these guys talk to Rampini in their own language and the reader gets the full force of it. I'm going to take the liberty of quoting the last few paragraphs in the next post (with a link to the whole thing naturally) just so hopefully people will see a little better what the point is. And think a little more about how this might be organized.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Parvati said...

Yay! So pleased it suited your purpose - and thanks for the source-quote. :-)

5:55 PM  
Blogger dancewater said...

I think it would be great, but I really suck at languages except English...... so I could not help at all.

6:22 PM  

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