Emilio Bernal Labrada, miembro de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española, es autor de La prensa liEbre o Los crímenes del idioma. Pedidos a: firstname.lastname@example.org
Language, Our Daily Fiesta
“MUSICAL” TRANSLATION: “AHORA SÍ!”
by Emilio Bernal Labrada
If a good translation is music to the ear, then a bad one is... well, let’s say, like a poorly tuned instrument. But wait, I’m actually talking about translations involving music! In which case, I hasten to add, the result is, well, downright cacophonic!
I had the pleasure of meeting the subject of this article, the accomplished Cuban musician Israel López, better known as “Cachao”, when he gave a brief concert a few years ago on the front steps of the Library of Congress. But more about that and mistranslation later.
What concerns us up front is his new CD, which is partly bilingual in that song-titles are rendered in English and Spanish. We appreciate that, except for the title of the recording, which is a hip expression of Cachao’s, “¡Ahora sí!”. The original –it clearly deserves the word– conveys lots of spunk and spark, but talk about “lost in translation”! Whatever possessed them to render it into English as “Now yes!” is beyond comprehension. You’d think someone would have said “Wait a minute –isn’t that slightly literal?” Not to mention “Does it mean anything?” Who did this, I wonder: Andy García? I doubt it, since, he seems too smart and sensitive a man to think he can act, direct and produce (no doubt about it), play music (ditto), compose songs (ditto) AND translate too (everyone has their limits!). Besides, bilingualism (just plain, that is) is probably a disqualification for translational competence. Incidentally, Andy deserves a lot of credit for sponsoring and backing this recording project, plus having rescued Cachao from oblivion when, a decade ago, he was playing at Miami birthday parties and bar-mitzvahs.
Rather, we suspect that the linguistic genius who did this was probably someone who saw those two words “ahora sí” and said, hey, that’s easy! An experienced translator would probably have thought about it for two seconds and then come up with “This is it!”, “Now’s the time”, “Let’s hit it!”, or some other equally punchy expression.
Well, back to the beginning, at Cachao’s concert at the Library of Congress, where someone was announcing his song titles. They were actually not bad... until he got to the descarga (Cuban slang for jam session) entitled “Ahhh”, which obviously needed no translation. But guess what the announcer said. If you thought “A”, pronounced as in “age”, you got it right. I guess the audience was wondering if the next descarga would be entitled “B”, followed by “C”, etc.
That, by the way, was probably the same “linguist” who translated the CD title as “Now Yes!”
Emilio Bernal Labrada
de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española
Creemos que, sin lugar a dudas, tenemos una «historia» de veras noticiable. Y nada menos que por televisión.
Expliquémonos. Un noticiario televisivo ha hecho una recopilación de las noticias más impactantes del año, que va transmitiendo día por día, sucesivamente. Hasta aquí todo va bien. Pero, esperen. Adivinen el título que le han puesto. Pista: fíjense en el título. Bueno, ¿se dan por vencidos? Pues nada menos que «Historias del año».
Parece cosa de «Créalo o no», del famosísimo y curiosísimo norteamericano Robert Ripley. Pero no lo hemos inventado porque sería... diríamos, increíble. Nada, un poco más y le ponen «HISTORIETAS».
Podría alegarse que este empleo de «historia» está justificado por el libro mayor del idioma, el Diccionario de la Real Academia (DRAE). Y tendrían razón, pues da, entre otras, algunas acepciones que corresponderían al significado que se le pretende dar en este caso. Por ejemplo: «Conjunto de sucesos o acontecimientos [...]»; «Narración y exposición de acontecimientos pasados y dignos de memoria [...]».
Pero no, no nos convence. Porque el hecho de que el diccionario dé una definición capaz de abonar el uso de una voz no basta por sí solo ni es lo único que rige. La rica variedad de matices y valores rectos y metafóricos, aparte del efecto que en cada palabra tiene su entorno contextual, nos señalan divergencias de que apenas pueden hacerse eco los diccionarios. Si no, serían enciclopedias en que cada palabra exigiría un tomo completo.
Por otra parte, las otras acepciones del DRAE, como «Narración inventada» y «Mentira o pretexto», nos dan que pensar. Hmm, ¿no será que nuestros amigos noticieros tuvieron, más bien, una de estas en mente?
Pero concretándonos ya al caso que nos ocupa, estimamos que el vocablo clave, la motivación fundamental, ha sido «story», que se suele usar con el valor que en español tiene «noticia», y que es obligatorio en inglés porque la voz «news» («noticia») no se presta para un título anglo de esta naturaleza. O sea, no sería «News of the Year» –nótese la ambigüedad de número, ya que «news» es un plural con valor de singular– sino «Stories of the Year».
Lo que nos preguntamos es por qué los profesionales de la noticia, con un HISTORIAL que apunta presuntamente a amplios conocimientos del idioma que a diario deben usar correctamente, se conforman con una traducción literal cuando sería tan fácil (y más respetuoso de nuestro idioma) dar esta sencilla versión: «Noticias del Año». Al fin y al cabo de eso se trata, de los acontecimientos noticiables más destacados.
Ah, pero ya comprendemos. ¿Para qué utilizar un vocabulario más apegado a nuestro idioma cuando se pueden hacerle reverencias al espanglés y copiar términos fáciles de retrotransliterar en caso de que alguien no domine bien nuestro idioma? Como «historia» se parece más a «story», derrotó a la tentación de poner algo tan estrambótico como «noticias», que podría desconcertar al público. Imagínense, en un programa noticiero, nada menos. Es como para darle un traspié al más listo, dejándolo aturdido y sin idea de qué se trata.
Nos gustaría conocer la «HISTORIA» que nos irían a contar los autores de semejante atentado lingüístico para justificar su empleo del vocablo. Digamos, para ser caritativos –y no alargar esta curiosa HISTORIA– que eso, la ídem, se encargará de juzgar el caso. Mientras, no es NOTICIA que el español purga sus penas de tortura idiomática sin siquiera chistar. No hay peor astilla que la del mismo palo.
Identity Group Politics and the Future of the Democratic Party
Larry DeWitt is an historian and self-described political populist. Larry is a specialist in 20th century U.S. history and public policy. Born in the Southwestern U.S., he has lived in the East for the last 18 years. His commentaries on politics and society still retain the populist spirit of the rural West. See Larry’s past columns here
As the keynote speaker at the July 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Illinois Senate-candidate Barack Obama thrilled the jaded convention-goers, although it is not clear that they knew why. They thought it had something to do with his "compelling biography" and his likeable personality.
After all, Obama, is the son of a mixed-marriage between a black Kenyan father and a white mother from the farms of Kansas. He had graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He had edited the Harvard Law Review. Keep reading
Eric D. Goodman is a professional writer and editor. He is winner of the Newsletter on Newsletter’s Gold Award for superior electronic newsletter editing and is a two-time finalist in the Chesterfield Writer’s Film Project founded by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Eric writes both fiction and non-fiction. One of his novels, Thirteen to Gorky, is set in Russia. "Vodka in the Sun" was originally published in "Travel Insights" . Eric resides in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and daughter. Contact Eric at email@example.com to discuss reading, writing and Russia.
A Tale of Two Christmases (Part One)
By Eric D. Goodman
With the holiday season upon us, I’d like to take another diversion from the “Vodka in the Sun” series to bring you a tale of vodka in the snow: A Tale of Two Christmases.
It’s a common question among newlywed couples: “Do we spend Christmas with my parents or yours?” This was a question my wife Nataliya and I did not have to consider at the end of our first year of marriage. I being from America and she being from Russia, we were able to enjoy the best of both worlds. We celebrated the holidays with my family and with hers.
In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on the evening of January 6 and the day of January 7. But children and children-at-heart don’t have to wait for Christmas to exchange gifts—they open the gifts under their holiday tree—or Yolka—on New Year’s Eve. In Russia, the festivities we in America associate with Christmas are combined with New Year’s. Russian Christmas is a more religious holiday in the way American Easter is.
This meant we would get to celebrate Christmas twice—once in American December and once in Russian January—and we’d get to celebrate a more festive New Year’s that combined two holidays I was accustomed to.
When December 25 rolled around, Nataliya and I were in America. She was awakened early in the pre-dawn hours for her first American Christmas. It was something she’d only seen in exaggerated movies—films exported to her country from mine. It was something that she learned was not nearly quite as exaggerated as she’d expected. Our extended family gathered around the huge Christmas tree and she peered at the most prevalent pile of presents she’d ever seen around one indoor evergreen. Then, in the hours that followed, we took turns opening our gifts to one another and watching as others opened theirs.
That day saw other rituals new to her as well: the drinking of egg nog, the watching of holiday movies and specials in the background, her first glimpse of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34 th Street.” Throughout the day we talked with one other and enjoyed our new gifts. Christmas carolers rang the bell and sang to us, and they didn’t even want a handout.
Nataliya was used to large Christmas feasts, although the savory selections on our American Christmas dinner table were quite unfamiliar to her: the turkey was huge, she’d never eaten stuffing and the closest thing to cranberries she could think was the loganberry jam she sometimes put in her hot black tea back home. Before and after the meal, we snacked the day away on homemade Christmas stolen, breads, fruitcake, cookies and candies.
“When are we going to church?” she asked.
“We’re not,” I said. “There probably aren’t any protestant churches open today! Everyone’s at home with their families!”
“No church service on Christmas?” To her Russian Orthodox mind, this was highly … unorthodox. It was a warm, peaceful Christmas and she enjoyed it, but the holiday seemed quite different. It seemed more like New Year’s than Christmas. I would understand why she felt that way in just a few days.
On December 26, we bid farewell to my family and boarded a plane to Moscow. I had experienced Russia in the snow before, so I knew to bring warm clothing. What I didn’t consider was that the snowy Russia I had experienced was in March, April and May. The snows of December were quite a different story—deeper and more bone chilling.
During my first day in Russia’s December, my Russian Father-in-Law laughed at the overcoat I shivered inside. Later that first day, after a bit of shopping, presented me with a huge down coat to cover the thinner, lined overcoat I’d brought with me. “Take this one, a good Russian coat,” he offered when I pretended the coat I had was enough. “An early New Year’s Present.”
It only took one walk through knee-deep snow to the Kiosk for a bottle of warming vodka to appreciate what an excellent gift it was. The vodka was for our New Year’s Eve celebration, although something told me we would be tapping into it before the looming holiday. But that’s a celebration for January, and this is December. Next month I’ll tell you about the second Christmas we celebrated that season, about New Year’s and Christmas in Russia. Until then, S Novym Godom!
por Fermín García Rodríguez
La seguridad laboral. Increíble.
En vista de la evolución del castellano en los últimos años, debido a las aportaciones realizadas por los jóvenes, la Real Academia de la Lengua dará a conocer, la reforma modelo 2004 de la ortografía española, que tiene como objetivo unificar el español como lengua universal de los hispanohablantes.
Siga leyendo la presentación de Power Point.
Y las respuestas (y comentarios de un profesor) a las barbaridades coloridas de los alumnos. Siga leyendo
Hell. You have to see this.
Boy! It's taking us a lot to convince them we are the good guys. Yeap!