> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 31 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9780141969626
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

Is That A Fish In Your Ear?




People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbours' languages - as did many ordinary Europeans in times past. But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes, and we wouldn't even be able to put together flat pack furniture.



Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. What's the difference between translating unprepared natural speech, and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What's the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why? The biggest question is how do we ever really know that we've grasped what anybody else says - in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about us, and how we understand each other.
%%%People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbours' languages - as did many ordinary Europeans in times past. But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes, and we wouldn't even be able to put together flat pack furniture.
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. What's the difference between translating unprepared natural speech, and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What's the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why? The biggest question is how do we ever really know that we've grasped what anybody else says - in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about us, and how we understand each other.

  • Pub date: 31 October 2011
  • ISBN: 9780141969626
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 400

About the Author

David Bellos

David Bellos had his first taste of translation when he read a Penguin Classics edition of Crime and Punishment while sitting in the attendant's hut in the car park at Southend Airport; that same summer, he got his first interpreting job – helping a seafood seller to import Portuguese oysters from a middleman in France. He went on to teach French language and literature at Edinburgh, Southampton and Manchester, but it was only when he encountered Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual and was so convinced it should be read in English that he dared to think he too could become a translator. Since then he has translated many books from French and won numerous prizes, including the first Man Booker International Translator's Award and the Goncourt Prize for biography for the French translation of Georges Perec: A Life in Words. He is now Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, where her directs the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. He clings to the view that even the most difficult and complicated things can be spoken of in plain and comprehensible prose.

Also by David Bellos

See all

Related titles