Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Making translations work

There are certain advantages to having English as a second language (aside from the ever present point that no one has English as their first language). One of them is that you have access to a whole realm of non-English thoughts and traditions, and can escape into it from the goings-on of the international realm. When the going gets rough, the locals go local.

And, of course, you have a brutally efficient means of encryption at the ready at all times. Just don't bother to translate, och ditt budskap blir obegripligt utan att du behöver anstränga dig alls. Very handy, very convenient.

One counter-intuitive advantage of belonging to a non-English language area is that books are translated into your language. To be sure, given sufficient fluency, it doesn't matter one way or the other whether a certain text is translated or not. It's still the same text, after all. Except for one subtle difference: the introductions.

It takes time and effort to translate a text, even if you are only mechanically flipping the words from one language to another. It takes even more time and effort to translate a text in such a way that context, intent, nuance, references and allusions find their way across. Most of that extra effort takes the form of someone who knows the subject matter being paid for their labor, meaning that the decision to translate something is both a matter of wanting the text to be translated, and being able to justify the expense of doing it.

Now, Swedish is not a huge language on the world stage, as you might imagine. Even more so since most swedes know English anyway, and can just as easily pick up the original version for the same reading experience. The market of monolingual swedes is not large enough to support just-because translations. Which actualizes the justification of expense mentioned above: why do the work if it's all the same?

The Swedish answer has been to establish a long tradition of writing introductions to translated works. Long and comprehensive introductions, which touch upon most of the things a reader might or ought to know before heading into the text proper. When reading a translated work, you do not only get the work in and of itself - you also get yourself a proper grounding as to what kind of work lies before you. You are, for all intents and purposes, introduced. More so than those who read the original, untranslated work.

This is what marketing people call a selling point.

It is also something that those of you who are monolingual will never find out unless someone tells you about it. So, thus. See a need, fill a need. -

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dress for the future you want, not the one you foresee

An understated aspect of my Discursive Anomalies is that they are not one-off affairs. I carry them with me, and try them out on things I encounter. They are, in a way, a toolbox. The nature of these tools or what situations they are meant to improve is as of yet unknown, and that is part of the point. When the time comes, the tools will be there.

Lately, I have been thinking back on the post about Jonathon Green's depiction of the 60s counterculture of Great Britain. It accomplishes something it really ought not to accomplish: by describing many contemporary constituent parts of a time period, without really piecing them together, it conveys a better sense of the times than a more integrated approach would. It is all nows: one now after another, juxtaposed in such a manner as to bring context through sheer numbers. It is not a point of view, but you end up with one nevertheless.

It is all very backwards, and all very straightforward. Integrated and holistic points of view are artifacts of hindsight, not readily available to those living in the moment. In the moment, there are only constituent parts, who disappear when we find ourselves with something more interesting to do.

I wonder what a similar depiction of our time would look like. What the distinguishing characteristics and vital constituent parts will turn out to be.

I suspect it would be a mixture of things we take for granted and things we cannot see due to being too close to them. The Trump election would most likely warrant a mention, alongside some massive landslide of a long-term change that happens on the other side of the world we have yet to see the ramifications of. The rattling of sabers on both sides of the old Cold War will probably be discussed as an ambient factor, but the real background tune of the future has every probability of being recorded in a suburb of an African town whose name we will never know. Perhaps meme culture will be a thing; perhaps it turns out a revived ancient tribal practice performs the same functions with far greater efficiency, sneaking in from the periphery.

History has a way of becoming those things that happened alongside those other things we paid attention to.

This state of things is a hopeful one. It implies that the world is not limited to what can be seen in the news. It also implies, through the same logic, that there are still surprises left in the world, ready to strike from so far out of left field that they cannot but be discursively anomalous.

It implies that we could be the one causing these unforeseen consequences, by engaging in some fit of passion that in hindsight turned out to be more important than we could have imagined.

That is a good future. We should prepare for it. -

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

If you can't beat them, beat them by joining them

The administration of the president-elect of the United States is in something of a hurry. Apparently, they didn't foresee the eventuality of actually becoming the administration of the president-elect of the United States, and thus didn't bother with the formality of specifying exactly who is in the administration of the president-elect of the United States.

That is over 4000 job positions, to be filled by early January. Or, to put it in a more manageable number: a hundred appointments to be made a day until the next presidency begins.

This is something of a pickle, to be sure. The usual way to go about these things is to begin months in advance to make sure the best people are placed in the right positions, with any number of checks and balances and procedures to facilitate the process. It isn't something that happens overnight, and being in the position to very soon have to literally make it happen overnight is not something to envy.

As you might imagine, this means that things have to be done faster than usual. If you can't imagine, try counting to a hundred, and then read a hundred names out loud. It takes a while just to enumerate the positions and the names that go with them, and the work has to be done at breakneck speed. There is bound to be something of a drop in quality of the process, and due to this, less than optimal choices will inevitably be made.

This means that being considered for a position is a very good thing to be these days. The speed at which the whole ordeal has to be completed brings with it the temptation to just pick a name from the pile of available names and make it official. Speed is of the essence, and the positions must be filled before the next presidency begins.

Fortunately for you - if you are a US citizen of somewhat good standing - it is very possible to apply for jobs in the next administration. And given the sped-up process described above, now might very well be the best possible moment to just send in an application and hope it sticks.

Just like a certain president elect-did.

If you find yourself thinking that you are not qualified for a cushy top government job - do not worry too much about it. You have a grasp of basic science and are a somewhat decent human being, which means that whoever you displace is a worse choice than you are. If we work on the principle of doing no harm, you will most definitely do less harm than someone who believes that the bible is literal truth and that climate change is a myth perpetuated to weaken the bargaining position of western nations. You have what it takes.

Also, I hear the healthcare benefits are to die for.

The application form can be found here. Make yourself known.