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Who Has a Gift to Foresee: Topical Problems and Prospects of Translation Industry

Finnish ambassador in Oslo has recently petitioned the Norwegian journalists for an unusual thing. He wanted mass media workers to use the alternative name for those eyeleted caps usually worn by Norwegian robbers. The matter is that since the time of the World War II such caps had been called "Finnish hoods" in Norway, because in that hard winter tenderhearted Norwegian women were knitting such caps for Finnish soldiers. "We don't want to be associated with every robbery in Norway," - explained the ambassador with an embarrassed smile.


As far back as the time of the Soviet government I was making a guided tour of a small trans-Carpathian town. Among the other sights we saw a tree planted on the top of the hill in honor of the Russian-Ukrainian amity. Unfortunately, several years before the tree had been struck by a lightning (a well-known fact: lightnings tend to strike solitary trees on hilltops), but a sprout was taken from the tree and planted in the same place. However, stubborn lightning struck twice in the same place, so the sprout had an extremely pitiful sight. Along with physic-botanical oddity connected with this case, there is one more confusion – the linguistic one, which in the time of Stalin's regiment would be called "intrigues of public enemies": the tree planted was a linden. The thing is that the word "linden" has one more meaning in Russian – it means"fake".

Hillary Clinton on her visit to Middle East got into an awkward situation which, according to "The Times", can cause serious harm to her Senate election. Americans didn't like the fact that Hillary kept silent when in her presence Arafat's wife accused the Israeli of poisoning Palestinian women and children. When Hillary realized how serious the situation was, she blamed her interpreter, saying that she hadn't been suspecting how aggressive the attacks were until she read the printed text of her speech.


Everyone has to pick his words from time to time, but translators have to do that in a 24/7 mode. The purpose of a translator comes to the right choice of words, and the prestige of this profession has slumped in recent years. In childhood all of us heard English folk songs in Marshak's translation, read Heine in Blok's and Lermontov's translations, and didn't even ponder over the native language of the three musketeers. Today the reader has to keep his eyes open. For instance, to understand such conversation in Russian:

- Ne hotyel by ya okazatsa v tvoyey shkure. (I wouldn't like to be in your shoes.)

- Da, ona nemnogo zhmyot! (Yeah, they're bit too tight!)


One has to know that the characters of the source text were speaking English, and the Russian idiom "pobyvat v chuzhoy shkure" (word for word, "to be in somebody's skin") has an English equivalent idiom "to be in somebody's shoes". Only when you know that fact, you'll be able to catch the meaning.

In the time of Soviet Union the total volume of foreign literature in translation (the same as everything else) was strictly controlled by the competent authorities not to reveal the fact that Soviet literature constituted a minor part of the world's literature. Furthermore, only insignificant part of foreign movies came out on the Soviet screens. That's why only the very best linguistic university graduates were hired to translate them. Besides, many prominent authors and poets (Akhmatova, for instance) often didn't have any opportunity to publish their own works, and had to make their living translating foreign writers.


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