Tag: languages

Sort of progress


Hum, I think I’ve sort of made progress in Vietnamese–I can sort of pronounce stuff (after 15 minutes of putting myself back in the proper mood). Now, if I could actually separate words properly instead of pronouncing them randomly (you know, like saying “the yel-low cat da-shes a-cross the lawn” in one long horrible run-on sentence makes sure that virtually no one can understand you? I can do that *so* well).
Also, I need to stop confusing “d” and “đ” (one is a “y” or “z” depending on whether you’re Southern or Northern, the other is a “d”), and “t” and “th” (hard. Sort of the difference between a hard French “t” and a soft “th” like “think”, but it doesn’t always work).

Arg. Need to practise more.

In other news, “to eat” in Vietnamese is naturally “eat rice” (ăn cơm), and “to cook” is “to make rice” (làm cơm). Yeah, figures.

Tomorrow, I will edit the crap out of one short story. And possibly do a green mango salad.

Why I can’t translate my own books


So, tonight I was rereading the French translation of Harbinger and finishing up with a few troublesome notes. Here’s a sample scene from that endeavour: I’m sitting in the sofa with the French translation on my knees, and going through my own notes. From time to time, I’ll ask a question to my husband that goes something like this:

Me: “Here, listen to this. Do you think there’s something wrong with it?”
The H, frowning: “Er. No. Quite honestly no. It’s just you trying to apply English grammar to the text.”
Me: “What about this? Don’t you think it’s too modern for the time period?”
The H, still frowning: “Hum… Probably.”
Me: “What would you replace it with? I’m coming up blank…”
[The H rolls his eyes upwards, but agrees to brainstorm suggestions with me for a bit]

And this, right here, is why I would make such a bad translator from English to French…

(let me reassure you that it’s nowhere as catastrophic as it seems, and that I manage most of the edits on my own, especially the translations of technical terms my wonderful translator–Laurent Philibert-Caillat–wasn’t entirely sure on. But about a fourth to a fifth of my edits have to go through my husband, to make sure that I’m not inserting random anglicisms into the text…)

In other news, the H forcibly put me in front of my computer Saturday morning, and insisted that I write something and stop moping on the internet. Whad’ya know, it actually worked. I broke 20k on the novella today–hit the first climax scene and the start of the spiral towards the end.
(one of the many, many reasons I’m happy to be married to the H)

Linky linky


“Casa Jaguarului in Umbra”, aka the Romanian version of “The Jaguar House, in Shadow”, is up at the SRSFF website. Many thanks, as always, to Cristian Tamas and to Antuza Genescu for the translation. There is a French version forthcoming in Galaxies as well.
-Both “The Jaguar House in Shadow” and “Age of Miracles, Age of Wonders” make the 2010 Tangent Online Recommended Reading list . Lots of familiar names on that list, and plenty good stories too.
-And because it’s International Women’s Day, a video with Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig:

(even though I’m sceptical about the efficacity of International Women’s Day, I have to say the video sums up a lot of my feelings on the subject)

Ekaterina Sedia on writers and foreign cultures


The blog is still on official darkness notice, but just a quick word to go and read Ekaterina Sedia’s superb post, “Seeing Through Foreign Eyes”, on writers and foreign cultures (touches on insider vs. outsider cultural approaches, and the disproportionate value attributed to “outsider” books):

So the issue with books set in foreign cultures, I think, that even though many SF/F readers call for more perspectives and diversity, they don’t really want that. They want someone familiar to show them some exotic stuff without actually challenging the readers’ assumptions or values. But really, if you want to experience a different perspective and a different mindset, read a book in translation.

Yes, yes and yes.

For the love of God…


…if you’re going to put foreign words into an English book/movie/etc., can you please make sure the aforementioned foreign words are actually part of the language you’re purporting to transcribe?

Because, let me tell you, reading or hearing French that fails to take into account the most basic grammar (as in, gender of words and/or article use) doesn’t fill me with glee and enthusiasm.

(we can then move on to poor word choices, but I’m willing to cut a little more slack here, even though those things tend to sound like nothing a Frenchman would ever say).

Current mood:


The weekend’s knotty problem…


You know modern English only has one set of second-person pronouns and basically no formal address that uses pronouns? And how French has “tu/vous”, informal/formal forms of address?

Well, I have the whole weekend to work out how characters in Obsidian and Blood should address one another in the French translation, whether by tutoiement or vouvoiement–in order to help out the translator.

(don’t get me wrong, I’m overjoyed I get that kind of control over the translation, but it’s just that I now have to mentally translate my characters interactions into French, and it’s a teensy little bit painful)

Today’s experiments


-taught myself (not that there’s much involved) how to use VNI to input Vietnamese characters. Basically input numbers in addition to letters in order to add the diacritical marks (slightly non-intuitive, but I prefer numbers to the other method, which involves inputting extra letters/symbols). OK, that’s this week’s distraction, now I have no excuse to go back to my lessons…

-tried a slightly different phở recipe (see, I can use VNI *grin*). H was happy; I, less so. I think using the vegetarian broth as the basis for a phở bò is a bad idea. Yes, kind of obvious, when you think about it. We have veggie broth at home because it’s more versatile, but it’s just not phở without the meat broth… (beef, in this case. Never was a fan of the chicken version). Let’s see if I can find some without MSG… (yes, I could make my own beef broth, but I seldom have 3 hours to cook broth, so shortcuts are nice).

-also, am self-teaching myself Python, on the H’s recommendation that it’s a more versatile language than bash scripting, which is what I used before. I can see his point: it’s more practical, more readable, and it’s portable, which is darn handy. Go Python.

Needing help with Chinese characters


So this is possibly quite silly, but the H and I need someone who can read Chinese. See, we bought ourselves a nice rice cooker from the local Chinatown. What we hadn’t planned for was that although it came with an English instruction manual, it doesn’t provide an explanation of the different settings in a language either of us speaks. There’s a row of white Chinese characters around the central LCD screen (which is meant to be the cooking modes), and a further set of five settings on the LCD screen itself (which is meant to be the rice type, if we read the instruction manual correctly). I have no idea if they’re traditional or simplified Chinese.

Pictures below after the cut. If anyone can provide us with translations, we’d be pretty grateful (it would avoid our messing up dinner by confusing congee, steam-cooking and standard rice cooking…)

EDIT: we’re pretty reasonably sure the white characters are the following (or some variant): regular, quick, small amount, cake, steam, soup, congee, casserole. We just don’t know which ones correspond to which…
Continue reading →

Today’s random English question


…to the reader-hivemind: if I call a soldier a “knight”, does this mean that he *has* to have a horse or be mounted on one?
The equivalent French and Spanish words are “chevalier” and “caballero”, which are formed from the root of “cheval” and “caballo” respectively, suggesting that possession of a horse is imperative. “Knight”, insofar as I can see, doesn’t have that connotation, but maybe it’s irreversibly acquired it by now?

State of the writer


Swamped. Or ocean-ed, quite possibly.

Working on a new short in the Xuya continuity, involving spaceships and poets.

Made my first serious phở ersatz, mostly pre-prepared broth and paste, but with veggies and spices thrown in for a better taste. Yummy… Next up, I think, is using pre-prepared beef broth (instead of the pre-made phở broth, which is full of MSG). The full broth including beef is at least three hours’ simmering, too long to make for an evening dish, but I can live with cubes of beef broth and additional spice. Now to find some cloves, which my local supermarket doesn’t stock…

Vietnamese continues apace; we now have a book. Or rather, four books, out of which the first one is entirely dedicated to pronunciation. Arg. Still struggling with normal vowels and consonants, and then we move to diphtongs…
Fun stuff I’ve learnt: my default tone isn’t the level one (ngang), but rather the falling-rising one (hỏi). When I’m really tired, I default to this, with hilarious results…
Also, the day I can pronounce “Wednesday” in Vietnamese is going to be a red-letter one (“ngày thứ tư”, lit. “the fourth day”, regroups four sounds I can’t manage,, the “ng”, the “th” which should be somewhat harsh but distinct from the “t”, and the “ư”).