Thursday, July 13, 2006

Borders and Archives (Jan 2006)

Borders. I love Borders. I planned to stay at the Not-so-Glorious Gloria Jeans and peck on my laptop (hoping the hotspot in the City is functional - nope!) Instead I ended stacking up a whole load of books, and then going through the heart-wrenching decisions of which to take home and which to postpone. In the end, Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge won, together with Spencer's The Myth of Tolerance (you know where), an introduction to Sociolinguistics and a book by a number of "Western Muslim Scholars" (some new species that is) about fundamentalism. This last one will add to my Pelgrave's anthology on Jihad , Mamdani's "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim", and the classic Islam and the West that I bought for myself before Xmas.
When I am in this book-buying mode, it takes a truck to stop me. So, after filling myself with beans (literally) I asked Dan, who was already lugging my laptop and books purchased in Borders, if she would mind walking with me to Archives. I had an ulterior motive, as the linguistics section in Archives is 2.5 meters above ground and I am not the ladder-climbing type. I was there twice in the past month, and at both times I could not even see the titles. I knew chocolate was up there, but I couldn’t get to it. Dan is an athlete and taller than me, so although she is not into language books, she is the best choice of partner if you want to get any from Archives.
When you walk into the semi-dark coolness of Archives you leave your belongings at the reception. As my Borders bag was ferried across the oak table, there was a hint of reproach in the eyes of the Irish-accent-a-hell-of-a-good-looking-lassie who runs the place. I jokingly apologized for my extra-marital affairs. Last time I was there I bought so many books that they had to order me a taxi.
Minutes after Dan parked the ladder and climbed up, I was a hair's breadth away from being a disabled linguist. While trying to hold onto the ladder, read titles 20 cm above her line of vision without ending up on the opposite shelf AND pull out books for me, Dan dropped a hardcover Eisler just millimeters from my cranium. What Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade was doing amidst books on linguistics beats me, but regardless of their weird cataloging system Archives are much better organized than Bob Gould in Newtown, Sydney. There it is a matter of diving into the sea of paper – forget about finding a SPECIFIC BOOK. Even Bob doesn’t know what he has, or where. It is a matter of serendipity. And one can get killed by books at Gould’s without having to climb ladders, because they are stacked atop each other.
Now the Eisler is safely on my personal bookshelf, and so are ten other books whose titles would be too mundane for the general public to mention here.
There are two people that I will make rich when I win the Lotto: the Irish chick from Archives and Sean from Bent Books. Well, and maybe that grumpy but very helpful old chap from Melanie up the coast who located a rare Kazantakis for me, phoned and posted it to me so that I would not have to drive for three hours.

Bookfest is coming. Only 30 more sleeps.

Mangled Academia

Professor Raphael Israeli ( should not be permitted to write books in English.

His English sucks. And the editors at Lexington Books who published Poison: Modern Manifestations of a Blood Libel should be placed against a wall and shot for desecrating their job.

A perfectly reasonable book, lots of research, and an almost unreadable mess as a result. The book should have been half the size, all the repetitions made by Prof. Israeli ad nauseum should have been weeded out to make his points original, the grammar and stylistics should have been checked by a NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER, to stop offending me with sentences such as this one:

“He nevertheless condemns the Palestinian leader for using anti-Semitic means to attain his goals instead of LEGITIMATELY defending the rights of his people by LEGITIMATE means.”


“As it is becoming evident…” Give me a break, mate – what is this “becoming” thing doing therein?

And did I mention the translators used by Prof. Israeli. No? The gifted linguist who translated French press articles for him used the term “intoxication” to mean poisoning, so that for a few pages one has 500 severely intoxicated Palestinian high-school girls running around Hebron flashing V-signs, instead of 500 severely poisoned ones. Such a number of drunk female students of Muslim background is unprecedented, so of course they made news in Europe.

His Arabic to English translator, although obviously fluent in Arabic is hopeless in English, a mishap that results in sentences 20 words and over with no commas, hyphens, or semicolons. “Under the eyes and ears of the Zionist occupiers” becomes “in the sight and hearing of the Zionist occupiers” giving the impression that they all have one set of ears and eyes to share in.

I’ll spare you more examples. However, I would like to add, that Poison is not the only dud. A newer publication, Islamikaze, (2003, Frank Cass) could have been in my humble opinion a best-seller alongside other books on this subject, especially as Prof. Israeli writes from within the conflict itself and has first-hand knowledge and experience of “suicide bombers”. Unfortunately, the book which runs into 472 pages, is a cut and paste hotchpotch of almost full newspaper articles (which, Prof. Israeli, I can easily find elsewhere), again translated horribly and edited even worse, mixed with Prof. Israeli’s outbursts of despair and anger. Scarcely something one would expect in an academic publication, at least not in the English-speaking world. True, editors should permit the writer’s style to shine through, but it is inadmissible to allow an academic writer to mangle language in his publication or to show emotions in a historical expose.

And which mentally challenged person chose the cover for Islamikaze, to make it look like some cheap Pakistani pamphlet?? If there is something that has always irritated me about Israeli products (forgive me if I vent my frustrations here), it the fact that they feel “cheap” and “kitchy” to me, and do not reflect the finer aspects of Jewish material culture that I grew up with. I hope Prof. Israeli wasn’t the culprit in the “book cover affair”.

Needless to say, neither of the two books is sitting permanently on my shelves. When the edited and abridged version are published, I will reconsider. And all this is so unfortunate, really, because the man has interesting things to say. He just doesn’t know how to do that in proper English.

Reflections on (lack of) terminology

Why isn't this entry in the language section? Because it is going to make a few people unhappy, and unhappiness is politically almost always incorrect in our "fair-for-all and devil take the hindmost" Australia.

It has been quiet on the work front and I have about a week before madness strikes again. In the midst of converting my ailing LP records into CDs prior to donating them to LifeLine for their next Bookfest, I decided to go back to doing something more intellectually challenging than staring at my recorder's dials. From my shelves groaning with good materials I chose a book on inter-faith marriages in Australia, written by a local academic of Palestinian background and endorsed by our own Lord Vampire, Hon. Buttock.

The book is excellent, short, well written, dense with data and with sound conclusions (as sound as you are allowed to have while retaining your teaching post, that is). Translating the first chapter into English promised to be as great a task as sociolinguistic exercises go, and I didn't have to wait long before I hit the first snag.

"Inter-faith marriages", "inter-marriages" and "conversion" (from one religion to any other) were an interesting bid. After fiddling with the first two terms for 5 hours, I asked other, native Arabic language speakers for their opinion. 48 hours have passed since and although a few made attempts at solving the linguistic problem, they were all as clumsy as mine. The question that jumps to mind: is the term lacking in Arabic BECAUSE there is no such concept, or am I just unlucky in finding a really good linguist. I would go for the first, knowing that the persons who tried to assist me were all professionals with years of translating experience.

When I got to "conversion", I didn't have to go beyond my dictionary to start feeling unhappy. The word exists in Arabic, and is called "HIDAYA". Its root is the same as that of the word "yahtadi" meaning "find the right way". Am I to assume that any sane Middle Eastern Muslim would accept that a coreligionist of his, converting to say Buddhism, has finally hit the nail on the head and found the right way??? Or will a Copt in Upper Egypt accept that a brother of his converting to Islam is on the right path? Even saying something like this could cause you severe discomfort (being killed, bashed, abused - your choice) and would not do any of your "inter-faith" friendships that you may have any good. It just doesn't sound right in Arabic, with its need to be on some RIGHT path or other (can there be an "other"??) in a society where the shape of the path is more important than its content.

But things got even better: I was looking for "inter-faith dialogue" an equivalent of which in Arabic is "a dialogue between religions". Not much headache there if it wasn't for this interesting bit of information gleaned from a website called Islam Online, under their Daawa (proselytizing) section. A certain Dr. Kamal Al Masri, who has a BLLP from the University of Kuwait, and a PhD from London in Human Rights and Islamic Law, advises a young man on "addiction" and its effects on "normalization of relationship with the Jewish State" by telling him that Israelis (praised be Allah that he differentiates between those and the Jews) infiltrate Yahoo chatrooms under the guise of "Interfaith Dialogue" a term which in reality "means an attempt by Israel to be accepted in the Arab and Muslim world". WOW! I didn't know they were this crazy, those Kibbutzniks.I should really do a bit more research on what else "interfaith dialogue" means - fish n' fries? \

Bookfest (21 June 2006)

Queensland's biggest, occupying 4 exhibition halls at the prestigious Brisbane Convention Centre, and showcasing billions of books, thousands of CDs, records, DVDs, videos and audio tapes.

We hype about it weeks before it is here, preparing lists of what to fish for. It is permanently entered into our calendar, once on Australia Day long weekend, and once, six months later, at Queen’s Birthday.

We get up at 6:00AM, although the Fest doesn’t start until 9. Parked next to the lift at 7:30AM, we wander off to the Steam CafĂ©, the only thing open for breakfast that early. It is ok in January when it is steaming hot by 7, but now it’s winter and Southbank is chilly. We absorb the hot tea and toast in silence, each one of us already lost in visions of piles of books and lines of Brisbane’s most weird population – “the obsessive readers”.

When we get back to the Centre by 8.45, they are there already. Old pensioners with magnifying glasses, gaunt ladies of the society, young students, pregnant mums with prams, hippy 60 plus, bikies in black leather and silver chains, kids with accents, parents with no English, absent-minded academics and personas that look as if they spent the night on a bench. They come dragging suitcases, shopping trolleys, carton boxes the size of 90 litre fridges, backpacks, and all kinds of containers. The lounge is already open and there is a lot of impatient shuffling in front of the huge doors, while people chat in quiet voices as if in awe of this massive amount of knowledge awaiting them behind the doors.

Then the doors open and the stampede starts. Those who can run, do so. The less lucky ones shuffle, trot, push and shove. No decorum is left as the ORs focus on their destination, like lemmings falling off the cliffs. In the midst of the shuffle I try not to lose sight of Dan’s mousey locks as she heads straight for the CDs.

It is all pre-planned. Music first, because we discovered last January that we could get some really good stuff for $4 maximum per CD. A young woman with black eyes of a hungry raven shoves tens of children CDs into her shopping trolley indiscriminately. A rather dishevelled and heavy breathing gentleman next to me asks me what I am after. I respond, “anything non-Anglo” and he wipes a SALSA record into my hand with his sweaty palm. It doesn’t have a cover and is badly scratched, but he is so earnest I have no heart to tell him that he is a moron, so I take it with a smile and deposit it a few tables later.

By the time I get to the third table the CDs are spilling out of my hands and I badly need the loo. Supporting the loot with one hand and chin I desperately feel around with the other for my mobile. I have visions of having dropped it, or left it in a public toilet (been there, done that). Aisles away, Dan sees the panic and comes running. I hand her the music, mouth out “mobile” and run out into the safety of the restrooms.

(The mobile was in the car, by the way. So no panic. I am contactable still)

Now comes the turn for books. It took us from 9.30 to 11.30 to do two of the four halls and even that just broadly because Dan is allergic to book mould (plenty of this in subtropical Brisbane) and her eyes started burning. We managed to fill in 4 large backpacks, around 50 paperbacks in total plus 30 CDs. Much less than last year, when we went in there with a large suitcase each and returned three times to fill them up, in the end having to pull down the back seats of our Volvo SW and paying over 1000$ for the pleasure of erudition. Which reminds me.

A boss decides to sack his lazy cleaning lady.
“Look, Bridget, I can write my name in the dust on this desk.”
“Can you now, Sir?” she exclaims. “Isn’t erudition a wonderful thing?”

The amount of Christian books given away is just amazing. Not books about religion, but religious books. One would think that they are read, contemplated, cherished. But no; here we have endless manuals on how to get to the good old Lord, how to pray, why bad things happen to God fearing people, etc. And the buyers are all, invariably, over 60 and often non-English speaking. When Britannia Ruled the Waves, Christianity became a fad with the minorities that accepted the British protection in the face of the national liberations movements. Displaced from their own cultural milieu, these ghosts of colonial power now hope to join Churchill and Gordon in heaven. Many of the faces reminded me of my own paternal grandmother who lost it seriously in her late sixties and early seventies and joined the Pentacostals. Her bookshelves were as full of Bible commentaries and study aides as mine were full of Islamic history and Marxist theory. She was going up to Him, I assume, while I was going back in time trying to find out why I was in the shit I was in and how best to change it.

By 11.30 we are both tired, feet hurting and eyes burning and the backpacks are very heavy. We skip the middle section on account of me being a little short on cash (I am saving for the July holidays) and decide to leave. Besides, the dogs must be crossing their legs by now.
We are very good today as we decide to delay our gratification well after lunch. So off we go to the local hangout and I stuff myself with the best bangers and mash in South East Queensland while Dan nibbles on her Ceasar salad. Then we do our shopping and return home at 3.00 PM to our loot.

Coffee cups in hand, to improve intellectual functionality, we slowly tear apart the plastic bags enclosing our dusty, mitey treasures. Chaim Potok, Thomas Mann, Thurber and Heine’s poems in original German pour onto the floor. Paul Davis and JS Gould follow, as does Van der Post and Desmond Morris. There are books on the influence of Soviet Russia on Nasser’s Egyptian politics, on theory of communication post-McLuhan, on the history of South East Asia, on Australian slang, a book by Eric Berne I have never seen before, a novel by Koestner about WWII I haven’t read; Bruno Bettlehaim and Eric Fromm and Wittgenstein and the Oxford Companion to the Mind. Theory of Law lies cover to cover with some old Marxist friends and Lessons from the Koran by some Pakistani publisher. Among the music is a good Bollywood CD and Handel’s Messiah; Cha-cha and Greek bazuki, Canto Coro, Armik and sing-along Hannuka songs; some Indian yogi incantations and Andean panpipes, to mention a few. Books get sorted slowly, as Dan gets absorbed in this book or the other. CD casings must be changed as many of them are broken. Place must be made on our ceiling-to-floor bookshelves for the new comers, and I can almost hear the oldies murmuring to each other as collections get bunched together, “Hello, matey, where have you been? We felt sooo incomplete without you.”

Finally order reigns again. We need to vacuum the place from the dust of the many hands that lovingly (or otherwise) touched each of these books before me. They have come home to rest, and as long as I live they will be safe. I am a hoarder, and I do not part with my books easily. My recurring nightmare is the fact that I have so little time left to enjoy them. I lie awake at night calculating – with the amount of work I do I can spend two hours a day reading, which is about 60 pages. I have on an average another 25 years (if my eyesight doesn’t go). That is equivalent of about 18250 hours of reading. Or 550 thousand pages. About 1800 books. ONLY. It makes it much more difficult to choose what to read and what to drop. So many books, so little time.

I am sure I’ll forget all these qualms at the next Bookfest. I am sure…

My New Sacred Text (07 May 2005)

I read it on the train, trying not to knock other commuters off their feet. I read it in the bath tub, a towel in hand, in case the book got wet. I read it on the "Thinker's Seat" early mornings, and I read it in bed, falling asleep with it open on my chest, as if I wanted my heart to absorb its lines when my mind switched off. For two weeks, I mulled over it, making notes, creating a slide presentation, sharing it with friends.

It's not a book of poetry.

It isn't a novel.

It is not even a sacred text, or a philosophical discourse. But it has become, in this past few weeks, my Bible of sorts.

The book I am writing about is Pratkanis' and Aronson's "The Age of Propaganda: the everyday use and abuse of persuasion."

I know you will think I am the most rotten person on earth, but in all my years of running business this is the best book to describe marketing strategies. The funny thing is, the writers didn't intend it to be that. Their aim was to create a "wake-up call" to the American public that would help them dig themselves out of the bad effect advertising and political propaganda has on them. Except that most of the American public couldn't care less, and those who care are already immune to bull-shit. Meanwhile, among the warnings and examples are explanations of marketing strategies and why they work - as one reviewer said, "worth pure gold. This is a riveting, mind-expanding, even freeing book" - and I have already started experimenting with a few (albeit ethical) tactics in my work. Guess what? They work. They do. I love Pratkanis!! *smooch*
All the other marketing books, of which I have a stack, are paltry nonsense in comparison. Forget about write-ups - do workshops. Forget about mugs, magnets - do favors. Make your client feel bad about themselves, then generously forgive them their misdemeanors. They will feel even worse and try to do something in return. Create frivolous groups and make belonging contingent upon them obeying your rules - apparently people are such pack animals that they need these "granfaloons" for self-esteem. And so on, and so forth. I loved it.
So, if you are in business, or you want to convince your hubby to buy that 4WD, or that nasty secretary to let you see the boss: read the book. You can buy it from Amazon: at a very cheap price. Which is unfair, because it has the potential of making you gold.
And hey, "if you think you are - then you are".

The Best of the Best (04 April 2005)

In the world of translation, one thing is vital: that you are a specialist in the language you translate from and into. Otherwise, you may as well sell potatoes.
So when I come across some really "good" freelancers, I can't stop myself from introducing them to the wider world ;-)
Here are some "About Me" quotes:
"We are specialized in two language pairs: Arabic>English and English>Arabic. Our main goal is to stick to tight deadlines and to offer the best quality, so, we decided to focus only on these two pairs."
Thank God! Their main goal is not to stick to tight deadlines, I prefer tight jeans. It's all a matter of choice. I assume the "two pairs" are him and his mirror-image?
"We employ three teams that collaborate to achive tasks assigned to them before deadlines. We stick to our slogan:”low price, best quality, almost in no time!”.
It would be a sad freelancer indeed who would achieve his tasks AFTER the deadline. Now, if I did not actually know this guy, I would have thought he was Indian :-)
"During this period, we translated a large amout of technical manulas, brochures, research papers, books, theses and a variety of documents related to a variety of language registers. As for localization, we always focus on transferring the themse of the Source Text into its counterpart in the Target Text in a way that satisfies the Target Text receiver. We participated, through contracts and subcontracts in localizing famous computer learning series, books and software manulas for reputable software and PC-learning companies."
Now who wants to start picking up the spelling mistakes in this bit? What are "manulas"? "Themse" anyone with me? "Amout" in Arabic means "I will die" - was it a Freudian slip? And how come he just said he "sticks to these two pairs" and now has a "variety of language registers"? Or is he not registering? Or maybe it is US English, UK English and Cairene English? A click away, under "Services"
"We offer a quality-oriented translation in ALL language registers."
One more click and magically the register has shrunk to "We only deal with two language pairs to ensure quality: Arabic>English and English>Arabic."
" We are always up-to-date regarding new terms and methodology of translation, localization and technical writing. We promise you to do your work with the utmost accuracy. We promise you to cling to your deadlines. And finally we promise you the best rates in the market."
And I promise to not send you any work, mate. Stop clinging, it doesn't befit a big boy like you. Sure you can have a dead-line. You can have a dead-anything if you keep it up this way :-)

Aleph, beth, gemail (08 March 2005)

I have just lost everything I wrote into this blog entry, and I am not happy. Writing doesn’t come easily to me these days, not with the constant pain I am in. But I won’t be beaten into submission by someone’s incompetency. Server Error my a***, 20six!

Ok, so what was I about. Yes, I have just finished reading a delectably written book on the history of alphabet. Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Changed the World by John Man is no academically boring textbook. It takes us to the origins of writing, starting with scratches on bones and stones, to Sumer, Egypt, Phoenicia, then via the Greeks to Etruscans and ultimately Romans. The book is wittily written, with lots of fascinating stories about archaeologists battling thieves in Southern Egypt for the quickly disappearing evidence of first ever letters (not pictographs); of how the Korean language came into being as an act of a single king who had a vision of his nation reading, of Etruscans and a Scottish academic hooligan who resurrected them, of Homer and Serbian bards, and many, many more.

The fact that I have not written for a while about any books doesn’t mean that I have not been reading. It’s just that life has been hectic, with France calling at 10 PM and asking if they could get something translated by 3 PM THEIR time (which is 4 AM MY time), and similar. But I have been reading, I swear. I have finished another book on disappearing languages by Mark Abley that left me with more questions than answers. Foremost among these was “Is English a virus?”. But I will have to leave Abley to another blog entry.

William Darylmple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East is another fantastic book by a man who vini and vidi, not just wrote another piece of crap about the Middle East. His journey showcased the often tragic plight of Armenian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Palestinian Christians without zealotry and prejudice. Besides, it was so full of history that it forced me to go back to reading about Byzantium. The result was that I got myself John J. Norwich’s trilogy on the Byzantine Empire, of which part iii arrived miraculously before parts i and ii. Amazon works in mysterious ways J

Talking of shopping, just a few weeks ago I finally managed to obtain a copy of Oizerman’s Problems in the History of Philosophy, the first book ever that I translated into Arabic in my life for the then Soviet publishing giant Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga. I have lost the manuscript when I had to leave “home”. It is stashed somewhere safely in a friend’s container in a sub-saharan country in Africa, feeding termites. At least they will end up being intelligent, left-winged termites. Holding the book in my hands took me 20 years back and ever since I have been itching for a publisher in armor, on a white horse (with a chequebook in the saddle) who will give me a book to translate. I wouldn’t mind doing a Bernard Lewis, for the edification of the Arab world ;-) I even visualize this on my nightly tug-of-war-heel-leave that-heel walks.

After all, Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams in his hilarious The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Business Stupidity in the 21st Century tells of how he managed to visualize himself into a syndicated cartoonist while still chained to a cubicle in some corporate madhouse. He used to write affirmations, 15 lines every day, of what he wanted to achieve.

“A well-endowed publisher will pay me to translate a Lewis”. Doesn’t look bad. Looks better than panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. Can I have bacon with that, please, Allah?

Mizrahi (02 November 2005)

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 00:54 11/02/2005
Trapped in a group photograph
Amir believes in the distinction between private and public worlds, between an insistence on a human, personal touch with the Palestinian populace and support for perpetuation of the occupation
By Yochai Oppenheimer
"Yasmin" ("Jasmine") by Eli Amir, Am Oved Publishers, 411 pages, NIS 84Several years ago, Ella Shohat wrote about the hybrid Jewish-Arab identity of Jews from Islamic countries and about the demand made of those Jews who immigrated to Israel soon after it was established - namely, for repression of that identity and for adoption of an Israeli identity free of Arab characteristics.This "Arabness" was generally limited to "folklore" and a nostalgia for Baghdad, for its coffee shops, for Arab music and Arabic language and, at the same time, for the life the Jews had led in a traditional, hierarchical society prior to their crisis of immigration.Writers like Sami Michael, Shimon Balas and Eli Amir represented this "Arabness" as a litmus test of Israeli society's liberalism and its capacity for enabling the presence of an ethnic culture. However, the new perspective created by these writers expressed no doubt as to the validity of nationalistic positions. The "agenda" of this ethnic writing left no room for political questions pertaining to the attitude toward Arabs in Israel or Palestinians, and instead focused solely on confronting social and cultural issues.In Eli Amir's "Jasmine," Arab-Jewish identity is translated for the first time into the political context that is part of today's headlines. The novel concentrates on the first year after the Six-Day War of June 1967 and surveys the perspectives of Arabs living in East Jerusalem - including those of Abu Nabil, the Muslim nationalist, versus Abu George, the realistic and pragmatic Christian; of radicals versus moderates; and especially of Jasmine, Abu George's daughter, a young widow who has spent five years studying in Paris and has now returned for a visit with her family that becomes a prolonged stay.On the other hand, the narrative also observes the perspectives of Nuri, a Jew who has immigrated to Israel from Iraq and is an adviser on Arab affairs; of a professor of Middle Eastern studies; of a cabinet minister; of an official whose father was killed right before his eyes many years earlier; and of Nuri's parents, brother and uncle.This is a sort of group photograph that primarily presents both the ideological boundaries within which the Israeli and Palestinian national psyches are trapped and the absence of a common denominator that could enable a dialogue beyond the military-power equation between Israelis and Palestinians. To describe the political discourse on both sides, the novel includes many essay-like passages that present disagreements among the Jews themselves, and among the Arabs themselves, as well as arguments between Jews and Arabs that repeat, ad nauseum, the same worn-out rhetoric: the Palestinians' demand concerning the right of return and their perception of what they call the Nakba ("catastrophe") of the creation of Israel in 1948, in contrast to the certainty among the Jews that the Arabs want to liquidate Israel. Readers interested in a depiction of the post-1967-war political mood in Israeli and Palestinian society will find considerable material in this novel.Hybrid identityAmir's book might never have been possible were it not for the intensive writing in recent years on Jewish-Arab relations (Yitzhak Laor, Ronit Matalon, Michal Govrin, etc.), and for the tradition of love stories that has always been a part of Israeli fiction, in which "enemy lines" are crossed and a romance between a Jewish woman and an Arab man, or between an Arab woman and a Jewish man, develops. However, unlike other Israeli writers, whose radical thinking and rejection of conventional Israeli narratives serve as the basis for their political identification with the Arab case, Amir prefers yet again to connect with his Arab-Jewish identity and to be a "member of the Arab world."Recognition of this hybrid identity enables the novel's hero to note the ever-increasing discrepancy between his human sensitivity to the suffering of the occupied, and his establishment role as a representative of the occupying power. He slowly becomes aware of his inability to provide the Israeli occupation with an enlightened tone of consideration for the personal needs of the occupied Palestinians - without, of course, jeopardizing "security" needs or the continuation of control of the Palestinians.This process of self-awareness ultimately leads the protagonist to submit his resignation. His emotional position does not stem from an identification with the "other" - as is the case with the above-mentioned authors - but rather from an identification with his own self - with the refugee inside him, whose Arabness was silenced and whose suffering as a Jewish refugee who lost his homeland is not much different from the suffering of the Palestinians.Amir believes in the distinction between private and public worlds, between an insistence on a human, personal touch with the Palestinian populace and support for perpetuation of the occupation - namely, for its transformation into an invisible occupation. However, this option of an enlightened occupation is doomed to failure: The personal search of Palestinians at checkpoints, the refusal to permit a husband, a refugee, to return home for the sake of family reunification, and the confiscation of assets and property of Palestinians - all these repeatedly articulate the nature of the occupation in the novel, just as such acts do in reality. Like the slogans granting Mizrahim (Jews of Middle Eastern descent) the status of mediators in the peace process, the mottos spouted by the regime's spokespersons and agents about peaceful Jewish-Arab coexistence are intended to blur the occupation's concreteness. The hero learns to examine, in a critical manner, his self-image as a "member of the Histadrut labor federation" and as "someone who enjoys the intoxicating feeling that I represent the regime and that everyone accedes to my requests and greets me with a smile."Contact with Arabs also enables him to become someone who represents Palestinian political positions, with which he has not previously identified. Personal contact, which evolves into a romance, between Nuri and Jasmine, generates an unexpected metamorphosis in her as well: Once a young woman with a bitter animosity toward Israelis, Jasmine now becomes aware that "our occupiers walk about, like us, with wounded hearts" and she is even able to display an understanding of what she herself terms "your somod - your love for this land." Although the enemy has not become a friend, the goal is to offer both the possibilities for identification with the "other" and the limits of any nationalist position that claims to represent absolute justice.Doubtful achievementDespite these transformations, it seems that if the characters' private lives boil down only to this, the literary achievement made by this novel is doubtful. Amir also believes in the ability of his hero, whose mother tongue is Arabic, to create a closer dialogue with his Arab lover. This is also the mission his dispatchers assign him: to exploit the linguistic closeness to "explain our position." However, the novel fails to present a common language, a "discourse of love," that can break free from the political discourse around which all dialogue, even the "intimate" one being conducted here, revolves. Jasmine's decision to speak with Nuri only in English - rather than Arabic (the mother tongue of both) or Hebrew (in which they are both fluent) - points to the diplomatic nature of their relationship. A language of love is too intolerably close to the political language ("`My gentle occupier,' she whispered, her eyes brimming with tears") or it is absent, because it has no place in the dialogue that takes place between them ("I wanted to tell her, in Hebrew and Arabic and every language in the world, all the words of love I had dreamed an entire year of uttering, but the release and my dizziness made me forget everything") - a dialogue that is unable to conceal the poverty of the novel's private-linguistic space."Jasmine" is a story built in accordance with a pattern that is very common in Israeli fiction. What can we expect from yet another love story between a Jewish man and an Arab woman, who is Christian, well-educated - and, of course, beautiful - and free in her attitudes and behavior? This is, after all, the same fantasy so prevalent in Hebrew fiction since Moshe Smilansky's first short story, "The Loving Stroke" (1906): the attraction to an Arab woman that cannot be realized and which is connected to her desire to be free of her backward society. The price of this fantasy has not changed over the years: Smilansky describes the Jewish woman he marries only because she resembles the Arab woman he loves. Amir also describes his hero's inability to establish an emotional relationship with Israeli Jewish women, while his true love must remain forbidden and impossible. On the other hand, the lives of Arab women who have been unable to consummate their love for a Jewish man are fated to be horrible and suffocating. The heroes of these tales are continually compelled to admit the presence of national boundaries with which they cannot cope. These short stories are "moving," "touching," but also sterile, because their plots and endings are predictable. The only element that is open in such a structure is the setting of the private space, which is always tainted with verbal violence and nationalistic suspicions, and which displays an inability to handle the burden and to present a deep and powerful opposition to what is so familiar.Thus, Nuri, his father and uncle appear in this narrative as individuals who, in contrast with the victory-intoxicated Israeli public at the time, understand that the occupied territories must be immediately returned to their rightful owners, even without the booby-trapped formula of "land for peace." From this standpoint, the Mizrahi identity demonstrates its innocence and its distance from its stereotypical identification with chauvinism and hatred for Arabs.Mizrahi formulaIn this context of cleansing the Mizrahi identity, the author even tends to make the reader forget about the trauma of the banishment from Iraq and about the difficult experience of adjusting to a new country. The characters of Iraqi origin are assigned a formula, which they proclaim and which frees them from the feeling of personal failure that haunts them (for example, "We were refugees like them, but today, thank God, we have everything we need - hats off to the Mapai Party!"). Nonetheless, the fascinating emotional tensions characteristic of Amir's previous works, such as tensions within the family, are given no expression in this novel, which has no characters who inspire any rage or genuine pity in the reader's heart. Amir spares no effort to prove that his Mizrahi hero is another breed of Israeli man: one who is not a chauvinist, not indifferent to the suffering of the occupied, gentle in his relations with women, diffident, considerate of others to an admirable degree, and - this is most important - complex, displaying a double identity (he can quote both Haim Nahman Bialik and Umm Kulthum). This, so it seems to be, is the novel's chief goal.Connected to this goal is the role of the novel's "good Arabs." It is the purpose of Jasmin and her father to love Nuri, to give him the legitimacy that Israeli society, in its blindness, cannot grant him, for example, in the linguistic field. Unlike what we find in Amir's book, "Farewell, Baghdad," Nuri's language is meager, lacks any ethnic or cultural uniqueness and has no stylistic freshness. However, in Jasmine's eyes, his linguistic sensitivity is that of a poet. Despite this legitimization, Nuri cannot dispense with the bear hug of the state with which he identifies because of his job and, apparently, also because of his personality. Like a tour guide, he takes Jasmine to the cemetery on the shores of Lake Kinneret, where the members of the Second Aliyah (wave of immigration) are buried and where she finally understands what Zionism really is. The connection between Nuri and his Palestinian lover cannot disengage itself from the state or from the official rhetoric of its "founding fathers." Because he served them, he was chosen for his present job, and in gratitude, he brings his lover to the founding fathers' graves.Beyond the successful lesson it teaches regarding the relative justice of the "other's" case - a lesson that the book imparts with a sense of mission - where does "Jasmine" intend to throw these two lovers? Nuri knows that he cannot offer Jasmine marriage because of the anticipated opposition of his mother and family. Neither Jasmine nor Nuri can think of another option. The decision as to where to end the story (Jasmine's departure and the murder of Radid, who refuses to accede to her husband's demand that she immigrate to Jordan) reflects a certain melt-down stemming from a predictable failure, from the constantly repeated sense that reality "is not a partner" for those who love and suffer.How serious is the love affair between Nuri and Jasmine and how much does the author's flirtation with his Arab characters stem from narcissistic needs? Apparently this closely resembles the enlightened occupier's flirtation with the occupied, the sole purpose of it being to obtain the occupied's admission of both the occupying power's humanity and the good faith in which its hand is extended in peace. This commodity is supplied by the likable Abu George, who for a moment transcends his national-political standpoint: "Even your occupation has a positive element. We have brought Jasmine back. You will never know how grateful I am to you. You have rescued my daughter."In his latest novel, Amir graphically illustrates what Fredric Jameson terms the "prison-house of language." The enlightened occupier who proclaims words of "heresy" regarding the consensus is no different, in this respect, from the benighted occupier who proclaims messianic visions. The "prison-house" also relates to the selection of a shop-worn format that turns literary creations into a constant, harmless chaperon of the occupation, into a means of generating excitement that does not require any commitment and relates to the complexity of the conflict between two nations and to the human tragedy involved. Other authors who have chosen this format were aware of its limitations and thus felt compelled to find stratagems to save the story from its format. Generally, alternative formats appear, the story and the character are fragmented, or a variety of attempts are made to neutralize and distort the predictable outcome. In Amir's case, however, no alternative is offered, nor is he apparently seeking one. His clinging to the cliches of the political discourse and to the figures of the leaders of the period (Levi Eshkol, Moshe Dayan and Gamal Abdul Nasser), who mesmerize him, creates a "realistic" novel, as the back cover announces, but one that lacks a suitable independent artistic stance.Yochai Oppenheimer teaches Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University. His book (in Hebrew), "Political Poetry in Israel," has been published by Magnes.

The Europeans Are A'Waking (05 August 2005)

This bit jumped into my eye as I was looking for news on the idiotic court case by AFP against Google.
_________________________ START OF NONSENSE_________________________
PARIS (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac has vowed to launch a new "counter-offensive" against American cultural domination, enlisting the support of the British, German and Spanish governments in a multi-million euro bid to put the whole of European literature on-line.
The president was reacting last week to news that the American search-engine provider Google is to offer access to some 15 million books and documents currently housed in five of the most prestigious libraries in the English-speaking world.

The realisation that the "Anglo-Saxons" were on the verge of a major breakthrough towards the dream of a universal library seriously rattled the cultural establishment in Paris, raising again the fear that French language and ideas will one day be reduced to a quaint regional peculiarity.
So on Wednesday Chirac met with Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and National Library president Jean-Noel Jeanneney and asked them "to analyse the conditions under which the collections of the great libraries in France and Europe could be put more widely and more rapidly on the Internet".

(...) It was Jeanneney who alerted Chirac to the new challenge. In an article in Le Monde newspaper, France's chief librarian conceded that the Google-Print project, with its 4.5 billion pages of text, will be a boon to researchers and a long-awaited chance for poor nations to get access to global learning.

But he went on: "The real issue is elsewhere. And it is immense. It is confirmation of the risk of a crushing American domination in the definition of how future generations conceive the world.
"The libraries that are taking part in this enterprise are of course themselves generously open to the civilisations and works of other countries ... but still, their criteria for selection will be profoundly marked by the Anglo-Saxon outlook," he said.

(...) Fear of American cultural hegemony has been a constant of French policy since the first sticks of chewing gum arrived during World War II.

The country's instinctive reaction has been protectionist, and today France maintains a complex web of laws and subsidies to defend its film, music and publishing industries. Only a few voices are ever raised to argue that protectionism can lead to introverted mediocrity.

But in the battle over what the French press has dubbed "omnigooglisation," protectionism is not an option. The all-pervasive nature of the Internet makes any attempt to freeze out a competitor impossible. Which leaves no alternative, Jeanneney said, but "counter-attack".
France in fact already has a minuscule version of the Google initiative already in hand. The Gallica project has put some 80,000 works and 70,000 images on-line, But the programme's budget is less than one thousandth of the 200 million dollars that the US corporation is prepared to spend.

So Chirac has decided to turn to Europe in the hope that an alliance of nations can find the finance and will-power to fight back. With his belief in the so-called multipolar world, it is exactly the sort of mission that he believes Europe is ordained to carry out.
__________________________ END OF NONSENSE _________________________

Questions by the Bibliophile:
1) Excuse me, how many readers do we have in German and French? I could understand Spanish, but French??? Why, instead of trying to raise funds from a slupmed and impoverished Europe, don't they get more of their French and German stuff translated into God's other languages? Eco doesn't seem to mind being translated into English as soon as his hot Italian comes off the press - the guy knows who pays the bills.

2) American domination my ass... America is not the only English-speaking country, and as for academic publishing and literature, UK stands tall and proud - but so does INDIA. Come on, Mother India, you've got the labour force where the Yanks have money - get the millions of your printed books by Indian academics, writers and poets up and running. I vote for India-loogle :-))

3) An Anglo-Saxon outlook is not very scary; but I have to admit that the French outlook will be more colourful and the German less politically correct. Why can't you folks join hands to have a pan-European online library, and ehm, ehm, Monsieur Chirac, England is part of Europe regardless to how much you dislike frivolous Tony.

4) Counter-attack on the perceived Anglo-Saxon hegemony with "and is soon to make available the BNF's stock of 19th century newspapers" makes me want to cry. You mean you haven't produced anything of value since the 19th century?? Try Project Gutenberg :-)
As the Sudanese dismissively say: "You have no issue."

Oh, by the way, chewing gum is healthy for your teeth.

Wet and Miserably So

"The days of travel writing being produced by someone wearing a pith helmet and clutching a pink gin are thankfully over. The new generation of travel writers are increasingly venturing into uncharted territories,” opens up a review of Melanie McGrath's book Hard, Soft And Wet.

I read the book in three days, in betwixt my translations, stupidities from across-the-road, dodging attacks by unaccompanied dogs and other pleasures of this year’s Purim. I read it fast, not because it was so interesting but because it was a no-brainer.

The book alleges a discussion of the new, technologically savvy generation. Why it was filed under 303.483 4 is really beyond me, because it happens to be a composite biography of a very sad, very lonely and very, oh, so very British single. It didn’t tell me anything new about California, about the Internet history of Middle-Earth, or about the “new” generation (??) that I did not really know already. The Internet as a new fad – been there, done that. The backlash – still writing about it. The Internet might have changed the world a bit, but it didn’t transform it. Garbage is everywhere, Internet included, and that is not necessarily caused by the Internet but by the fact that majority of humanity has garbolla in their crania. Basta! “New” technological generation? Oh, what a clichĂ©? I was 30 when I learned programming in Basic and toyed with Pascal, 32 when I computerized the school I ran and 36 when I was a full-blown Internet geek. I am the same generation as the “sad, pink-eyed, lonely, Ecstasy swallowing and alcohol imbibing” McGrath’s heroine, and I don’t think one needs to travel from California to Singapore via shady Moscow and drab Prague to get drunk and stoned.

Having finished the book, I still don’t know what it was set to be about. In an interview by Spike she says that even though she was under 35 [in 1997 when the rag was published], she keenly felt the generational gap which is made obvious by technology. “The thing is that for people of my generation cyberspace is a novelty, whereas for the generation below me it's invisible; it's invisible as the television is to us or the radio is to our parents. So I thought it would be a great idea to write a portrait of the Digital Generation because they were being largely ignored in this great mushroom cloud of hyperbole." Give us a break! Had you been around teenagers for ever, like I did on account of being a teacher; had you had a REAL interest in people, not one motivated by profiteering; had you been less Anglo-insular and more open to embracing change and moving along with it, all this stuff in your book would have been irrelevant. As for hyperbole, it abounds in the book. London is drab, drab, drab (not my reminiscence of the place), all teenagers have skate-boards, Moscovites are mostly drunk, everyone in Prague is using drugs, etc. etc. Hyperbole and stereotypes and nothing at all original in the 270+ pages of the book. Pity the trees that went down to produce a rag.

If the book gave me an insight into anything at all, it was the state of mind of British women, middle-class, white and over 30. Lonely, unsure of themselves, colourless, addiction-prone, continually trying to be someone or something else, seeking remedial sex – sex that would validate them, instead of remedial intellect. Stuffing their faces with junk food, alcohol or drugs to stave off depression that continually threatens to engulf them. Aimless. Directionless. Sad, sad, sad.

Remind me to avoid any future productions by this writer. A few other interesting books have arrived in the mail and shucks, I think I need to get to Ikea to grab a few more shelves J

Yes, ok, addiction prone, too. Must be generational!

Book Af-fair

What could be more Arab, more Middle Eastern, than arresting intellectuals at a book fair, confiscating books, and interrogating people about what they read?

The Cairo Book Fair was a sorry sight: more black-clad security forces, heavily armed and illiterate, than intellectuals. There is a story about how those guys are chosen. Army officers show up in a remote backwater and drag all the able-bodied men out. "Those who know the names of their fathers, step forward!" shouts the officer. A number steps forward. "Those who do not know the names of their fathers, step back!" All the bastards step back. The officer is left with a few guys who have moved neither forward nor backwards. "You," he shouts, "have been recruited!"

Why are books such dangerous tools? Why are thinking people such a horror? And is this limited to only the Middle East?

No. I see the fear in Australia as well, although it is so subtle that you need to look very closely to see it. Our (and the American) government have found means to quench the danger before it even happens. Defunding research at universities, making schooling more "fun" than content, dragging kids and adults away from books by promoting visually crappy media, encouraging shallow thinking, lack of initiative and slogans such as "If it isn't broken don't fix it", "It will be right, mate" etc. are all subtle steps towards making the coming generation dumber and dumber. And a population whose only problems lie in getting a buck to get a beer to get pissed is a population easy to rule.

Nothing, you would say, stops people in Australia for choosing the intellectual path if they want. Not true. They get shunned. They get no promotions. They don't get published, and if they manage to, they get crappy reviews. It does not apply to writers only; I know of architects of international renown who are not given any government jobs because of the fear of the changes they will instill. It doesn't matter if we are tens of years behind Europe - as long as we keep intelligent, gifted Europeans out (and we do, by means of a screwed up skilled migration system) the masses will have no knowledge of the sad fact.

I would have liked to write more about this, but I have to run and do my 1K words of translation. But I will be back.

Bicameral Mind

I am in the middle of an oldish, but still fascinating book, "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by RIP Julian Jaynes.

In the first two chapters, Jaynes, who was a professor of psychology, does away with the need for human consciousness in most mental acts: learning, concentrating, thinking, remembering, problem solving, etc." He then postulates, using then available studies from neurology, that consiousness is dependent on language, and that it is the act of 1) creating a mental space, 2) creating a mental time 3) creating an analog "I" to move in the mental (also analog) space and time while the real I narratizes in my head.

Having shown how consciousness is dependent on language, Jaynes then postulates that we were unconscious prior to having developed language, and that after that and for a long time (almost all the BC time and for South America well into the AD) we were bicameral. Lacking full consciousness (yet having language), prehistoric man's actions were often governed by voices, which are in many ways similar to certain forms of schizophrenia. These voices were perceived as the gods, and originated in the right hemisphere of the brain.

The book itself is powerfully written and although I fully know that the theory cannot be proven, yet it links in with a number of other books I read.

For example, Jaynes talks about the breakdown of the bicamerality and the growth of consciousness as creating chaos and upheavals among the pre-historic peoples. It seems that once man lost the "voices of God" he also lost the ability to coexist peacefully with other people.

Now, according to Jaynes, consciousness is based on language and language is a left-hemisphere function. Last year, I read a book by a British cardiologist, Leonard Shlein, in which he postulates that the act of learning written language exercises the human brain's left hemisphere--the half that handles linear, abstract thought--and enforces its dominance over the right hemisphere, which thinks holistically and visually. This has, apparently, some collateral damage: abstraction is a masculine trait, and that holistic visualization is feminine. The switch to left-brain thinking upset the balance between men and women. The rise of male dominance led to a corresponding decline in goddess veneration and the status of women. Ok, so the more lingusitically oriented, the more analytical, the more chuvanistic.

The other book that I think links with Jaynes theory is Friedman's "The Disappearance of God". He probes what he calls three mysteries: the gradual disappearance of God in the Hebrew scriptures, Nietzsche's dictum, "God is dead," relating it admirably to the works of Dostoyevsky and the problem of ethics without God; and the mysticism of the Kabbalah and the Big Bang theory. It is the first part of the book that links with Jaynes, as Firedman (Doctor of Hebrew) points out that throughout the Torah, Yehwa seems to become more and more remote - from walking with Adam in the garden, to being one of the angels in the "Sarah laughed" story, to being an angel in Sodom, to becoming a voice in the burning bush, to becoming a voice per se. Hmmm... right side of the brain being taken over?

Interesting speculations.

Seeking What Does Not Exist

I am just about to finish Ziauddin Sardar's wonderful book "Desperately Seeking Paradise". It speaks to me more than it would to non-ME readers, simply because I have been through one of his rejected "paradises" and managed to get out of it alive with only the shirt on my back.

There are passages in his book which had me in stitches: his description of Sister Sophie as a "bundle of clothes", his wistful remark about Merryl Davies when he met her for the first time after her conversion, saying that "the brain was still intact", his conversation with the Taliban student in Peshwar about camels and shaving, and his description of obtaining an exit visa from Saudi Arabia. Each of these were so apt - and if they weren't depicting reality, they may have been funny.

I had borrowed the book from my local library (my personal gain from 9/11 is the sudden raised awareness and interest about Islam, which means I finally get to read what I need). But today, after reading the chapter on Satanic Verses (which incidentally I found lying around at a bookfest yesterday, spine to spine with the Protocols), I decided to purchase my own copy. It is well worth adorning my shelf, being read and re-read.

I wonder if Maulvi is still looking for paradise for the Ummah. As far as I can see, and I may be short-sighted, the Ummah is in Gehenna. Is there an achievable paradise in Islam, really, or has the religion gone too far in its ossification process as to have achieved a rigor mortis? That is has millions of believers is not an indication of its health - 99% of these believers are clinically brain-dead. I used to say that hope lay in people like Sardar, Ashmawi, Jabri, Shahrour and Abu Zeid. But can 1% achieve a paradise among the current brainless gore that Islam has descended to? I am not optimistic. But keep writing, Zia.

Cap This

Have we heard of everything yet? I mean, reading what this guy Fogg has to say about computers as persuasive technology, it seems pure common sense. But now that he has written a whole book about it, everyone will have a reason to implement it - and especially those part of "persuasion" that he worries about most and talks about least: the unethical ones.
I was looking for stuff on censorship at my local uni library. Persuasion wasn't on my mind at all; I was so upset by the erosion of free speech, the sudden disappearance of freedom of access to, and use of, information, that I decided my coming article in SAJIM was going to be precisely about that.
But coincidence, or is it fate - qadar - had it otherwise. Instead of finding anything of use on censorship, I found a book titled "Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What People Think and Do." So now I am writing a review on "captology" instead, and will move from persuasion to information manipulation to mis-information to lack of any. That should do for all the four issues of 2005.
The book is GOOD! It isn't written for techies, but for anyone interested in persuasion (that covers healthshop owners to shadier characters). I just wish Fogg wasn't so obssessive about his own health - almost every second page has an example of his jogging, health eating, heart monitoring, etc. In the end you envision Dr. Fogg as this cleanly shaven, muscular Yank with a square jaw and square shins.
After I wrote this, and then searched Google for a photo of his: ok, clean shaven, square jaw, Yank. Young. Will stay Yankie Young for long if he keeps persuading himself well, I assume. Somehow, the stereotyping beast in me expected a bispectacled nerd at Standford :-)

Kavin Mehendra Smith and the Call Center Drama

When they first took over from the world, rendering the IT sector in Australia, US and Canada jobless, they would post such idiotic emails on jobs' boards as "We can do EVERYTHING at the cheapest price." It turned out that there were quite a few things they couldn't do.

Then they eyed the translation market and started popping up on Translation bidding boards, adding honorary degrees from non-existing universities. All of them spoke 6 to 7 languages and could translate tens more at the rate of 1c per page and 1500 words per hour. I've had a few of those present their CVs to my business, and could neither write English not understand the text in the languages presented them for test translation.

Then they took over the call centers, and as those who have listened to my Telstra MP3 that was presented here for a few months would have known, made pests of themselves. No skills, no manners, phoned at 2.00 AM, did not know the difference between madam and mister, and wanted to sell Australians mobiles. Australia, by the way, has the world's highest mobile phone to person ratio. Even I have 4 at home, and I am reticent.

Now even the Indian businesses are getting sick of the nonsense. As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has reported (I suspect gleefully), Indian call centers have a staff shortage because.... Indians can no longer speak English.

"Call centers and outsourcing firms are growing fast, but their human resources employees despair because most of the young Indians they interview are, they say, "unemployable."

Some people in the IT industry have said that only one in 10 graduates is worth taking on. "Just look at their English," fumed a frustrated Mumbai-based call center manager as he waved around letters written by employees. One read: "As I am marrying my daughter, please grant a week's leave." Another said: "I am in well here and hope you are also in the same well."

"The problem is not quantity but quality. Many of the 3.6 million graduates churned out every year by Indian universities are considered mediocre (...) Fluency in English apart, employers complained that graduates lacked computer skills, the ability to reason clearly, solve problems, think critically, analyze, work in teams and think creatively. "

I remember the guy who phoned me one afternoon and said he was phoning from what - to my aging ears - sounded like Amazon. I buy from Amazon in a few thousands per annum, so I was quite glad that they decided to call. The conversation however soon turned into a farce. The caller, obviously having difficulty with English, sounded like a broken record:

"We have an offer for your New Year. The offer will be delivered to your address.
"Oh, that's very nice of you. Thank you."
"We have an offer for your New Year. The offer will be delivered to your address. Do not pay the delivery person.."
"Hold on a second," says me. "I never pay any delivery persons. What are you talking about?"
Pause and a breath.
"We have an offer for your New Year. The offer will be delivered to your address. Do not pay the delivery person. There will be a box in the delivery and a surprise in the box."
"Listen, stop reading the whole thing back at me. I got it from the first time. I asked you why I should not pay the delivery. Where did you say you were phoning me from?"
An annoyed (exasparated?) breath. "
"We have an offer for your New Year. The offer will be delivered to your address. Do not pay the delivery person. There will be a box in the delivery and a surprise in the box . The box contains a brand new Nokia mobile, a head set...."
I hang up!

Of course the lack of skills in India has not solved ALL the problems of the shelved workers in the First, English-speaking countries :-) "Disgruntled British and American workers who have seen their jobs outsourced to India could get them back — with one catch. They need to move to India where their English and their accents will be an asset." God help me if I would sell my freedom and work for an Indian. However, some young, inexperienced hotheads are doing precisely that - from school to Mumbai call centre. Not that I am going to be any nicer to them if they can speak MY English. The three teet-teet-teet signals of an overseas call will blow their cover - and permit me to be as nasty as I currently am.

Oh, before I forget. Who said Indians were not creative??? Since mad Britons are still few and far between, why not impersonate one? Early November, I had a 3Teet call and someone with a THICK Indian accent introduced himself as "Kavin Smith from Melbourne".

Gimmie a break, matey! Kavin my holy a**.

The American "Hassaniya"

Just before you read the stuff below, I have to explain the Hassaniya bit. They are a nomadic tribe in north-western Sudan, generally known in Sudan to be doing useless stuff when everybody else is trying to resolve a crisis. Hence the saying in Sudanese Arabic "Look what people are doing, and what the Hassaniya are doing".
Now read the extracts from Stars and Stripes, Dec 22, 2005 below and laugh out loud:

Operation names leave nothing to get lost in translation DOD ensures names mean same in English, Arabic By Jeff Schogol, Stars and StripesMideast edition, Thursday, December 22, 2005
ARLINGTON, Va. — The war against Iraqi insurgents is being waged increasingly in the Iraqis’ own language.
Iraqis are taking the lead in naming military operations, and have named several operations since the summer, said a Defense Department official.
On Monday, the 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division planned and named “Operation Alkamra Almaner,” or “Moonlight,” to disrupt insurgents in Anbar province in Western Iraq, wrote Marines spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Pool via e-mail on Monday.
****** My comment: Names referring to moon and moonlight in Arabic are reserved for describing sexy and gorgeous females, usually young. What were the Iraqis thinking ;-)*****
(…) In military operations over the past year and a half, U.S. planners have picked names for military operations with the Arabic translation in mind, said Army Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, a plans officer (…) For example, planners named the assault against Fallujah in late 2004 “Al Fajar,” or “New Dawn,” for its symbolic meaning, Ryan said.
(…) Ryan said he did not know if the military has a list of suggested operational names that translate well into Arabic, but some words such as “hunter,” “thunder” and “lightning” are universally accepted as good names for operations.
The full article here:

For more on Hassaniya tribe - Google :-P

Hello, dis iz India

Friends at the legal service asked me to find them a Dari translator for a 40-page pamphlet explaining Australian family law to the newly arrived Afghan refugees in their own language. My local contact was unavailable, so I was forced to post the job on a few translation bidding boards.

I was very specific in that it needed (a) a native Dari speaker, (b) qualified and (c) knowledgeable in British or Australian law. I got two good hits within hours, one Azari but with good working knowledge of Dari, and the other an Afghan of unknown ethnic background, but with a PhD in medicine and 10 years translating experience in the refugee field.
And then came the email from Mr. Very-Indian-Name.

Sir, I have great pleasure to inform you that I am working as a freelancer for English to Dari languages in India. I have been working in this field since last Eight years.My rate are very Economical. Sir, I am a Experienced and Educated Person. I hope to establish a long-term cooperation with you. Or perhaps I can help you to deal with your present assignments. Note- you can trust me about high quality job. Rate for job English to Dari 0.09 US$ Per word, composing in MS word. Thanks Please confirm

I replied that I would like to see a resume and references from happy clients, and that sincehis name was very Indian, hewould also have to explain to me how Dari happened to be his mother-tongue.

Back comes a hasty reply:
It is best way to send me sample, then every think will be clear.ThanksPlease confirm. Please send me sample file and with PO************************

Thinking that "no-think" will be clear, but having fun and not much to do on a Saturday afternoon, I sent a reply saying we had standards in Australia to maintain and that if he was intending seriously to be considered for this translation, then you must send me a CV (a resume) with references.
Another telegram:
Ok, I will send you resume very soon. Thanks

About an hour later, I came off the rowing machine to find a resume. It said the following:
(1) The name on the CV was different, although similar, to the person signing the emails.
Language- Dari, Pushto and English

Work Experience-
I have been working as a freelance Translator since 1998 (AIR) and I have also translating and studying books and articles about law, sociology, Political, Technical, Medical, Literature,,,,

Personal Skill :
I am capable of working software as word, excel power point, and I can use the internet.

Note- I have worked for – (one client with an AOL email address, probably his g/f)

That was it. Rather disappointing, nu? So I wrote back, by now seriously amused, that unfortunately, he did not meet Australian standards for a translator, as his CV did not mention any qualifications, or specific employment history. I added that I am looking for a translator with a minimum graduate degree in a specialized field, and 5 years experience with international translation bodies.

I thought that was it. Mr. India-Can-Do, however, surprised me again:
ok, No Problem, Madam,I have other friends who are well qualified for English to Dari languages. They are working in All India Radio. I can use (Help)them for this job.can I send their reusme? Please confirmThanks************************

I was going to ditch the email, but Dan heard me laughing and asked to see what was going on.

"Oh, by all means. Let us see what their CVs look like," she said. "After all, I lost my job to India, nu?"

So we are waiting. Watch this space for announcements.

More than one meaning...

On my last trip to the Queensland countryside, I ended in Rockhampton, also variously known as The Hell and Beef Capital of Somewhere :-) We had a jolly good time getting to know the crocs, and the town is really nice, clean and quiet. We retired after dinner to our motel room and, as is my habit everywhere I go, grabbed the Yellow Pages to research the potential "language provision market". As we went through the really big industries in the area, the following ad caught our eyes (for obvious reasons):

A Translator's High

Something interesting is happening with this translation experiment.

Over the past three years – ever since I went back to translating full time – I would look at my translation and cringe. It was correct. It was equivalent (drastically so). Community members would say that it was eminently readable. I kept getting more and more work, so I assume the agencies and their clients were satisfied.

I was not. My language was dead. Like a floating corpse floating on muddy water, it had but a semblance of what is used to be.

I had my theories. Apart from 12 weeks in the Middle East, I have been away for almost 11 years. My contacts with the community are limited to an occasional phone chit-chat. Sure, I listen to radio and watch Arabic TV online, and I pay through my nose to have books shipped from Egypt and Lebanon, not to mention grabbing whatever our decrepit State Library has. But all that, for sure, will not be equivalent to living permanently in Cairo, nu?

This experiment with translating Ata’s book was an eye-opener. I have done 5 pages and the language is an elegant, as smooth and as concise as my Arabic has always been. And it has not at all been a painful process – I sweat far more over a WorkSafe brochure than over his sociological introduction.

So what happened that was different?
(1) The original English, written by someone who like me learned it as a second language, is clearly structured. Nothing sloppy. Nothing ugly (typos notwithstanding). Good academic English, and not “staff will serve tea and bikkies for single-mums with prams”.
(2) I am translating for my own pleasure. True, I will probably submit it to my colleague D. for editing, but D. is my peer and a translator like me, not some community halfwit whom I need to please. I don’t have to dumb the language down, and more importantly, I can play with the text. I have more literary freedom, as long as the meaning is equivalent. I can do what I can’t do with community crap brochures and info: add those small qualifiers that in Arabic make a difference between “native” and “translated”.
(3) I am not using my word processor. Because handwriting, and especially in Arabic script, is an act of aesthetics, I need to concentrate on what I am doing. I write first in pencil, then ink it. As I ink, I re-read the sentences and change them. With word-processing, in ugly Arial, I glance at the text, check for spelling and off we send the crap. No art involved, no art produced.
Has anyone written about translation as a psychological act?

A good friend of mine responded to my thoughts with a link to an article by a Czech translator, in which he puts forward a number of interesting theories:
(1) That no matter what, no one can translate for 8 hours a day every day. Well, I used to do 14 hours a day, every day, for stretches of 3 to 4 weeks at a time, and can still do it (into English, though, not the other way) unless I am physically unwell. Vitek says that "is something about the translating activity that causes your brain to stop working properly after a certain finite quota of mental energy has been exhausted." I agree. Although my partner thinks that all I do is sit and type and occassionally leaf through voluminous dictionaries, I feel extremely exhausted after translating. And although I don't have the "confusion in your brain after you have read a passage in one language and just before you attempt to reconstruct it in another language" and the "blank, a vacuum or complete chaos in your mind", which needs to be "bridged over to arrive safely on the shore of a different language" I get these feeling AFTER the event, often being unable to string a sentence in ANY of my three "native" tongues. "The effort that translators must expend to overcome this chaos may explain the fatigue that they seem to feel after a long stretch of work," says Vitek.
(2) He also quotes another (Japanese/English) translator to the effect that "good translators are like tennis or piano players-they have to be born with a gift. You can become good if you work hard, but if you do not have the gift to begin with, you will never be a very good translator or a very good tennis player. The gift is probably more important than anything else." That, of course, makes me feel mighty superior already, since I first started translations out of sheer anger at a mangled book :-)
(3) The last theory is the one I agree with most. You have to be in the mood to create good music or good translation. This is why in-house translators are either very emotionally balanced people or long-term martyrs :-) I, for one, cannot translate if I am worried, stressed, physically in pain, after a heavy dinner, or bored. I used to be able to put in hours of good work when bored, to keep my mind alive, but these days it seems that my mind needs to go and look at different places and interesting scenes, or listen to a live performance, instead of reading or writing. I have a perpetual fear of going blank up there one day and not wanting to write or read a single word more.

According to Vitek, "good (and bad) translation is like pornography, we usually know it when we see it." I am not very sure if I find this definition edifying, but it sure is very apt.

..and ve vil bucher yer muder tonge for free... (30 August 2005)

This time in Egypt.
The dorks send ME, their competition, the advertisment by email. I am changing their identity out of sheer pity. I also highlighted linguistic issues of, hmmm, interest...
Dear Customer,

NOBRAINTRANSLATORS have the pleasure to inform our customers of such good news.
Effective as of September 1st, 2005, all translation orders received for six week will be billed as follows:

~ New rate: 0.06 $/source word ~
NB: A good discount well be given for large volume (20% discount > 25,000 words, 40% discount > 50,000 words)
Our Language pairs is preferred to be English, Arabic , French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Chinese
We are very pleased to be able to pass this savings directly on to you.
Looking forward to hearing from you


COO?? Corrupter Of Orthography?

The Naked Interview (05 May 2005)

Hmmm.. we heard here in Oz about the "Naked Chef". Sorry to disappoint you - it's not the chef that's naked, it's the food. I know there is a music publishing company called "Naked Music". There is also Bill Burroughs' book "The Naked Lunch" which I don't consider literature, but that's me. I think people with mental problems need help, not publishers and acclaiming critics. And now, tra ta ta ta.. we have the Naked Interpreter doing a Naked Interview!!!!
This from yesterday's edition of the Scottish Evening Times:
A TRANSLATION executive faces jail after trying to conduct an interview with a woman while he was naked.
Saeed Akbar, 35, stunned the 25-year-old job applicant when he asked if she objected to having the meeting nude. He then left his office to return naked and holding a clipboard.
Police later arrested the £25,000-a-year interpreter.
Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that on September 28 last year, the woman replied to an ad by Aplha Translating and Interpreting Services.She had been "distressed" at the interview tactics and reported him to police.
Akbar, of Dunfermline, said: "I wanted a bit of excitement that afternoon." He pleaded guilty to breach of the peace. Sentence was deferred until next month and he was placed on the Sex Offenders register.
What did this guy have in mind? Well, according to BBC news that day, he initially told police his strip was a consensual "role play" as part of his "tough interviewing technique". Consensual it was not, because the woman fled.
I sent this company my CV on one of those mass-mailing days. Never heard from them since, so maybe Mr Akber had a look at my professional photo and discovered I have a propensity for turtle-neck sweaters that are notoriously difficult to remove if you want to have a quickie behind the public loo blocks ala George Michael.
I have read this aloud while my headdresser was working on Dan's curls, and she - after keeling over laughing - told me that Foxtel now has "naked news" where presenters strip themselves why reading various items. Is Foxtel programming so bad that they need naked reporters? How about transparent reporting instead?

Eh ya dunya (what a world!) as we would say ...

Courted by an idiot (31 May 2005)

I got a strange email from C*, a guy from Hong Kong according to the address adorning his email. I am quoting his message verbatim because I don't think I could write it better than him. Please remember, he owns a translation agency:
Dear Ms. Sam, *****
I have seen your resume posted in Pro. Firstly, you are well-qualified candidates such as me. Especially, you have an advanced course. When we have some job during busyness, will you consider helping me for the freelance job in the future, pleasing advice? If you consent long term freelance corporate with our company. Please provide 1. Your payment method for done every task. 2. Msn (email account), more convenience for our conversation. 3. Your pricing per source per word I expect you will reply me and let me know you can afford the task or reject. Don't delay submission every task.
Also, check your email every time in available for emergency job abnormality. Every jobs return word format in necessary Further, every task will write down the job free and deadline. Please treat this as a long term freelance as many of our clients will require translation for their projects throughout the year.
Yours sincerely,
I am particularly touched by that coma between my name and surname. Then again, isn't it a blessing to be a "well-qualified" candidate. And of course I do busyness and will be "pleasing advice" - all my busyness is pleasing and advancing, bloody hell.
I did a bit of research on Mr. C*. The website looks professional enough, but in cyberspace no one knows I am a dog. Some more digging turned up a number of unhappy translators who weren't paid by Mr. C* and who swore they'll never work for the guy again. So I politely replied that I seldom worked with unknown entities and suggested he may want to write his emails in Chinese and have someone translate them into proper English since I had difficulty understanding his email. I hoped that would be the end of Mr. C*. I was not prepared for what happened next:
Dear Ms. Sam, ******
Thank you for your prompt response.

My Msn account is handsome_chris****

I will send you have any translation job of ( English <> Arabic) immediately

I have interested to have opportunity collaboration with you.

Handsome Chris my ass, mate! Are you a dating agency by any means. The colours, by the way, are his. So is the use of multiple fonts. Tacky to nth degree. But that was just the tip of the idiotism.

Sensing that I was less than happy about his presentation, Mr. Handsome Dork proceeded to send me his business profile. Please get your incontinence pads ready - you will need them:

We are *** Translation Service Company, an international provider of translation service and technology solutions, with back offices in English.

Few lines later:

We are Business process outsourcing company, based in the United Kingdom, with our back offices in Europea and Japan.

Where is Europea? Near Australea??

Soon after:
We provide Translation Services in European and Asian languages, through our centres in Holland and India.

And a paragraph later:
We provide Translation from and into many European Languages and most Asian languages, through our centers located in Hong Kong and Mainland.
Ehm, where is Wally?
We would like to specially emphasize that we are an agency whose business mission is to position ourselves between Enterprises like yours and the numerous independent translators. Instead of dealing with various independent translators, you have the advantage of dealing with a single agency like OURS; we have a panel of translators on our rolls. And our pricing is similar to that of the independent translators, so that you find us cost effective, since we work mainly on large volumes
You are telling me that you get work off big businesses, then underpay your translators for doing the job. By the Prophet Lot, the only translator rolls you have are made from paper and used for you know what.... And I bet, judging by your email, that you do machine translations on Babelfish and send them off to your clients as the original work of Samuel Beckett and Thomas Mann!!
For manuals and other demanding literature CTSC only uses specialists who have hands
Oh my God.. for the rest of materials you use amputees who type out with their feet???
The ready translation is always proofread, edited and then refined by a native-speaking stylist. In this way, we can provide you with an adequate and literate translation.

Glad to know his translations can adequately decipher writing – do they come in “audio book” formats? The native-speaking stylist, I assume, is a hairdresser?
The scary thing is that Mr. Handsome Chris signs himself as Bs. Law. A Law Unto Himself, probably.
Audacity knows no limits in this world of ours. He got a reply from me that shut him up for now - if he can read my Queen's English, of course.
I retract every word I said. He wrote to me again. I am quoting verbatim, it's just too good to let go into the Delete Bin without sharing:
Dear Ms. Sam, *****

Thanks for your enquiry again. Apart from time constraint. Here're my answers:

Firstly, Our Company established in Hong Kong since 1992, but we have developed a branch in French to operation in 2000

Secondary, I'm a lawyer, my English ability to communication with freelance absolutely. When I have taken mistake, up to the time hereof, I have not revised the in grammatical, that causing the proofread fellow in attention. I admit.

Thirty. Apropos of the liberty to post a remark on our agency at the proz.
Up to the events hereof, their have not revised the in grammatical and meaning unacceptable Translation. Clearly, their have been, and still are, not ready or able to perform his obligations under the contract with My client is surprised that their (two translators) has to do it almost over again and apparently very disappointed with me. Additionally, I have spent quite a bit of time in polishing your translation, and I amended all the files according to my client's request, thus it took me twice of my usual time in handling a project. I can't settle the bill for this job ascribed to the captioned reasons.

Fourthly, we have concerted from our client to post and reveal into website.

Finally. However this fact would not be a big problem for us to operate in the market.
As I mentioned in the MSN communicating, if you wants to get a response in correct English from our office or from me directly,

No comments.

How Many Government Agencies Does It Take To Teach Soldiers Arabic? (12 April 2005)

A pathetic case of Pentagon incompetence.By Fred KaplanUpdated Wednesday, April 6, 2005, at 3:47 PM PT
I've just read one of the funniest and saddest government documents I've run across in years. Published by the Pentagon (the source of most such things) under the title "Defense Language Transformation Roadmap," it details the official plan for improving foreign-language skills among U.S. military personnel. The plan is meant to fill an urgent need. It was ordered by the deputy secretary of defense, administered by the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and coordinated with the service secretaries, combat commanders, and Joint Chiefs of Staff. And to read it is to see, with your own increasingly widening eyes, the Pentagon's (or is it the federal government's?) sheer inability to get anything done on time.
The document—only 19 pages, so take a look—traces, all too clearly, the project's shameful chronology. It got under way in November 2002—over a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks—when the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness was directed to have the military departments review their requirements for language professionals (interpreters, translators, area specialists, and so forth). This review was a bust—or, in the document's more delicate language, it "resulted in narrowly scoped requirements based on current manning authorizations instead of … projected needs."
So, in August 2003—in other words, after another nine months—the undersecretary tried again, directing a formal review of the Defense Language Institute Foreign-Language Center. The resulting study "articulated the needs for qualitative improvement in language skills." What a surprise!
In September 2003—two years after the 9/11 attacks that made officials realize they didn't know enough about the rest of the world—the deputy undersecretary of defense for plans commissioned a study "assessing language needs."
For the first seven months of 2004, the deputy undersecretary assembled a "Defense Language Transformation Team," consisting of representatives from the services, the National Security Agency, and the Special Operations Command. ("Transformation" is widely known to be Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's chief obsession, so officials know that stamping the word on a document or program is the best way to grab attention.)
On May 10, 2004, the deputy secretary of defense ordered the military services, the JCS, the combat commands, the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to appoint "Senior Language Authorities," who will "assess language needs, track language assets, identify emerging policy requirements," and form a "Defense Foreign Language Steering Committee."
From June through August, 2004, the steering committee oversaw the development—and on Aug. 31, approved—the "Roadmap," and submitted it to the undersecretary of defense.
So, by the end of last summer, it had taken 21 months simply to draw up a 19-page plan.
It gets worse.
The plan lays out a series of "required actions" to improve language skills and incorporate expertise in languages and area studies in the military's programs for recruitment, promotion, and training. But look at the plan's dawdling deadlines.
For instance: "Publish a DoD Instruction providing guidance for language program management." The deadline: July 2005. That's 11 months—not to come up with a program, but to issue guidance for managing the program.
Or: "Develop a language readiness index" to "measure capabilities and identify gaps." Deadline: September 2005.
"Conduct a … screening of all military and civilian personnel for language skills," in order to establish a database. Deadline: December 2005.
"Ensure doctrine, policies, and planning-guidance reflect the need for language requirements in operational, contingency, and stabilization planning." Deadline: March 2006.
"To increase the pool of potential language personnel … ensure the automated Defense Language Aptitude Battery is available at appropriate locations … including recruiters, military entrance processing stations, ROTC staff, and Service Academy staffs, to identify recruits/cadets with language learning potential." Deadline: January 2007.
"Establish 'crash' or 'survival' courses for deploying forces." Deadline: September 2007.
"Develop and sustain a personnel information system that maintains accurate data on all DoD personnel skilled in foreign-language and regional expertise. Work closely to ensure stabilized data entry and management procedures." Deadline: September 2008.
And keep in mind: All of these tasks are simply to set up a management system for improving the military's language skills—not actually to begin improving the skills.
Some of these projects do involve slogging through the system, but is the muck so thick that it takes three years of slogging? As for the goals that are scheduled to be accomplished in the next year or two, it's hard to believe a small group of smart people couldn't get them done in a month or a week or, in some cases, a few hours.
In the three and a half years after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States built a massive arsenal, equipped an equally massive fighting force, and declared victory in a worldwide war over imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.
In the three and a half years after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957, the U.S. government funded dozens—if not hundreds—of Russian-language and Russian-studies departments not just within the military but in high schools and colleges all across America.
Now, three and a half years after Islamic fundamentalists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Department of Defense is three months away from publishing an official "instruction" providing "guidance for language program management."
It's pathetic.
************* end of article ************

Note: Where are the linguists???

Ripping my beloved English (05 August 2005)

I am bemused. John McWorther has just proven to me that I belong to the generation that grew up in the 1920s. He has it in large writ all over the book I just finished reading: Doing Our Own Thing.
Apparently, according to JM, the Yanks have no love for their language, English. On the contrary, they seem to see good English as corny, pro-establishment, and smacking of elitism. In the same vein, they perceive good music (classical being one) and poetry as contrived and unnatural – the natural being “visceral, straight to the gut” type of music exemplified by rap. According to JM’s simile, whereas people up to 1960s ate using knives and forks, the US today “linguistically eats with its face”.
I shudder to think what happens when my generation dies out. I am only seven years older than MJ, and already my English is an anachronism (or an archyopteryx, as MJ calls us) simply on the account that I am very well versed in English grammar, write sentences using clauses (like this one) enjoy reading Edna St. Vincent Millay and Robert Frost (among many other poets), listen to classical music (and much other music as well) and – most importantly of all – DO NOT WRITE LIKE I SPEAK. Although, I have to admit, my English has actually deteriorated ever since I arrived on this Fatal Shore.
But I am an avid, sworn, relentless Anglophile. Somewhere in his book, MJ says that the degradation of English in the 1960s was a result of the people’s loss of trust in the Establishment, the civil rights activism, the incorporation of minority languages and the feeling of guilt by American people over America’s heritage of imperialism.
We were not occupied by the Yanks. Our occupiers were British and please, can someone ask me and many others like me, about what we think before such stupid sentences are splashed in academic books? I left in 1995, and even then my generation and the generation of my father remembered the Brits with nostalgia. We wished they could come back and occupy us AGAIN. Excuse me, we are realists not idiots. But no one ever asks us, the whole notion of “imperial sin” was created by left-wing, white academics with nothing better to do. The Brits gave us roads, bridges, hospitals, schools and a university that for long was the best in sub-saharan Africa. They taught us parliamentary democracy, 5 PM tea, cricket and wearing jackets to dinner. They gave us the gift of English and we cherished it. My people were called by the Brits “Africa’s Englishmen!”
Please don’t look at what is left of my country today – this is the direct result of 20 plus years of being ruled by the kind of idiots who did not benefit an iota from the Brits. And what was the first thing they did when they came into power? They killed English!
My God, folks, we were bilingual (in my father’s and my case even trilingual) at home. “Did you see the papers today, uncle? They were talking of the PM starting talks with the …. pass the salt (in Arabic), and the guy was so straight-faced about the whole episode..gee, can I have some more soup, it is delicious (in Arabic), as if he had never taken bribes … (a line or two of poetry and satire would follow in Arabic)…” MY ENGLISH is what the Yanks are rapping and ripping.
And pray, let me ask: what kind of a nation this is that has no pride in its own language? It sickens me beyond description when I hear an Australian say, “Oh, your life is so interesting. We are all so, oh, boring Anglo-Saxon.” Hey, people, for God’s sake – don’t you read your own history? English, far from being boring, has a history so fascinating, so rich and so ingenious that it now rules the world on the strength of this linguistic genius. Pompous? Well, it deserved to. It was the language on which the sun never set – and it still is, in a different way. From Japan to Hungary, from Sweden to South Africa, imperialism, colonialism and globalization are all forgotten as thousands of children everyday learn – as I did – “This is a man, that is a pan.” They will continue to learn this English despite MJ and Eminem and any other linguistic vandal from the native-speaking country. And when the Yanks have finished killing their language and dissolved as a nation – since you cannot have a nation without a language; when the ensuing Tower of Babel will breed chaos all over the place, Shakespearean English will raise again, like Christ Resurrected, albeit in a slightly different accent.

“But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyez,
Veed'st thy light'z flame vith zelf-zubstantial vuel,
Making a famine vhere abundance lies,Thyself thy foe, to thy sveet self too cruel.”

Once more, the Americans and their woes with Arabic! (21 March 2005 )

In an article by one of US papers, a new solution is being proposed to the problems American troops are having in Iraq while dealing with the Arabic language.
Somewhere in a vast jumble of documents in a Baghdad, I raq, warehouse or in the constant buzz of elect ronic signals in the sky, a few ominous words or phrases may be hidden: "Explosives." "Nerve gas." "Convoy." "Airport ar rival." "The president ."
Ok, I see the writer likes reading thrillers. But lets see what's around the bend.
The words are in Arabic, Farsi, Pashto or some other language that few Americans understand.
No comments. Few Americans can speak correct English, let alone Arabic. What the heck is Pashto? You mean Pushtun?
The messages need to be translated, but there aren’t enough expert linguists to handle the flood. The time for robot translators has arrived, according to a panel of language specialists at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington last month. "The Defense Department doesn’t have enough human translators," said Melissa Holland, an expert at the Army Research Laboratory in Arlington, Va.
Ta da da dah! The Empire Strikes Back! Unfortunately 3-CPO they are not. The guy was, if anything, erudite and diplomatic in a way that the American Administration sadly lacks. They should employ him - I am sure his chrome is rusting somewhere in Hollywood.
Machine translation uses computers to t ranslate messages from one language to another (..) Computer scientists have labored to perfect machine translation since the 1950s with only modest success. But the terrorist at tacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have given the technology a boost . Today’s robot - linguists are far from perfect , but they can give soldiers in the field the gist of a document , a poster or a possible threat scrawled on a wall.
The only scribbling on the war, if they continue carrying on like this, will be "Mene, mene, tekel, parsin". "You have been weighted on the scales and found wanting," linguistically speaking.
Accuracy st ill is less than 50 percent , said Clare Voss, an Army researcher.

OK, lets imagine you have one of those radar-managed rocket launchers, but the radar has only a 50% accuracy. Got my point?

"Oh, oh no, R2, what have I done? We're doomed!" (C3P0 in Star Wars)