Saturday, January 07, 2012

Back To School.

When I was working in France many years ago, we were having a dinner party.  One of the French engineers asked me how to translate "Bon Appétit" into English.  My immediate response was "Dig In", which caused a Dutch engineer who had spent a lot of time in the US to burst out laughing.  There was also a 40-something French lady there who was an English teacher.  She took some offense at my translation, but did not offer any alternatives.

The problem here is simple:  Both "Bon Appétit" and "Dig In" convey the instruction to commence eating, while the former is intended to be polite, and the later is an instruction to a group of swine who certainly need no such instruction.  The literal translation of both phrases would mean something even further removed from the subject.  This highlights the problem of translation from one language to another:  It is invariably ambiguous and there really isn't a single correct translation.

My school registration is for distance learning with Western Seminary.  This commences with Biblical Hebrew starting on Monday.  There is already a bit of ambiguity developing as I started pre-studying the Hebrew alphabet.  Do we use the Masoretic pronunciation?  Or the modern Hebrew pronunciation? Using the modern Hebrew would add some utility to this exercise, but the Masoretic would be more true to the ancients and seems to involve more subtle distinctions.   Will I succeed?  It means my after work hours will be quite busy and I may need to reduce time both blogging and reading other bloggers, but we will see.  Then there is my regular book reading which will need to be reduced.  Life is changing.

2 comments:

Delirious said...

I was determined to take Hebrew classes while in college, but never got around to it. I did buy my daughter a book, "Hebrew in 10 minutes a day". lol Maybe I'll take 10 minutes a day and see if I get anywhere with it. :)

Looney said...

It would take me 10 minutes to find the last page I was on!