radio show on opera translation

I'm going to be a guest on Chloe Veltman's radio show Voicebox at 10pm PST on April 15th. You can listen to the show on the NPR station 91.7 KALW in the Bay Area, listen live on or download the podcast. Here's the spiel:

As Good as the Original: On translating operas into English
The art of opera translation is subtle yet crucial. Get it right, and the audience feels like they’re experiencing the work with as much richness as the original; get it wrong, and risk losing your audience entirely. Mairi McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of French and Linguistics at UC Berkeley and Donald Pippin, Director and Founder of San Francisco’s Pocket Opera, join VoiceBox host Chloe Veltman for a discussion about what makes English translations of operas written in languages like Italian and French work – and what doesn’t. 


French linguistics conferences - September 2011

I'm delighted at the double-bill SIDF and AFLS conferences this September in Nancy, France. Hope to see you there! The CFP deadlines are both in early March.



Language contact in outer space

My father introduced me to this poem, and it just came up again for a project I'm working on. I love the fascination around technology and communication, and the brilliant representation of language contact in the exploration of space. Thanks for this, Edwin Morgan.

The First Men on Mercury

–   We come in peace from the third planet. 
Would you take us to your leader?


Bawr stretter! Bawr. Bawr. Stretterhawl?

–   This is a little plastic model
of the solar system, with working parts.
 You are here and we are there and we 
are now here with you, is this clear?

–   Gawl horrop. Bawr Abawrhannahanna!

–   Where we come from is blue and white
 with brown, you see we call the brown
 here 'land', the blue is 'sea', and the white
 is 'clouds' over land and sea, we live 
on the surface of the brown land, 
all round is sea and clouds. We are 'men'.
 Men come

–   Glawp men! Gawrbenner menko. Menhawl?

–   Men come in peace from the third planet 
which we call 'earth'. We are earthmen. 
Take us earthmen to your leader.

–   Thmen? Thmen? Bawr. Bawrhossop. 
Yuleeda tan hanna. Harrabost yuleeda.

–   I am the yuleeda. You see my hands,
we carry no benner, we come in peace.
 The spaceways are all stretterhawn.

–   Glawn peacemen all horrabhanna tantko! 
Tan come at'mstrossop. Glawp yuleeda!

–   Atoms are peacegawl in our harraban.
 Menbat worrabost from tan hannahanna.

–   You men we know bawrhossoptant. Bawr. 
We know yuleeda. Go strawg backspetter quick.

–   We cantantabawr, tantingko backspetter now!

–   Banghapper now! Yes, third planet back. 
Yuleeda will go back blue, white, brown 
nowhanna! There is no more talk.

–   Gawl han fasthapper?

–   No. You must go back to your planet.
 Go back in peace, take what you have gained 
but quickly.

–   Stretterworra gawl, gawl…

–   Of course, but nothing is ever the same,
now is it? You'll remember Mercury.



dialect on twitter

If you haven't yet read this, then it's worth it.

One quibble - do people still say hella in SF? I've not heard that in a while... 


more on viral videos....and translation studies

I am totally over viral videos and what I like to call 'viral news stories' (did anyone go any further than reading the headline about inflation and fellatio being confused?) but I can't seem to get them out of my head. Perhaps a sign of their success?

Either way, I've been reading about the history of translation studies today and it struck me that the notion of meme could be useful in our description of all things 'viral'. Memes, like genes, propagate from person to person, they can be thought of as the units of cultrual transmission. A recent example is the breast cancer awareness phrase, 'I like it on the...',  that is currently doing the rounds. This might work too for viral videos. The video itself could be the meme, or it could introduce another meme. This kind of cultural transmission - the circulation of memes - is not new. Not in any way new. All you that is different about viral memes is the increased speed coupled with increased saturation.

By coincidence, someone I was talking to this afternoon used the notion of 'meme' just after I finished reading a commentary on Andrew Chesterman's (1997) book Memes of Translation. The Spread of Ideas in Translation Theory. There must be something 'memetic' in the air...