Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Translation is the art of moving between two (or more) languages as a linguist to provide an integrated interpretation of the words and to offer readers a clear meaning of the text. People who want to enjoy a work of art (such as a play or novel) understand that a translated document needs to be clearly stated to be understood by the majority of people. And a specific few will have the tools to read between two languages to interpret the text properly and enjoy the work in both languages equally.

The authors of Found in Translation describe examples of how translation services work to develop quality translations and the painstaking effort that goes into translating everything from television shows (such as “The Simpsons” into Finnish) to classic works (such as Buddhist Scriptures) into modern languages. Not all works can be successfully translated. For example, Koran experts believe that the Koran translations from Arabic only give readers a general meaning of the text (it is meant to be read in the original language only – according to believers). The authors show how translated documents changed the world by offering the masses access to everything from holy books (the Bible), to information on how to live their lives (various novels). This gave the people power over their lives and they depended less on rulers or the clergy to interpret the world for them as they began to “read” for themselves documents that had before that time seemed mysterious.

The book includes chapters that highlight translating for the purpose of: peace, human rights preservation, initiating business over borders, religious reasons, developing technology, enjoying translated works for pleasure, and developing new ideas from doors opened through translated works in business contexts. Most readers will be surprised to learn that technical terms are not translatable into every language. This is because people in some countries are illiterate, do not use computers or will require linguists of different countries to create new words to help their fellow countrymen and women understand the new technology. The new generation of learners in developing countries will use these newly created words and will need to develop language around these new words and phrases as they go forward, and their native languages will inevitably change as a result.

I enjoyed the section discussing interpretations and how international troupes such as the Cirque du Soleil need translators for everything from daily emails to nutritional instructions. Performers on special diets who do not speak English still need to communicate with English doctors while on the road. Without these interpreters, the troupe would be in danger and the ultimate safety and security of the performers would be at risk. The Cirque du Soleil performers speak 15 different languages. In a live show, most people have no idea about the sheer amount of work it takes behind the scenes to coordinate each smooth delivery of the performance for the audience. The performers often are unable to directly communicate with each other without interpreters, but have to instinctively trust each other with their lives during live dangerous stunts.

The book is fascinating and anyone interested in languages will find it interesting reading from start to finish.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Newman Communications. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.