A different kind of translation

This topic may seem a little far from the lives of Japanese college students, but it’s a chance to learn a little more about an important part of world history.

Zora Neale Hurston was a famous American author (students: talk to me if you want to learn more about her, or try researching her on your own) and in the early 20th century, she interviewed a man named Cudjo Lewis in order to write a book about him. Why? Because he was the last survivor of the last slave ship that arrived in America. Lewis’ birth name was Oluale Kossula, and he was born in Benin and kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was 19 years old. Hurston spent 3 months interviewing him.

The book was never published in her lifetime (she died in 1960). She wrote most of the book using Kossula’s dialect, and publishers didn’t think the book would sell well. But it has recently been published and I’m excited to read it. It’s also available on audio, and for a book like this, I’ll probably do both.

Here’s an article about this from Vulture. And it includes an excerpt from the book. A translation challenge for you is to see if you can intepret the dialect. It may help to try reading aloud.

Here’s an example:

Original:

“De war commences but we doan know ’bout it when it start. Den somebody tell me de folkses way up in de North make de war so dey free us. I lak hear dat. But we wait and wait, we heard de guns shootee sometime but nobody don’t come tell us we free. So we think maybe dey fight ’bout something else.”

Translation:

The war (the Civil War) started but we didn’t know about it. Then somebody told me that people in the North started the war to free us (the slaves). I was happy to hear that. But we waited and waited, and we heard gunshots sometimes. But nobody came to tell us that we were free. So we though they were probably fighting about something else.”

Advertisements

A healthy vending machine

I bought a book of short stories at a used book store years ago that was organized by length of the story. But it wasn’t by word count; it was by how long it would take you to read the story. So the first section was titled “Waiting in line at the supermarket” and others were “Waiting at a doctor’s office” and “Commuting on the train” and others I don’t remember.

This website is like that: Short Edition

It’s a France-based company, and the website is in English and French.

You can choose 1-minute, 3-minute, or 5-minute stories. For many non-native speakers, though, you might think of them as 5-minute, 10-minute, or 15-minute stories?

There’s also a section of Classics by century where you can find short stories and poems by such authors as Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Shakespeare, O. Henry, and many more.

And according to Mental Floss, they have installed vending machines that dispense short stories. The first one was put in France’s main airport and there are more than a hundred around that country and about 20 in the U.S.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

This is a question one group of students was talking about in class the other day. One said, “Die Hard, of course!” Another said, “The Nightmare BeforeChristmas” A third said she didn’t know any Christmas movies. My favorite Christmas story is “A Christmas Carol” and there are many movie versions.

Here’s a graded (leveled) text from Tween Tribune about why Charles Dickens wrote the story.

“Dickens may not have gotten rich off of the publication of A Christmas Carol, but he did make the world a little richer.”

I couldn’t agree more.

There’s a new movie out this year called The Man Who Invented Christmas, which is about this origin of the story and looks like a lot of fun (unfortunately, no date on when or if it’s coming to theaters in Japan).

Of the many movie versions, I like the one with Albert Finney the best, though the one with Patrick Stewart is good, too, and I always enjoy

There are also other versions, like “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, and the seasonal favorite “It’s a Wonderful Life” is also based on the story.

So have you seen any of these? Have you read the Dickens story? I used to teach at a JHS/HS that would put on this play at Christmas time (it was either that or Les Mis).

First books

Do you remember the first book that had an impact on you? A few that I remember very, very vividly from my childhood, as much for the pictures as the stories. Not suggesting you should buy these, but take a look at the “Look inside”:

Anyway, I thought about this after seeing this video about a non-profit called First Book in a rural part of Iowa, where a “lunch lady” is organizing a book bus to help get books to children during vacations:

Our short winter vacation is coming up soon. What do you plan to read?