The Maniac Collector's Inbox
Fun With Foreign Language
Some of you know I collect foreign translations of the Canon. It is also a known fact that I keep concise bibliographic information on foreign translations and this data comprises The Galactic Sherlock Holmes. During the past dozen years, I have a loosely developed network of people from around the world who are willing to help me decipher information from languages in alphabets of which I am not familiar.
Help is only a few scans away. I can scan pages of any book written in the Cyrillic alphabet and email them to Gayane Grot-Khachatryan. Russian, Ukraine, Moldovian, or Bulgarian, it does not matter, and Gaya translates what I send her and sends me back the information requested. She has been helping be so long, that her information is returned in the exact format that I need to enter it into the GSH database. Fellow Sherlockian Yuichi Hirayama helps with Japanese and Chinese books.
Ever expanding my hunting ground, I have been venturing out into that Un-American realm of attempting another language. I am not learning to speak another language but I am learning to buy books in foreign languages and navigating through foreign websites in that language. My adventures with MercadoLibre had already been documented. I will say that it is both frustrating and satisfying to get through a foreign site and actually be able to receive the books.
Recently, I discovered a wonderful website that fits into my collecting habits. The translation section on iGoogle works marvelously. I have started using this when I am searching for a particular book and the description is in French or Italian. You can either type a few words or phrases, select the language and instant, presto, the translated text appears.
Language selection is sometimes the limiting factor when using an Online translation program. This is not the case with iGoogle. There are forty choices beginning with Albanian and ending with Vietnamese. Maltese and Filipino are listed on the drop-down menu and these are the only two languages that do not have Canonical translations. I do have a pastiche in Maltese.
One of the best features is the speed of which the translations are done. I can now visit websites and have the ease of mind that I know I will not be ordering a book only to be disappointed when it arrives because it turned out to be something totally different. I have a shelf full of "mistakes" I have bought over the years. Now with the help of iGoogle, I won't be adding to this in the future.
Certainly, the use of iGoogle will never replace the invaluable network of real people, speaking real languages. I have yet to see a computer program that can match a human even with some of the horror stories I have regarding certain translations of the Canon. "The Policeman Who Was Not Feeling Very Well" is the title of a Chinese translation I have of "The Dying Detective." I have other examples equally as bazaar. I have experimented in the past using Dictionary.com's translation program. I took a paragraph from the Canon translated from English to French from French to Spanish; and from Spanish to English. The results were startling.
Knowing that translations are limited regardless if they are from a real people or computer programs will help the collector who chooses to travel this path of collecting. They just need to remember that the road signs are harder to read and if they use all of the tools available to them, including iGoogle, their journey will be fulfilling.
Past 2009 Columns