How the Babelian tragedy could have been averted

By employing teachers competent in the Original Dialect, and iron-fisted policemen of the Imperial Will, of course. The conservative subversive Ignacio Ruiz Quintano recounts that when Congress decided in around 1936 that schoolchildren should become fluent in French, Wenceslao Fernández Flórez (of whom I’ve only read El bosque animado) commented that since none of the teachers spoke French they would be forced to make the terrible effort of inventing a language, which none of the children would remember exactly anyway, leading to further deformation. The new-born dialects would inevitably acquire flags, anthems and tax-raising powers, and the empire would duly collapse sometime after lunch on Thursday July 21st 2011, to no great surprise in Rome and Britannia.

Josep Pla liked his farm and told Enrique Badosa that didn’t care for provincial-tongued writers (a minority in their own community) learning and using world languages:

Que todo el mundo escriba con la lengua que Dios le ha dado -que ya es bastante difícil, arduo, escribir-. Si lo que dice tiene alguna importancia no será desaprovechado por cierto. Si no lo es tanto, se irá todo al cesto de los papeles, que es lo que sucede, en general, con lo que se escribe en las lenguas de gran radio internacional, en las cuales sucede que por la misma facilidad del idioma vendible, no se escribe más que para el cesto de los papeles, como, por ejemplo, lo que se escribe, las toneladas de papel que escriben cada día en los Estados Unidos. El dominio de una lengua es un fenómeno de minorías y, por tanto, es incompatible con el bilingüismo. Mi bilingüismo, senor Badosa, es una tragedia, pero teniendo en cuenta los años que dura, se ha convertido en una manera de pasar el rato como otra cualquiera, ¡pero no para mí, se entiende! (Maria Aurèlia Capmany, Memoria)

Maybe we’ll shortly all have more time to tend our diverse paradisiacal allotments.

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Last updated 21/07/2011

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


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