Tuesday, 9 June 2009

"Translators are traitors" (Nabokov)

Been an awfully long time since I bothered posting anything. This is mostly due to the fact that, on some occasions, I'm a boring person. Being an expat, regardless of city, ain't exactly wild times - unless you're one of those annoying students on a year abroad who, in spite of being in a different country, only end up socializing with other annoying international students and guffaw about how wonderful it is to live in Moscow, in spite of the fact that they hardly ever interact with the local population and, in fact, view them as scum (oh wait, covered this subject before, sorry).

In spite of me being boring, it wasn't all slouching on my bed doing nowt. No no no. I'd have much preferred doing that. Just dull nonsense that involved me being sedentary and not making the most of the nice weather. When I did try to make the most of it (on Thursday or Friday of last week, I forget which) I ended up being caught in a tropical downpour.

Turned out a miniature tornado had descended in the North East of the Moscow Region, in a place called Сергиев Посад (Sergiyev Posad), which is one of the Golden Ring towns (churches, toy factory, other touristy traps, not really my thing), and caused a massive rain storm across the entire Moscow area. Indeed in Sergiyev Posad itself the wind was so strong that a kiosk was lifted up off the ground and tossed 30 feet across the road. The woman inside was unhurt, though a little shaken. One wonders why she didn't bother getting out of there in the first place. What didn't make the headlines was that other people did in fact die as aresult of the storm, from car accidents or whatever.

To a much lesser extent I bore the brunt of the weather when I was leaving a Korean restaurant near the river. It looked to be a bit drizzly, and being from Ireland it's no real big deal. But then it got worse. Instead of seeking cover like my restaraunteuring friends, I decided to run for it, as I only lived about ten minutes walk away. What followed was the equivalent of jumping into a river. I've never been soaked so much by rain in my life. Needless to say, Sod's law dictated that moments before reaching my door, it stopped the same way a tap turns off. I literally had to wring some of my clothes out before getting into my flat. Bracing.

Other excitment has been language-y stuff. I began co-teaching a class of students on simultaneous interpretation with an acquaintance who is himself a professional teacher. Although I'm used to doing this kind of stuff before (as well as having a degree in languages), being a native speaker of English (especially UK folk) here is just short of being given a license to print money. If you know the right channels e.g. private lessons, and who to go for i.e. oligarch offspring with more money than braincells, then, well, you can clear up big time, and none of this nonsense like tax either. All cash in hand. Unfortunately I don't have the patience or the will to run around half of Moscow teaching people, but being a helping hand at regular lessons suits me grand.

In addition, rather than actually enjoying my days off and attempting to tan my pathetic pasty Irish skin, I've ended up doing more work editing and translating. The money's good, but if I'm not careful it'll drive me to madness. I don't like translating so much, and I am often appalled by other translators who can't do simple things like form sentences, use articles properly or, and this really gets me every time, get people's names right. The Internet, in spite of being a fountain of pornography, is so ludicrously useful for translators that there is simply no excuse nowadays not to be able to figure out English variants of Russian phrases or vice versa, or the name of the Czech Minister of Transport, or the exact title of some weird institute in Mongolia. Google and Wikipedia alone (disregarding the user-generated content snub) are two incredibly powerful tools for linguists. Throw Lingvo and Multitran into the mix (at least for Russian) and that's it - nothing else needed. Even Google has its own translation feature, which works wonders as well, especially if the material you're working on is already a collage of stuff taken from the net.

Nonetheless, all the translating tools in the world won't help you get your head around overly chirpy biz-speak on the railway infrastructure in Europe, which are usually things like "The two parties congregated to discuss forming an agreement on organizing a joint venture over the planned proposal that was considered in a development meeting last week." Or in other words: "They're gonna work together."

Right now it's пух season (Pookh like 'Loch') which are, umm... poplar seeds I think, but fluffy. It's like a fluffy snowstorm, and is absolute murder for allergy folk and it gets everywhere. Not to be confused with the word пук (Pook) which means fart. Someone who is a farter is a пердунь (Pear-doone).

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