Posts Tagged ‘Russian’

What to read in English?

October 4, 2017
171004books2

Concision against contemporaneity

We are sometimes asked what books (novels) it is worth reading in English by those studying or teaching the language.

We once shared our thoughts on this subject with students in Perm, and on the basis of ten years’ book club experience.  The criteria employed were:

Interest:  you ought to want to read the book for its own sake

Accuracy:  please use the English language precisely and don’t just spread words over the page

Britishness:  rather than American-ness, translations or indeed science fiction.  It should show language in use to describe something recognisably British

Contemporaneity:  and not language and mores of the 19th century

Concision:  it gives you a feeling of achievement to say ‘I have read X [a short book]’ rather than ‘I have read some of Y [a long book’.

We give below the books recommended on that occasion, together with some further comments.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis; Лев, колдунья и платяной шкаф)

Both a children’s fantasy story and a work of Christian apologetics, this book gets a great deal into a very few words.  It is also one of those books that everyone has read as children and so forms part of the general stock of common knowledge and allusions.  The last time I read it, I was struck by how much it was infused by the spirit of English medieval literature–which was Lewis’s academic speciality–commingling the Christian and the pagan-fantastical.

Stump (Niall Griffiths)

Describes the lives of ex-drug-addicts and small-time criminals with wonderful precision and focus.  A rather different world from the one you often meet in novels.  At his best, Griffiths makes you feel what it would be like to live with no skin and no defences.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon) Что случилось с собакой ночью/Марк Хэддон)

The world as seen through the eyes of a boy with…autistic spectrum disorder…or a predilection for mathematics.  Very precise language and also defamiliarisation–he sees and experiences things but doesn’t know what they mean or why they happen, in the same way that a foreigner doesn’t.  You also get some value out of your familiarity with the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Restless (William Boyd)

Describes a relatively unknown aspect of WWII–the struggle to bring the USA in or keep it out.  Again, the language is very clear and the descriptions of what one would do or need to do in various extreme situations very precise.  You can amuse yourself wondering where the heroine’s surname comes from.

Skin Lane (Neil Bartlett)

It is 1967 and Mr F goes every day from his flat in South London to work as a furrier in the city.  Then he begins to dream of a naked young man.  At the end, he has become Mr Freeman and this book is pure literary magic.

Troubles (J. G. Farrell)

I’m not so sure about this one now.  It’s rather long, and there were an awful lot of novels in the 1970s that offered various metaphors for the collapse of British Rule (in Ireland in this case).

Brooklyn (Colm Toibin)

A young woman goes from Ireland to America and back in the early 1950s.  Very economical evocations of ordinary life, together with tactful application of symbolic realism, and he gets the words right!  Then again, the background of drearily prospectless lower middle class life in the back of beyond, alleviated by the prospect of emigration, was all too familiar to me.

The Night Watch (Sarah Waters; Ночной дозор, Сара Уотерс)

Combines hyper-realistic descriptions of women’s lives during and after wartime with reverse chronology and a truly terrifying backstreet abortion, and also ensures you get god value from your knowledge of Shakespeare.  In many ways, an instantiation of what the contemporary English novel is.

 

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How popular is Russian in the UK?

October 2, 2017

171002russnumb

The table above gives the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.  The school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

The table below gives the same data expressed in terms of ranks.

171002russrank

We see that Russian ranks between 5th and 9th, depending on the particular stage we are looking at.

From a slightly different angle,  British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught at any level (including non-examination/extra-curricular) as below:

171002anylevel

Taking account of proportion of the total school population in independent schools, we might estimate that about 7% of children attend schools with some provision for Russian.

We can then ask what the position Russian ought to hold. A British Council report on Languages for the Future dating from 2013 gives as below in  terms of importance for Britain:

britcosum

So Russian may be about as popular as it ought to be.  We will not venture an opinion as to whether the same holds for the popularity of Russia.

Why did I tear myself away from you before it was time?

September 29, 2017

iliad6

So now I’m worrying about the remark in Barbara Graziosi’s edition of Iliad 6 that Mandel’shtam describes the encounter between Hector and Andromache from Andromache’s point of view in the following line:

‘Why did I tear myself away from you before it was time?’ (the translation is by Nina Kossman).

We can perhaps believe that Andromache did the tearing:

ἄλοχος δὲ φίλη οἶκον δὲ βεβήκει
ἐντροπαλιζομένη, θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσα. [Il 6.495-6]

though she was of course just doing what Hector told her to:

ἀλλ᾽ εἰς οἶκον ἰοῦσα τὰ σ᾽ αὐτῆς ἔργα κόμιζε
ἱστόν τ᾽ ἠλακάτην τε, καὶ ἀμφιπόλοισι κέλευε
ἔργον ἐποίχεσθαι: πόλεμος δ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει
πᾶσι, μάλιστα δ᾽ ἐμοί, τοὶ Ἰλίῳ ἐγγεγάασιν.  [Il. 6 490-4]

so who was really doing the tearing is not so clear to us.

But in the Russian original the speaker has to be a man: Зачем преждевременно я от тебя оторвался! and the same holds true in Italian translation:  Perché mi sono separato da te prima che fosse tempo?

It could just be a misprint [Andromache ~ Hector], or more interestingly it’s what Andromache thought Hector should have thought, which would be atypical either for Mandel’shtam or for lyric poetry in general.

Rather than a misprint, the mistake is surely the idea that the poem is about Troy rather than about Mandel’shtam’s own experience. Mikhail Gasparov investigates this point rather systematically and concludes that the speaker cannot be any Greek or Trojan, not even Paris in relation to Oenone.

So perhaps it was a misprint, but the intended meaning was wrong as well…

 

Teaching important languages

September 26, 2017
bricolong

British Council ordering

As we have seen, the British Council report Languages for the Future gives a priority ordering of languages as above.

The question then is how this matches up with what is actually taught.  A further British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught.

stateschoolang

Languages taught in state schools

indscholang

Languages taught in independent schools

We see that there is no particular sign of Arabic becoming widespread, nor even of Chinese doing so(though that is more common). We presume that ‘Arabic’ is Modern Standard Arabic in all cases and that ‘Chinese’ is Mandarin unless otherwise stated.

We can also look at the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.

exam_table

Numbers studying for various examinations

Here, the school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

We can try putting these various activities on a common footing by giving them a weighting based on the amount of time in years they take up (taking account of subsidiary languages/subjects for the Degree column).

weightings

Table of weightings

We would then like to compare the input for various languages with their importance according to the British Council report.  There is no obvious common unit of measurement between these two things, so it seems safest just to compare the rank of the languages according to these two measures. The table below refers.

comparison

Comparison of importance according to British Council with resource input, by ranks

On this crude basis, Arabic (especially), Portuguese and Turkish are under-provided, while Polish (heritage speakers) and the traditionally-taught languages French and German may be relatively over-provided, along with Italian.

But if you were just interested in studying languages and wanted to know which ones would be most profitable, the obvious course would be to do Spanish at school–which seems quite possible these days–and then Spanish & Portuguese at university..

Which foreign languages are most useful?

September 25, 2017

booktranslations_v1

The picture above (from the WEF site) gives one answer in terms of the most influential languages as reflected by book translations.  There seem to be definite nodes at English, French and Russian, then less clear ones at Dutch, German and Chinese.  But it is hard to give an exact interpretation of this figure, or indeed the other ones displayed at the same place.

Otherwise, the Internet reveals a number of attempts at weighting-and-ranking:

BRITISH COUNCIL

A British Council report on Languages for the Future dating from 2013 takes account of 1. current UK export trade 2. the language needs of UK business 3. UK government trade priorities 4. emerging high growth markets 5. diplomatic and security priorities 6. the public’s language interests 7. outward visitor destinations 8. UK government’s International Education Strategy priorities 9. levels of English proficiency in other countries 10. the prevalence of different languages on the internet and their table of English proficiency by country is quite interesting:

engprof

From the point of view of importance to Britain, they give a ranking of:

britcosum

This may well be the answer from the British perspective!

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM

A further study (2016) from the WEF considers languages under the criteria of 1. Geography: The ability to travel 2. Economy: The ability to participate in an economy 3. Communication: The ability to engage in dialogue 4. Knowledge and media: The ability to consume knowledge and media 5. Diplomacy: The ability to engage in international relations and comes up with the following results:

powerlang

LIST 25

List25 gives a list of the world’s 25 most influential languages as of 2014, where the rankings are not just done according to how many people speak the language. Of course this is taken into consideration but so is how many people speak it as a second language, its impact on global commerce and trade, and its lingua franca status around the world.

They have some nice maps, for instance for French:

french

and come up with a ranking of 1. English 2. French 3. Spanish 4. Arabic 5. Mandarin 6. Russian 7. Portuguese 8. German 9. Japanese 10. Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) 11.  Malay…

CBI

Meanwhile, the CBI Skills Survey for 2017 gives the following:

skillsurvey

So, English is clearly the most important/useful/influential language of all times and peoples, and we will set it aside in what follows.

Using the British Council rankings as a starting point, we can summarise the results as below, where languages outside the British Council list are ranked by number of occurrences and then average ranking where listed:

britco1

Or we can apply the same procedure for all of the languages that occur more than once without privileging the British Council rankings, so that we rank first by number of occurrences and then average ranking where listed:

britco2

So, the world’s second most important language might be French, Spanish or Mandarin.  In fact, the top 5 for the British Council and the combined ranking have the same laguages, if not quite in the same order:  French, Spanish and German (the languages most widely taught in British schools) together with Mandarin and Arabic (rarer and more challenging, one might say).

What did they do with the free coal?

April 16, 2017
kopeisk

Irrelevant picture of a mine at Kopeisk, from humus.livejournal.com

On SEELANGS, Robert Chandler asks about the following passage (from За правое дело, and apparently referring to life in a miners’ settlement in 1942):

И человек, понимающий рабочую жизнь, знает, как важны эти пустые с виду просьбы: дать записку в детсад, чтобы приняли ребёнка, перевести из холостого общежития в семейное, разрешить пользоваться кипятком в котельной, помочь старухе матери перебраться из деревни в рабочий посёлок, открепить от одного магазина и прикрепить к другому, который поближе от квартиры, разрешить не работать день, с тем чтобы отвезти жену в город на операцию, приказать коменданту дать угольный сарайчик. Кажутся эти просьбы действительно мелкими и нудными, а от них ведь зависит и здоровье, и спокойствие души, а значит, и производительность труда.

The original question was about the угольный сарайчик, which was easily enough identified as a coal shed rather than a corner shack, on the basis that the miners got an allowance of free coal.  Then the question arises as to what they would have done with the free coal if they lived in a barracks.

I think the possible answers are:

1) the list of cases does not refer to the same person who needs to move to married quarters, take his wife to the hospital, be registered at another shop and so on.  Some of the miners will have had the kind of accommodation where they could burn coal in their own stove and will have needed somewhere to store the coal;

2) while selling the coal  privately in the Soviet Union on 1942 might not have been wise, it does get cold in Russia in the winter and it would probably have been possible to exchange it for something;

3) nobody was interested in whether you had a use for your coal–you were issued it, and then it was up to you to deal with it.

‘Somewhere life is simple…’ (Anna Akhmatova)

April 13, 2017

Somewhere life is simple, the light does fall
Transparent, warm and cheering…
There a neighbour talks over the wall
At evening with a girl, only the bees are hearing
The tenderest talk of all.

Then we live grandly and with difficulty
And we see bitter meetings are rightly done
When the foolhardy wind abruptly
Breaks off utterance just begun.

But we will not exchange for anything the splendid
Granite city of glory and of doom
Ice resplendent on rivers’ wide room
Sunless gardens filled with gloom
And the Muse’s voice, scarce apprehended.

granitnyj_gorod

Picture from www.liveinternet.ru/users/romanovskaya_galina/

Ведь где-то есть простая жизнь и свет,
Прозрачный, тёплый и весёлый…
Там с девушкой через забор сосед
Под вечер говорит, и слышат только пчёлы
Нежнейшую из всех бесед.

А мы живём торжественно и трудно
И чтим обряды наших горьких встречь,
Когда с налёту ветер безрассудный
Чуть начатую обрывает речь, –

Но ни на что не променяем пышный
Гранитный город славы и беды,
Широких рек сияющие льды,
Бессолнечные, мрачные сады
И голос музы еле слышный.

А.Ахматова.

Translate at City: 26-30 June 2017

April 9, 2017

Robert Chandler (Russian) writes:

This is a truly excellent summer school. I greatly admire ALL the other tutors, and the general atmosphere is always enthusiastic, intelligent and constructive. We are later than usual this year in advertising it, so I will be very grateful if you can forward the information to anyone who might be interested. This year we are running courses in translating from 11 different languages.
See details here.

Morphine, Etcetera Theatre 7 February

February 8, 2017

**

morphine

Picture from Anna Denshina’s Twitter feed

So let’s think–what problems might there be with staging Bulgakov’s ‘Morphine’, about a country doctor who falls victim to…err…morphine? Well, putting a non-dramatic work on the stage is always problematic–if the author had wanted to write a play he’d have done things differently. And especially in a case like the present, where the original text is in the first person and reflects the hero’s diseased apprehension of reality more than actual happenings between people. The latter is where you need to have things in a play. Here we also have some more objective narration from ‘Notes of a young doctor’ brought in to set the scene as well.

That said, the show combined the Russian tradition of having music in lots of places where you don’t want it with the English one of having characters shuffle on, deliver their lines through a mask of embarrassment, and then shuffle of again. The cast members showed various levels of comfort with appearing on stage and the Russian language…that said, I thought that Anna Danshina put in a good and affecting performance as the love interest called Anna.

There were also sutitling issues–the surtitles contained a lot of text at one go and tended to catch up after the event.  But I suspect the proportion of the audience who neither knew Russian nor the storyline of ‘Morphine’ was rather small…

Агенства по трудоустойству, работающие в Лондоне, и другие информации

November 2, 2016

Агенства общего профиля

Jobs in London | London Jobs & Vacancies – reed.co.uk

http://www.adecco.co.uk/

http://www.londonjobs.co.uk/

Агенства, прделагающие места для носителей иностранных языков

https://www.french-selection.co.uk/vacancies.php

http://www.toplanguagejobs.co.uk/multilingual-jobs

http://www.multilingualvacancies.com/

…русского языка

http://www.privilegecareers.com/

http://redsquareinternational.co.uk/

Сайти, соединяющие предложения разных агенств

http://company.monster.co.uk/?intcid=swoop_TopNav_Company_Profiles

https://www.adzuna.co.uk/

http://www.indeed.co.uk/