Sunday, August 20, 2017

In the hospital

When we were in High School, we had to memorize English essays and paragraphs that would be later reproduced in the examination. A little capable student would probably be able to add a couple of sentences in the already memorized content or he or she might be able to rewrite the sentences in their own words but mostly it was already cooked recipes that we were supposed to rewrite in the examination to produce grammatically and spelling-ly correct English. I remember that from year 4 or 5 in the school until year 14 in the college / University we kept on memorizing lengthier and more complex sentence structures under almost the same titles. One of those titles was "a visit to the hospital."

I am suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a mild condition I would say, still I had to visit a Neurologist to get myself diagnosed correctly and to see what could be done medically to prevent the problem in my hands. That means I went to hospital, a private one, in my local city Faisalabad as I am visiting my country for a couple of weeks this year. As I was waiting for the doctor to arrive, I had to wait here and there sit somewhere or stand outside to spend time and to ponder about my English education and essays I memorized to reproduce in dozens of examinations. Naturally "a visit to the hospital" was first title that came to my mind and ironically a few bits and pieces that I remember from those different versions of the same essay, I could still remember the bad condition of the hospitals that we used to describe in our essays: the shortage of sitting places, overcrowded wards and corridors and miserable condition of cleanliness. This private hospital was not that bad like public sector hospitals still it was over crowded.

When you live in a country like Pakistan where the population is more than 200 million people and the services and other facilities scarce or simply not enough to accommodate each and everyone, you find ways to fool the system, to get around or to simply make it easier for yourself to get through and grab the service by the use of money or the reference system (here by reference system I mean asking some acquaintance who is working in the field or in the same industry to call favours from his colleagues, batchmates or seniors / juniors to get a little better or early access to the service). So I was also such a sifarshi (recommended one) who stood nearby waiting for the signal from the officials standing outside to bypass the queue, get himself checked and leave the building as soon as possible, and at the same time thinking about the miserable condition of the hospitals, how it was like that since forever and how nothing was being done to improve it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning German

Fortunately or unfortunately I am in Germany these days. Why? Because I got a scholarship to do my PhD at a German university. Bravo! That was a great achievement. But it also included four months of German language learning. I will not write my PhD dissertation in German, nonetheless it was kind of compulsory to avail the offer from German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). So I spent last four months in a language school here in my university city M√ľnster at a very good German language school Kapito. It was a great experience to learn a foreign language (a little hard at first because I used to be an English language teacher in Pakistan and it was difficult for me to accept myself as a student of a foreign language). For about four months, I and my class fellows did our best to enjoy and have fun in our class and our teachers tried their best to teach us German. So after all these months How do I feel? What is German like? Is it easy to learn? Is it like English? A lot of questions can be asked. Let me try to answer and share my observations about German.

  • At the beginning I wanted to learn German Phonology because I am trained in English Phonology using Phonetic charts and tables. I was wrong, you cannot learn to pronounce the sounds of a new language simply by knowing place and manner of articulation. It needs a lot of practice which I still lack to be frank. But it is good to know that German is a lot more phonetic language as compared to English.
  • I thought German is like English. I tried to understand German grammar w.r.t. English grammar. Resultantly I failed badly. German grammar is awfully more complex as compared to English grammar. The inflection system, the articles and grammatical gender, the case system, pronouns (and their case specific forms) and the word order (a lot more fluent due to rich inflection system) is a nightmare at the start. All of these things are bombarded on the beginner on A1 level, and one has to cope with it, because it is the base. I still only know about half of it by heart.
  • German has a lot of similarity with English and Latin (and other European languages). But these similarities can only be traced in etymology of words and some general grammatical concepts (prepositional phrases for instance as opposed to post positional phrases in my mother tongue Punjabi and Urdu). German gives a lot of importance to Verb at second position in main clause. Conversely verb(s) in a dependent clause are put at the end (in reverse order if an auxiliary is involved as well). Having been trained in English Linguistics, I find it (after 4 months) easy to learn German syntax.
  • German verbs have a lot more forms (inflections) because of more complex pronoun system (distinction in singular/plural and formal you). German does not have a progressive tense (but there are adverbs to fill in the gap). I am not sure how many tenses, but I just know Present, Perfect, Past, Past Perfect and a kind of future tense using verb 'werden'. German modal verbs are more or less like English but they are confusing as well (Subjunctive mode has different verb forms, 'will' in German is 'want to').
  • German loves to make compound nouns with just putting various words together (no dash or indication of sub parts). One has to be familiar with the sub parts (sub words) to pronounce and understand the noun. These nouns can be quite long sometimes.
  • Germans love their language. They encourage foreigners to talk in German and they become very happy when you do that. So I am also trying these days to do the same, as being a linguistics student I know that language cannot be learned without using it properly.
  • Lastly, German is easy if you give it some time, hear FM in German and watch German TV, read German newspapers and websites and try to use it (even if it is wrong). My biggest flaw being a student is I like to listen or read (and write with the help of dictionary) German but does not speak. Perhaps it is because I learnt English the same way i.e. a lot of years without speaking. My teachers also asked me to break the barrier and speak even with mistakes, in simpler words and not to look for sophisticated vocabulary and (after failing to do so) switch to English. I hope to be able to do that in coming days.
So if you want to learn German, it just needs some dedication, motivation and usage to learn a language. You provide these ingredients and just within six months you will see the positive results.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dictionary of Linguistic Terms (English Urdu)

I am a translator. Yes, I am not a 'scholarly' translator. Even being a freelance translator, I feel helpless when there are no resources. Well, for me, resources are dictionaries, terminologies and word banks which help me translate quickly and efficiently. It is very hard to re-invent the wheel every time, when I do not find a standard translation of an English word. I must also admit that I am very lazy and try my best not to open any manual dictionary. So I am left online searching non-standard sources to find an equivalent of a given English term. The situation is not very promising. We need to digitize English Urdu dictionaries and terminology banks. While we are working on that, I have scanned an English Urdu terminology for linguistic terms for myself and the other translators out there. This is a searchable PDF (only for English text) and it can be very useful for someone who is as lazy as I am. A quick search by Ctrl+F will certainly give you a clue of the Urdu word you are looking for.
So after all this bragging, let us go to the link and download the PDF.
Book Name: Dictionary of Linguistic Terms (English to Urdu)
Editor: Professor Amir Ali Khan
Publisher: National Language Authority, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to use Punctuation

These slides are prepared with the help of "The Penguin Guide to Punctuation". They cover following basic topics related to punctuation use in English:
  • Period
  • Question Mark
  • Exclamation Mark
  • Comma
  • Colon
  • Semi Colon
  • Abbreviations
  • Capital Letters
  • Quotation Marks

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How to Paraphrase/ Summarize

Following topics are covered in these slides:
  • What is paraphrasing
  • How to paraphrase
  • What is summary
  • Steps to write a summary
  • Connotative and Denotative Meaning
Reference: Academic writing: A handbook for international students By Bailey S. 2011


Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Write a Paragraph/ Essay

These slides were prepared as a lecture for MA English Literature (Distance Learning), Govt. College University, Faisalabad. The topics included are as follows:
  • The process of writing
  • Pre-writing (Mapping, Listing, Free writing)
  • Paragraph and its structure (Topic sentence, concluding sentence, supporting details, examples and explanation)
  • Types of paragraph: compare and contrast, opinion (argumentative), narrative, descriptive, problem solution
  • Essay and its structure (Thesis statement, introduction, conclusion, body paragraphs)
  • Types of essay: narrative, descriptive, argumentative, comparison contrast, problem solution.
Following books were mainly consulted though some internet sources were also tapped.

  • Academic writing: A handbook for international students By Bailey S. 2011
  • College writing from paragraph to essay  By Dorothy E. Zemach, Lisa A. Rumisek
  • Real Writing with Readings Paragraphs and Essays for College, Work and Everyday Life By Susan Anker

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Metalingual Function in Translation


Metalingual function of language is the ability of language to talk about its own features. Thus talking about phrasal verbs in English will be an instance of metalingual function. Metalingual function of language becomes relevant in translation when a particular word is used in a special sense, deliberately a word play is done or linguistic ambiguity is created.
The translator has to assume that second reader needs more information about that ‘grammatical peculiarity’ as compared to the first reader. So he has to decide whether the target (second) reader is a specialist of some SL knowledge or he does not know anything at all. Such decision will determine how to deal with the particular case, whether it be: (a) transcribed, (b) loan translated, (c) neologised, (d) defined in footnotes, (e) exemplified, (f) interlinearly translated to show the syntax, or (f) functionally translated.
If a word is used in SL in a special sense, the translator has several choices. He can translate the term in its obscure sense as translating ‘libertinage’ to ‘guilty of libertinage’. Or he can chose to use a more expressive term e.g. ‘freethinking in religious matters’. The choice will be dependent on his assessment of reader’s knowledge and interest. Thus he can choose to delete a special sense of a word, if it is of no interest to the reader. Alternative terms for same referent in the text can be deleted. Similarly, if TL synonyms are less frequent as compared to SL one, they can be dropped.
Translation of word play in literary and non-literary texts can be done in two ways. The reader will need all available and possible information in non-literary texts.  Thus as Newmark (2001, p.105) notes, in translating a joke from German to English, the translator adds original German text in brackets. e.g.
‘Mr.  and  Mrs.  X live  in fairly  grand style.  Some  people  think  that  the husband has earned a lot and so has been able to lay by a bit  (sich etwas zuruckgelegt ); others again think that the wife has lain back a bit  (sich etwas zuruckgelegt ) and so has been  able  to  earn  a  lot' (p.106)
As he notes that punning element is retained by reproducing German text to illustrate the rearrangement of ‘precisely same verbal material’. Thus the same punning effect, with slight changes of course, can be created in English. But this is not always possible as neatly as the example shows.
The second method to translate word play is to drop them altogether or replacing them with translator’s own examples. This method ‘substitutes translator’s insights for the authors’. Thus for the above example the translator could create a wholly new joke and replace with another one. Newmark (2001, p.107) notes that the first method is most important and correct one in cases where “words are as important as thought, and ‘dramatic illusion’ is less important”.
Proverbs in non-literary texts can be translated to their known equivalents in TL. Alternatively, the translator can translate the proverb from SL to TL and give its relevance to current text as an explanation; or he can simply absorb the proverb during the translation.
Word play in literary texts (i.e. plays and poems etc.) where ‘dramatic illusion’ is a must can be translated in different ways. Widely used method is that translator captures one of two senses of the word. As Newmark (2001, p.108) exemplifies the translation of Shakespeare’s play Helmet in Germen, where source has three puns and two sets of alliterations, but translator preserves only two puns and one set of alliteration.
If a literary text has double meaning within a lexical unit, firstly the translator tries to reproduce it with a word having same double meaning. At second attempt he will try to use a synonym with same double meaning. At a third attempt, he might decide to distribute two senses of words to two or more lexical units; or he can sacrifice one of two meanings.
While translating imaginative literature ‘loss of meaning comes from metaphorical properties rather than sound effects’. As Newmark is of the view that metaphors are rooted in particular environments. Thus literal and metaphorical meaning, at the same time, are difficult to transfer from SL to TL.
Imaginative literature develops events and people in symbolical character, which is done through more general words that denote them. As Newmark (p.109) describes, “connotation, metonymy, metaphor, word-play merge into each other”. A new ‘separate sense’ is developed for the words which becomes a pun on the primary sense of the word. It is upto the translator to select more general concrete sense or more culturally influenced sense, or combine them both.
Concluding his paper, Newmark (p.109) says that for translating metalanguage, there are alternative solutions. His view is that nothing is untranslatable, only a ‘supplementary gloss’ is often required. Metalanuage is often signalled by expressions like ‘so called’, ‘by definition’, ‘so to speak’ … (p.109). It is usually imaginative literature where force or the meaning may have to be sacrificed, otherwise metalangauge can be handled neatly.