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(Image Credit: Claude Monet)

How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That's the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that's way deeper than language. This episode, 8 stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap.


Special thanks for the music of Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra

100 Flowers

Years ago, Douglas Hofstadter read a poem. Just a few short lines, nothing special. But he's been translating it ever since.

Comments [30]


How a brave Ethiopian reporter put himself at risk to ask a very serious question that was seriously misunderstood.

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Words Will Never Hurt Me

Euphemisms may water down language but do they hurt us? George Carlin thought so. Adam Gopnik isn't so sure.

Comments [11]

Seeing In Tongues

Though Emilie Gossiaux was permanently blinded in a terrible accident, she has recently been able to see again — in a very different way.

Comments [31]

Eagle Eyes

Neuroscientist David Eagleman is building a vest to help deaf people hear, and it may be a whole new way of experiencing our world.

Comments [2]

Interpreting The Front Lines

Nataly Kelly worked for a translation company that dropped her right in the middle of the most dramatic moment of a total stranger’s life.

Comments [3]

Deaf Comedy Jam

Working as a sign language interpreter at a huge comedy festival, Kymme Van Cleef found herself with all eyes on her and a choice to make.

Comments [7]

Creation Translation

We all know DNA is the Book of Life, the recipe to make you you. But what if the story of us is really DNA's sidekick?

Comments [12]

Comments [90]

Heather from Greenville

Kim did her job ethically. RID Certified ASL Interpreters are held to an ethical code of conduct. In making information dynamically accessible, the consumers are informed and can then empower themselves to decide as independent agents how they will respond. Kim serves both cultures and both people. Kim is not a language cleanser. It’s Jeff Ross. Many people can’t tolerate his humor.

Congrats Kim for addressing register and the dynamic ability interpreters have to ensure everyone can make informed choices based upon accessible information.

Feb. 12 2018 10:50 AM
Jenny from Melbourne

Hi there,

Has there been a transcript written of this episode?
I'd like to share it with my sign language class.

many thanks

May. 30 2015 10:17 PM
Emily from Pennsylvania

The beautiful piano music around 13 min is Erik Satie. Gymnopédie 3ème; lent et grave; Erik Satie 1888

Apr. 14 2015 02:21 PM
Alice H. Nash

This was an interesting podcast. Its amazing how complex language is and how even more complex our brains are for being able to comprehend it.

Apr. 06 2015 09:02 PM
Milo C Rousseau from Florida

Translation is a really interesting concept to do an episode on. I never really thought about how certain meanings are lost or preserved depending on the translation. I loved how they connected the theme to the more biological stuff, because in the end, it's just another form of translation. These sort of multiple story episodes are some of the best.

Apr. 06 2015 08:05 PM
Marcelo from UK from United Kingdom

What is the name of the piano solo taht starts at 71.28?

Mar. 26 2015 01:03 PM
James from Berlin

I loved the conversation about the electric lollipop and the 6th sense vest. As someone who has been close with an adult adopting to a cochlear implant - which if you're interested is a very similar thing - I can attest to the brain's ability to make sense of different types of information.

Does anyone have a link to anything on this vest?

Mar. 26 2015 09:08 AM
Tera from Providence, RI

i would argue the lightness & tone are reminiscent of Dr. Suess

Mar. 09 2015 03:15 PM
Mark from London

I loved the Jazzy piano 'Old Macdonald' interlude at around 13 minutes - it was in Spanish(?) or Portuguese (?) — who was it can anyone help me track it down?

Thanks, Keep up the great work NPR!

Mar. 08 2015 07:50 AM
Jan from Slovenia

Does the Ribozon have a dna?

Mar. 07 2015 06:09 AM
Catniss J. Moore

Loved the song translations! This podcast was pretty fascinating and funny at the same. Translating is so interesting and fascinating to me. It's amazing how many words and languages and phrases there are to translate!

Feb. 07 2015 11:24 AM
Becky S. Gatsby from Florida

Wow I found this podcast very interesting. As a person who is very fascinated by linguistics and the foundation of languages, "Translation" was something that made me want to look more into the field. It's a pity how much is lost while translating but if the right person puts in the right amount of effort who knows what can be discovered about the history of our world.

Jan. 26 2015 07:46 PM

I wonder how many folks would have realized the Chopin/Satie error if they had picked something a little less incredibly awesome.

Jan. 24 2015 07:41 PM
Becky K. Woolf from florida

Althought I didnt understand some of the references said, I do agree with the thing I could understand. Languages are hard to translate and understand. So much gets lost in the interpretation and its so unfortunate. I wish more people dedicated their time into understanding whats being said. I'm a firm believer in "it's nt what you say, it's how you say it."

Jan. 20 2015 12:11 AM
Denise from Los Angeles

In response to the translated songs: The Beatles "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" translated into Latin:

Cur non in via ea faceimus
Cur non in via ea faceimus
Cur non in via ea faceimus
Cur non in via ea faceimus

Nemo nobis spectabit
Cur non in via ea faceimus

Note: Latin verb Faceo = To Do

Jan. 18 2015 08:21 PM
Ben from Indiana

I'm glad there was an episode about translation, and there is some great info. here. However, it would have been nice if they had actually acknowledged or drawn from contemporary Translation Studies, and actual field. Hofstadters Godel, Escher, Bach is a brilliant book with a very thought provoking chapter on translation, but in his essay that accompanies his translation of The Mad Ache, fantastically subverting the old adage with its title "Translator Trader," is a little bit old school. They almost touched on some topics of translation studies inspired by postmodern philosophy (especially Derrida following Nietzsche,and, perhaps, the writer Borges who predated much of the talk about translation that transformed the discourse in the 20th century. They almost touched on the idea of the problematic idea of a stable original, of author's intentions and everything else that has fed our cliches of translation for 2000+ years. This touches on another problem of Radiolab (a show I love) when they often ignore certain ideas that don't come from science. Nietzsche said long ago what they "validated" in the show about memory, but no mention of him. Derrida said very similar things to the conclusions they came to with scientists in the show about language (especially the part about sign language in Nicaragua). How can you do a show about Dreams without mentioning Freud. Just some thoughts I've had over the year, and I let them out since, it is strange that there was no mention of ideas or theorists who work in translation studies, one of the faster growing fields in academia, and only have the point of view of a cognitive scientists (who I respect greatly). Postcolonial translation, translation and empire, gender studies and translation, philosophy and translation.... just found some things lacking. I still enjoyed the episode.

Jan. 17 2015 06:08 PM
Axel from San Francisco, CA, USA

What an excellent show. Thank you for all the hard work (and fun) you put into it.

Jan. 17 2015 05:11 PM

I want to echo the comments about talking about Chopin while playing Satie. Please pay attention to things like this, it's a form of disinformation. There are lots of listeners who know the difference between the music of Chopin and Satie and it just makes you sound foolish.

Jan. 17 2015 04:24 PM
ariella mostkoff from miami beach

Really loved the concept for the songs. It reminded me of another song mis-translation.
A band called "the books" did something similar with a popular folk song (i won't reveal which song).. They translated the song lyrics into a different languages on a free translation website, and used the translated results as the base for the next translation. After a couple of languages, they translated it back into english.. and the result is a song called "free translator."
Listen here:

its totally rad

Jan. 16 2015 12:34 AM
Kim from the moon

Just wanted to mention that the Australian comedian Adam Hills has been working with sign language interpreters in his comedy shows for years, in a similar raunchy way to the one on the episode, but with the consent of the interpreter which makes it much more fun.

Also seconding the call for transcripts :)

But besides all of that, this was a fascinating episode - thankyou for Radiolab for making it.

Dec. 19 2014 12:12 AM
Bob from Silver Springs, MD

the translation guest would do a great Christopher Walken...

Dec. 11 2014 09:05 AM
Magdalena from Germany

I'm with Luis from London – lovely episode, but the homophobic slurs at the end? Not cool at all, kind of ruined the whole thing. Would have thought that in an episode about translations paying extra attention to what the non-English content means ("...arbeite bei dem Seilbahn..."?) would be a no-brainer.

Dec. 03 2014 08:36 AM
katie from Canada

How can I access the accessibility transcript for RadioLab? Specifically to this episode? I'm assuming since this content is related to translation / (dis)ability you would include transcription so to make the content accessible.

please advise ! many thanks!

Nov. 29 2014 01:55 PM

Echoing Jen from Atlanta, DJ from Chicago, Robyn from Tokyo - "Interpreting" and "Translation" are two very different roles and are not interchangable terms. In a podcast focused on representing an accurate story, I would have hoped that someone would have paid closer attention to this. By not using them correctly, you're also conributing to the greater population's lack of awareness of these roles. I loved the episode, but as someone heavily involved in this industry, I bristled every time the terms were used wrong.

Nov. 26 2014 07:43 PM
Kate from Oxford, UK

Dear Jad and Robert,

Really enjoyed this podcast, but it did get my pedant hackles up at one point: why play Satie when you're talking about Chopin? Unless I've got that totally wrong...It's one of the Gymnopedies that you're playing at the end of the first story. I would have played the Nocturne in Bb, which is insatiably beautiful and moves through about three different moods in two minutes, but they're all part of the same story - much like what you pointed out with Chopin's expressions surrounding the one surviving photograph of him.



Nov. 24 2014 07:57 PM
Kate from Oxford, UK

Dear Jad and Robert,

Really enjoyed this podcast, but it did get my pedant hackles up: why play Satie when you're talking about Chopin? Unless I've got that totally wrong...It's one of the Gymnopedies. I would have played the Nocturne in Bb, which is insatiably beautiful and moves through about three different moods in two minutes, but they're all part of the same story - much like what you pointed out with Chopin's expressions surrounding the one surviving photograph of him.



Nov. 24 2014 06:59 PM

A very interesting and inspiring episode. Will definitely listen multiple times! Thank you for the wonderful production!

Nov. 18 2014 08:02 PM
Becky S. Gatsby from Hogwarts

This podcast was very interesting. These are things you never really think about but they exist. So much can be lost while translating from one language to another. What I find really intriguing is how one thing in English can be totally misinterpreted in French. I did not, however, agree with the insults. An insult is an insult due to what is being said not the language it is being said in.

Nov. 10 2014 08:34 PM
Sherlock T. Dickinson

Language is so complex. The whole thing on translation of the poem at the beginning was so incredible. Most people don't think of translation as interpretation. Not every word is the same. That's the whole thing of separate languages, is that they are all spread out, explaining things in their own way. So when you want to go from one language to another, can you really just translate, or must you interpret the underlying message of what is being said?

Nov. 10 2014 04:44 PM
Teck Pui from Singapore

Hahaha I did a double take on hearing two hokkien swears at the end of the program... two!!!
Ooo... those are really vulgar :P refreshing radio indeed.
Really enjoy your shows.

Nov. 08 2014 10:41 AM
Luis from London

Loved the episode and absolutely agree you should do a full one about RNA. The very last part on insults though left me a bit doubtful. So it's ok to bleep English but not other languages? I took it in the spirit it was intended but that homophobic Brazilian portuguese remark left me... insulted. Swear words which you bleep out aren't the real insults. Context is the thing that creates insult.

Nov. 06 2014 03:47 AM
Harry Rogers from Australia

Just when the comedian speaks some real sense about the ridiculous euphemisms used today then you have somebody who counter argues by dumping another bucket of euphemisms on air.

Are people really so damn insecure these days that truth is to be hidden.

Nov. 04 2014 10:43 PM
eraticus from Hawaii

Regarding "Translation".

I worked for a couple of years with a college professor who studied bible translations from missionaries who had made first contact with indigenous populations in the Malay Archipelago (Indonesia now). One of the most interesting things to read was how they translated objects that were not available to the populations in question. As an example, how do you translate "Lamb of God" in an area without sheep? You could go literal, and describe a lamb, or figurative, such as servant of, or child of. Or you could find the nearest cultural equivalent. One translation I read called Christ the "Pig of God", since there were swineherds, and it was the nearest cultural equivalent according to the translator.

Nov. 04 2014 05:34 PM
Jun from México

Great episode!
A lot of different topics and very interesting wrap up theme.
It remaind me of these guys, !!!
They are so funny and is so true!

Nov. 04 2014 02:20 PM
Pam from Monroe, WA

This is one of my very favorite Radiolab episodes. My 7 year old, 2nd grade son is in a Dual Language (Spanish/English) class and this was so appropriate and timely for me. I also loved the follow up on Emilie Gossiaux. Thank you!

Nov. 03 2014 07:22 PM

well done, didn't suck!

Oct. 31 2014 10:03 AM
josh from North Carolina

Funny story related to mistranslation. Seemed apropos.

Oct. 31 2014 09:55 AM
Lonnie Souder

the person reading the word... the Bible does say that: John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Oct. 30 2014 10:03 PM
Damian from Brazil

It was a great great episode!!!
And funny at the end with "Mas que porra mais escrota seu viado filho da puta" ahahah

Oct. 30 2014 07:51 AM
Gabriel from Mexico

Nice episode, although the new format with shorter segments doesn't allow you to go too deep into any one part of the complexity of translation. For example, the last segment misses the most interesting aspect about translation in molecular biology: the fact that each of the 20 aminoacids that makes up a protein is codified by a particular set of codons (or sequences of 3 bases in the RNA). This is indeed the "genetic code" which is used by the ribosome to translate a sequence of bases in RNA to a sequence of aminoacids in a protein.

Oct. 29 2014 10:04 PM
Allie from Massachusetts

I'm a Project Manager in the Localization industry- since most people don't know what that means, it often gets boiled down to simply, "translation." People often ask just how difficult my job can possibly be, since it's "just translation." I think most would be quite surprised to know how complicated, time-consuming, and technology-laden this industry really is; it runs in the background of almost everything we do, without even having to think about it. Fantastic job displaying just how multi-faceted translation really is!

Oct. 29 2014 01:58 PM
Daniel from Washington

As a sign language interpreter, I think that you guys did a great job covering what we do on a daily basis. It would be really great if there was a transcript available, so deaf people could have the opportunity to take part in the fascinating world of Radiolab.

Oct. 28 2014 01:07 AM
Matthew from Pittsburgh

One of my long-time hobbies has been to collect musicals in foreign languages. Obviously, there is a lot of translation going on, and I've often wondered whether the sentiment comes across the same as it does for me in English.

Interestingly, I don't understand most of the languages for which I have foreign albums, but I enjoy listening to them nevertheless. By not paying attention to the words, I'm given the opportunity to pay attention to the underlying music itself, including the singing quality of the actors. To me, the music really comes out for a production that I am familiar with, if I don't understand the words that they are saying.

Oct. 27 2014 11:50 PM
Ayn K. Melville

So much can be lost in translation. Context is changed, meanings can be confused, the tone isn't the same. In English we have crazy words that don't exist in other languages or added meanings to some words. Depending on context and tone words can take on so many different meanings that can often be confused when translating. In poetry the flow of a poem is completely off when translated because words that rhyme in Italian or French don't necessarily rhyme in English. When interpreting for a deaf person, the intention and tone is often changed due to personal judgment of what the interpreter thinks is best. That slight change takes away from the experience because it isn't the same for that one deaf person as it is for everyone else in the crowd.

Oct. 27 2014 10:29 PM
Mike Dillon from Hollywood

This was a wonderful episode. There is a really interesting and fun youtube video that serves as a good companion. Hopefully most of us have used the Google Translate feature - or at least know about it. The youtube clip below features a young woman who took the lyrics to Frozen and ran them through google translate to a foreign language, and then back to english. She then re-records the song over the scene (she does a very talented reproduction). The woman reveals some major flaws in the translation process.


Oct. 27 2014 06:45 PM
Roger P from San Francisco

I really enjoyed this episode. Very well produced, interesting, and varied. I thought the old-style language lessons between the stories were cute, and the translated songs were surprising beautiful. Keep up the awesome work! You're my favorite talk show :-)

Oct. 27 2014 05:51 PM

Those who think George Carlin is onto something should also check out the work of Robert Anton Wilson.

"I've learned more from Robert Anton Wilson than I have from any other source." - George Carlin

Oct. 27 2014 02:39 PM
Chris from Colorado

Loved the episode. Unfortunately, "Habari za asubuhi?" was mistranslated as "Good morning" in Swahili when it really translates to "How is your morning?", while "Asubuhi njema" would translate to "Good morning". Since I know that there will be much need for it in the future on Radiolab, "Habari za jioni?" will translate to "How is your evening?" while "Jiona njema" will translate to "Good evening".

Oct. 27 2014 02:36 PM
Antonia Neruda from Florida

I agree that translations can ignore the point of a piece. Each language emphasizes a certain "point". Translating the French poem into English decreases its significance. Translations aren't exactly word-for-word for that reason; its significance. One person may summarize or translate a paper differently from another person. This is when individuality comes into play. A certain person wrote that piece in a certain way to show its significance, but someone may not see it in the same way.

Oct. 26 2014 10:02 PM
Sherlock D. Whiler from United States

It is almost impossible to translate between languages and be 100% accurate. Especially when translating something such as a poem that is to convey some feeling or emotion, it will not work. When you have so many words and so many lines, there is no way to perfect a translation. The topic with the poem shows how this is true. The poem could be said with hundreds of possibilities. Yet, no one possibility would be the exact same and convey the same feels of the original text and language.

Oct. 26 2014 06:19 PM
Anna B. Silverstein

The multitude of possible translations certainly explains how often everything is misunderstood. I found the Ethiopian journalism topic very interesting, how particular words carry different, but potent meanings is something to be considered in conversation often. I am curious to know what happened to the woman on the other end of the line, or if anyone knew what happened to her.

Oct. 26 2014 03:46 PM
Catniss J. Plath

It is very interesting to think that there could be hundreds of ways to translate a poem. You would think there would be one set translation. And even to keep the same form, 3 syllables and 28 lines, as you change the entire language. There are so many different word combinations in just one language. I think a translation doesn't necessarily have to have the exact literal words as long as it gets the feeling and meaning across.

Oct. 26 2014 10:46 AM
Kevin Ude from Asheville NC

Listening to the 1st piece, thinking about the translation of poetry, I fondly remembered this story John Cage told about translating a haiku from Japanese to English:

Oct. 24 2014 11:59 PM
Jamie York from Radiolab

For everyone asking about the music, we've just posted a page with all of the songs and some backstory into how (and why) they came to be.

Oct. 24 2014 07:06 PM
Anna J. Sliverstine

I never thought about how complicated translation is before and how many things must be considered. It seems like truly accurate translations are impossible. This shows how different languages are. It's great that there is so much variety in languages around the world.

Oct. 24 2014 03:50 PM
Jon from New Age Valley, CA

Amazing as always. I loved the music, especially the German "I've Been Working on the Railroad." VERY German.

Oct. 24 2014 02:11 PM
Jason from Raleigh

Is there any way to share the music from this episode? I really, really enjoyed all of the talented singers and translations. Maybe offer it up as a download for $1 or three?

Oct. 24 2014 01:14 PM

Another real great one, thanks so much, Radiolabbers :)

I'm being very pedantic now and just say, playing Satie when talking about Chopin...? :D

Oct. 24 2014 04:56 AM
Scott Brown from Detroit MI

Was the music behind Douglas Hofstadter from Indiana University reading his poem a David Minnick composition? He's the guy that takes peoples speaking voices and turns it into music. It sound like that word jazz that he does.

Oct. 23 2014 02:38 PM
Sherry from Cambridge, MA

Huge fan of radiolab. As a bilingual person and a scientist, I immensely enjoyed this episode because it touched upon so many aspects of my own life, living in two, sometimes three, languages. I understand that the discussion about the ASL interpreter was about the spirit of translation. However, I was disturbed by how the discussion was so heavily focused on whether the woman did her job as opposed to what she was asked to do. The radio hosts didn't at any point raise the question whether it was appropriate for the comedian to incorporate the interpreter into the bit in the way he did. Instead, the question becomes how the interpreter was doing her job affects her audience. It seems to me that the discussion puts an undue responsibility on the interpreter: should she have tone it down vs. should the comedian have toned it down.

Frankly, I am disappointed with the direction of that segment.

P. S. As mentioned in a previous comment, the omission of Rosalind Franklin in talking about the discovery of the double helix strand is yet another unnerving failure to include women in the dialogue.

Oct. 23 2014 10:48 AM
Ben from Columbus, Ohio

I am curious what the piano solo from the end of the DNA/RNA segment is. I thought that it was great!

Oct. 23 2014 09:15 AM
Patric Olivero from Sverige

Finnish is sertainly the most effective language for dirty words.

Oct. 23 2014 07:33 AM
alfredk from United States

I was moved by the original story of Emily and this episode has made me think about what senses in my life overlap with others. I am a carpenter and cabinet maker who is very near sighted. My sense of touch has replaced my vision in much of my work and I can quite literally see what I'm touching in my mind. This is not to say I'm exceptional, many, if not most, carpenters rely more upon their hands than their eyes to guide their way through space. I wonder what other trades and professions have this sort of sense-crossover. Bakers kneading dough? Potters making...pots. A musician translating the feel of a trumpet valve from the fingertips to the brain. Is this mild form of synesthesia perhaps something that makes us human?

Oct. 22 2014 11:16 PM
John Benson from Maine

The Translation podcast is one of your best! It was captivating. I was impressed how many different ways you were able to address the concept of translation. Thanks.

Good job.

Oct. 22 2014 10:40 PM
Barbara Casasbuenas Price

Love this episode!!! but I don't really appreciate the last part where everybody was insulting in many languages! you should have said something before trowing the bomb! Some of the insults I didn't understand, but the ones in Spanish and Portuguese I did clearly. Just think about listeners of other countries who listen to the podcast with their little ones around, like me for example!.

Oct. 22 2014 08:59 PM
DJ from Chicago

Translation is for written materials going from one language to another, and for live, oral language it's interpretation. There are translators and interpreters and they are different positions for different skill sets.

Oct. 22 2014 05:08 PM
Tom from Boston

Loved this episode (despite the Satie-for-Chopin substitution others have mentioned, too). I thought that the song translations were fascinating, not so much for the language but for the "translation" of many of them from major to minor. From a musical standpoint, that's actually a mis-translation, but fun to hear what it does to the mood of the songs.

Also, a quick note to the person who translated "I've Been Working on the Railroad" into German: Well done, though "Seilbahn" means "gondola" (as in "aerial tramway"), not "railway".

Oct. 22 2014 04:43 PM
Daniel from California

Can I just say Id like a download of all the songs sung in this piece? They were beautiful!!!!

Oct. 22 2014 03:26 PM
Oscar McLaughlin from Ireland

Wait a minute! Thats not Chopin

Oct. 22 2014 02:25 PM
Elijah from New York

Great language! One quick question: What language was Robert speaking during the spaces between segments? (Or was it just gibberish?)

Oct. 22 2014 11:52 AM

A great episode but please break out the stories into the 8 distinct chunks w annotation. I have a science writer friend with synesthesia who would be particularly interested in that one segment and I would love to find out more about the "tongue eye"!

Oct. 22 2014 11:37 AM
Krista from United States

Here is a good article on the glasses used to help the mouth to help the brain see

Oct. 22 2014 11:33 AM

Only half-way through the episode, but the first segment bothered me. It seems at a certain point, he was interpreting the poem, and no longer translating it. Anyone else feel that way?

Oct. 22 2014 11:05 AM
Terry from Germany

Any chance you have a list of titles for the 8 features that you could post?

This was a great podcast, up there with the Beethoven accelerated podcast, and I'd like to share it with a little structure.

Especially appreciated the inclusion of Hofstadter (his wife's and his mother's translations reminded me of Dr. Suess) and George Carlin's euphemism translations and, in that segment, that you brought in a counterintuitive argument instead of settling for easy agreement with George (much as I love him, RIP).

This link has the poem and a couple of variants, incl. Hofstadter's bad attempts.

Oct. 22 2014 10:02 AM

Are the translated songs availablle somewhere, or where they made for the show? Awesome, tho. Great show. tnx

Oct. 22 2014 09:09 AM
Sam Rausa from Jackson, New Jersey

"Translation" could be the best episode ever of Radiolab. Each segment was meaningfully related to the theme and was profound and interesting in its own context.

Oct. 22 2014 07:45 AM
JiHyun from Seoul, Korea

You get an A for effort on that last song sung in Korean!
Your Korean listener loved it ;)

Oct. 22 2014 07:39 AM
Jen from Atlanta

This was a fascinating podcast! And it was refreshing to hear some new stories about translation. As someone who works in the field, I must say, I loved it. Thanks so much for covering a profession that many people don't know about. One thing I did want to specify though, is that translators work with the written word, and interpreters work with the spoken word. An interpreter isn't necessarily a translators and vice-versa. They are actually very different professions, requiring very different skill-sets. There were some instances in the podcast when there seemed to be some confusion between the two. Here's an article that explains the differences:

Oct. 21 2014 09:15 PM
Robin from Tokyo

I really appreciated how clearly the first segment showed that in translation, particularly of literature such as poems, there is no correct answer and the product can take on many different forms depending on the translator.

Regarding the segment about the sign language interpreter, I was surprised that you kept referring to her as a "translator" and that she was "translating" the performance. Perhaps you were simply unaware of the distinction? Translation refers to written language and interpretation refers to spoken language. I feel it is important to recognize that distinction, because they are two very, very different professions and it is more respectful to the professionals involved to acknowledge that.

Oct. 21 2014 08:57 PM
Dusty from My parked car

I found it intriguing, the search for an adequate translation of a French poem. I have a book of sonnets by Albert Mérat called L'Idole, in which he dedicates each writing to a specific portion of his lover's body. I imagine it's quite beautiful, but I have had the darnedest time getting it translated properly for the same reasons.
(fun tidbit side note: Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine spoofed this work with another sonnet about a specific body part that was left out of L'ldole)

Oct. 21 2014 07:26 PM
Matt from LA

When David Eagelman speaks about "the vest" his possible uses are soul-drainingly banal. Stock prices? The weather? Please tell me that if science invents a sixth sense it will be something we couldn't do on Prodigy in 1994.

How about sonar, IR vision, air quality, proximity to points of interest, or more realistically, celebrities or potential Tinder hookups?

Oct. 21 2014 06:25 PM
Cristie from USA

Although it was a small comment I feel that something is lost when Rosalind Franklin is omitted from the discussion of DNA's discovery and understanding. Her stolen research is what Watson and Crick based all of their discoveries on. Rosalind Franklin lost her life for science and deserves at least some mention.

Thanks for reading!

Oct. 21 2014 05:00 PM

Really enjoyed the musical translations in this episode, particularly the Arabic translation of "Amazing Grace".

Oct. 21 2014 03:11 PM
Leah from Montana

The role of an interpreter, whether it be sign language or spoken language, is to convey the information without judgement or your own ideas of what is best for the client. If the sign language interpreter would have toned it down (therefore not matching the comedian's intention or tone), she would have been making a decision for the client based on what she thought was best for her. Then the client would have not been given the same experience as the other 14,000 people. It would ave been patronizing to the deaf person had the interpreter decided what the client could or could not handle instead of the client being able to make that decision for herself.

Oct. 21 2014 02:43 PM
Leah from Montana

The role of an interpreter, whether it be sign language or spoken language, is to convey the information without judgement or your own ideas of what is best for the client. If the sign language interpreter would have toned it down (therefore not matching the comedian's intention or tone), she would have been making a decision for the client based on what she thought was best for her. Then the client would have not been given the same experience as the other 14,000 people. It would ave been patronizing to the deaf person had the interpreter decided what the client could or could not handle instead of the client being able to make that decision for herself.

Oct. 21 2014 02:42 PM
adka from Western, Ma.

Can you credit some of the translated american folk songs you played? Loved "You are my Sunshine" best! Thanks.

Oct. 21 2014 02:00 PM
Jon from Watertown

Please give us info on the website. I wanted to see that video that her mom made of her walking with the device.

keep up the good work.

Oct. 21 2014 10:45 AM
Tom from Portland ME

Great episode!

(Quick note: when you introduce the part about "Chopin" at 13:38, that's Satie's Gymnopèdie no. 3 playing in the background...)

Oct. 21 2014 10:28 AM
Kieron George from Yorkshire

Wouldn't an episode on translation be the most difficult to translate?

Talk about first step is always the hardest.

Oct. 21 2014 09:36 AM
Nick from Germany

Well I really like these guys.

Oct. 21 2014 06:34 AM

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