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Dec 21, 2012

Book review: Found in Translation

When I sat down this evening to share my thoughts on Found in Translation by Jost Zetzsche and Nataly Kelly, I realized I had something important to do first. I logged in to Amazon and ordered a copy for my father. Many times in the past week as I read this delightful book up in my sleep loft at the end of a long day I thought how much he would enjoy the anecdote or the explanation I was reading. Although he never learned another language beyond bits of Saxon nursery rhymes distorted by a hundred years away from the Old Country and the smatterings of street Spanish one can't avoid working retail in many Southern California neighborhoods, I think it's fair to claim that a lot of the appreciation I have for books and the words in them as well as the words which never make it into books I have from him. He is very much alive to the nuances of language and its importance, and I think that those he taught in school, hospitals and home assignments probably enjoyed at least some of the enchantment with words that he shared with his lucky children.

This is a book that I feel good about sharing with family and friends, not because it will give them better insight into what I do (it certainly will), but because many parts of it cannot help but engage and entertain them and give them a better appreciation for the importance of language in today's world. If I were a middle school teacher in the US, I would read parts of this book to my students in most any subject I might teach, because it is very relevant. And fun. Hey, there's even a lot of good content for sports fans.

I bought the Kindle edition to read, because despite my initial skepticism about e-readers, since I got one last year, it has given me so many hours of reading pleasure at home, in my travels and in long hours in the hunting blind where I sometimes give a friendly wave to a passing deer and leave the rifle in the corner as I "turn" the page. I was a bit annoyed with the start of the book. Endless positive statement from various luminaries talking about what a great book it is. Yada yada. I know enough about marketing to realize the importance of text like that and placing it where it was placed, but I'm not interested in someone else's opinion of a book until I have read it myself. After a bit of a slog I finally got to the actual content, and I was hooked.

For a week, I looked forward to the end of the day, when I would digest a bit more by the light integrated in the cover of the e-reader. When I was so tired that the clear, interesting text stopped making sense, I resisted the urge to skim, because the details were simply too good to miss. As much as I wanted to go on and see what came next, I waited for the next rewarding end of a day.

It wasn't until I got very near to the end and wondered why there was an index with page references in the Kindle edition that I had anything to criticize. I learned a lot. I had a great read. And I'm excited about sharing this book with others, because I think that even non-linguists will really enjoy the stories and behind-the-scenes looks at the lives of sports and entertainment stars, political crises and so much more.

And that's all I'm going to say about the content - spoilers suck. If you want to know more, go get the book and read it yourself. I can't imagine you won't enjoy most of it.

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