Book Review: Is That A Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos

Title: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? : Translation and the Meaning of Everything
Author: David Bellos
Publisher: Particular Books, Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781846144646
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 390
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

A book all about translation. A book that takes into account everything about translation – from the translated books we read to the translated movies we watch to at times how translation and its need is paramount. David Bellos’ book, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?” is one of the best books ever that I have read on the subject of translation.

The book explains why translation is required and what its purpose is. It isn’t easy to write a book explaining details about language and its intricacies. What Bellos does is through instances and examples, is for us to understand that translation is a creative art in itself and not just a means to get to the creativity of the original. He at the very beginning rejects the notion of the text’s value of reading it only in its original form. Bellos’ tries to explain that in the end; almost all translations are just roots of four languages – English, French, German and Russian.

This is not an easy book to read. There were times that I had to put this book down and pick up something lighter till I could get back to the world of translation. At the same time there were several things that caught my interest about the book: Translating news into global languages, Translation of cartoons into different languages (a very fascinating piece of the book), How certain languages are richer than the others and yet belong to the same root family and lastly the concept of native and non-native language and what really belongs to us or not.

David Bellos goes on to fit language with the cultural perspective and how we make ourselves understood despite the variance between countries. This I found quite striking in the entire book.

I found this book extremely interesting. It is witty and entertaining. At the same time it brings us closer to the concept of language and translation – both of which are close to us and sometimes we don’t even realize that. This book is not just for people working with languages or communication but it is for everyone who has an interest in languages. It takes into account the entire gamut of human experiences with language and communication in a multi-linguistic world of ours.

Is that a Fish in Your Eat needs to be read for a better understanding of how we communicate and why and the need to understand the essence of communication across the world. A good read for me.

Here is a quick video on the book:

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