Saturday, 24 July 2010

Old Hats, and random ramblings on languages

These amazing pictures are from an old hat magazine, published in 1964. The magazine might be my grandmother's old - she worked in a hat factory when she was young. Seeing these types of pictures always makes me a little sad. I wish people still wore hats.

I figured I'd answer a couple of questions regarding language.

Modesty is Pretty asked me about English, and about the English books in my bookshelf. In Finland all children start learning English either at the age of 10, or at 13. I started at 10, and always loved it. The main reason why a fair amount of my books are in English is because I lived in London for quite a while during my studies.

My books are a strange mix of Finnish, English and Hungarian originals, and Finnish and English translations of various other languages. I wish I could read more books in the original language though. I have always wondered about the quality of translations that are available to me of the Russian classics, for example. It seems to me that especially Finnish translations of Russian originals tend to exercise a strange, romantic, more soulful form of Finnish that doesn't really exist. I have no idea if they are good (or bad) translations or just odd Finnish, because as much as translation can be an art form in itself, it can also be a mode of butchery. (Never, ever read the English translation of Arto Paasilinna's Jäniksen vuosi, or The Year of the Hare - it is horrible, and does no justice to the original book. Also, steer away from the English translation of Kosztolányi's Édes Anna - the translator doesn't know Hungarian as well as he should, and as a result he gets the most important scene in the book completely wrong.)

Charlotte asked if Finnish and Hungarian are similar. The answer is both yes and no. The languages are certainly related, and share some similar structures. In pronunciation, the stress is always on the first syllable in both languages. In grammar, both languages are agglutinating in character, have a relatively flexible word order, and share the notion of vowel harmony. Noun cases are comparable, if not quite similar. Less significant similarities include gender-neutral third person and the strongly onomatopoetic character of both languages. The vocabulary is very different, and the avarage Finn would not be able to notice any of the similarities I have mentioned here just by listening to Hungarian.

Vasiliisa: yes, I was at Seurasaari! I didn't see you though, but I was probably too busy catching my breath after having biked there from Kannelmäki. In that heat, you can imagine how I was feeling...

Modesty is Pretty: our cats are doing okay, thank you for asking! They are at home with Chris, and he is taking good care of them. I do miss them (both the kitties and Chris) horribly, but we will all be reunited in two weeks' time!


Modesty is Pretty said...

Wow very interesting topic about tranlations, same thing happens with most translations from Spanish to English, they loose a lot of the formal words and descriptions that in English do not exist, so Spanish translations get shopped off most of the times.
I also wish people would wear more hats, I rarely see women wearing hats, unless it's the little old ladies after church.

Charlotte said...

That first hat--which seems to be retro even in 1964--is stunning. I wear hats quite a lot, because I had skin cancer on my scalp and have been warned that if I don't wear hats, I will have it again. It's nice to have a solid, unapologetic reason to go out in a big, broad-brimmed hat! And in winter, of course hats are necessary--otherwise, you freeze. Finnish seems a difficult language, maybe one best picked up by assimilation. When I was in Helsinki, Finns told me, "It's impossible, don't even bother trying to learn!" Swedish seems fairly easy, if you know English and German, but of course they are all from the same root. Shopping in the grocery stores, I could figure out what something was by reading the Swedish small print under the Finnish banner.