Reading Out Loud – The Best Translations

Many writers read their work out loud at the end of a working day or night.  It’s not until they’ve done this, that they know if they’re going to keep it.  Something gels when you read fiction out loud.    
I’m reading fiction out loud with a group of advanced learners of the Speak English Clearly course at Max Your Voice.  As the people in the group have English as a second language, we’re reading from translations into English.  Our 2 current books are,Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes – a collection of short stories and A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges.  Both these books have their roots in the genre of “magical realism”.  Most of Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes stories, are translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin.  They sound good, but not brilliant compared to the original in Japanese – according to our Japanese speakers.  Jay Rubin is the main translator of the Murakami short stories.  This is what he says about translating from the original text in Japanese:
“One is freer in translating from Japanese than from Western languages because there are no cognates or other familiar guideposts to which one feels constrained to adhere. It’s more like creating the text from scratch rather than transferring phrases and sentences from one language into another, probably more fun”.

So Jay Rubin is more of a translator/adapter, however his collaboration with Haruki Murakami is slight.
Our other book – A Universal History of Infamy, has been translated from the original Spanish text of the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges by Norman Thomas di Giovanni.  This book, when read out loud, sounds good.  It comes to life and expands.  All of us take pleasure in reading aloud from A Universal History of Infamy.   In English, it’s never going to have the same depth and musicality as the original – you can tell straight away when hearing it read out loud in Spanish by our Spanish speakers, but it still holds fast inside your imagination.  The translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni had a great deal of collaboration with Jorge Luis Borges.
It’s amazing how a translator can enhance or decrease the impact of a novel.  Some translators are able to grasp the style of the writer better than others. 

Jay Rubin with Haruki Murakami
Jay Rubin with Haruki Murakami
Norman Thomas di Giovanni with Jorge Luis Borges
Norman Thomas di Giovanni with Jorge Luis Borges

Would you like to join our group and practice reading aloud in English?  Contact Frances at
For initial learners who want to speak with an accent in English that’s easily understood – our next 6 week Speak English Clearly course begins on Tuesday October 22nd,


Poshism Speak

Are People Prejudice Against Upper Class Accents?

A researcher at BBC3 is researching for a short as a follow up to Julian Fellowes article about posh accents and his statement that:
“ toffs are the one remaining minority in Britain against which it is considered acceptable to discriminate.”

I was asked if I’d ever voice coached a person out of a posh accent.  My answer was yes, several times.  A posher accent is not the best accent in the world to have if you want to appeal to a mass audience of under 30s. People with upper class accents have always been easy prey.  Perhaps because a few of their number have been pompous and used the accent to big themselves up.
I was then asked the usual question “Would they come on the programme?”   No I wouldn’t think so and I couldn’t ask them anyway because all client information is confidential.

It isn’t hard to lose the too posh edge of an accent.  Dropping a few ‘ts’, going glottal even adopting ‘f’ instead of ‘th’ which has been done quite a lot in the last couple of years.  It helps the speaker to feel closer to street speak and makes rap talk easier.  Over time accents blend in anyway, unless you really make an effort to keep your original accent.  I really like Sara Cox’s accent.  She’s made an effort to hang on to it and it’s now slightly exaggerated, but it’s ebullient and fun and at least you know with Sara Cox that you’re getting the real thing.  In the meantime I’ve thought of a couple of people who I think I could ask ……..

Lord Fellowes
Lord Fellowes