Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Indians better than British in English usage

August 10, 2008

Indians must be proud as academics say that the students from India who are studying in British universities possess high potential in using English language perfectly. While many British students usually come up with wrong usage of spelling, punctuation and grammar, Indian students are often showing high standards in the basic English grammar and other usages.

An Indian-origin university lecturer said that British students even in their second year of degree course, use atrocious English in their assignments. He said that he often found it challenging to figure out what students wanted to express in English. “International students, in contrast, had better English language skill,” he added.

According to the academics, most common mistakes are in spelling, student often use ‘their’ when they mean ‘there’, ‘who’s’ for ‘whose’, ‘truely’ for ‘truly’, ‘occured’ for ‘occurred’ and ‘speach’ for ‘speech’.
Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, said that many students failed to apply basic rules, such as ‘i’ before ‘e’, except after ‘c’. The words ‘weird’, ‘seize’, ‘leisure’ and ‘neighbor’ are regularly misspelt by students. “Mistakes are now so common that academics should simply accept them as ‘variants,”‘ he told.

Bernard Lamb, a Reader in genetics at Imperial College London told that many British students appear to have been through school without mastering basic rules of grammar and punctuation, or having their errors corrected.

As students find it difficult to use English properly, some universities have extended the course by a year to give extra tuition to weaker students.

“All the data suggests that there are more and more students at university level whose spelling is not up to scratch. Universities are even finding they have masters-level students who cannot spell,” told Jack Bovill, Chairman of The Spelling Society.

Rabindranath Tagore’s anniversary of death observed

August 9, 2008

Bangladesh observed the 67th death anniversary of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore through daylong cultural programmes and discussions.

The most celebrated Bangla playwright, novelist and composer, whose works redefined Bangla literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Rabindranath passed away on 22 Shraban in 1348 after long illness at Jorasanko mansion in Kolkata.

Numerous organisations in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country organised cultural programmes to observe the death anniversary of the great poet who gave both Bangladesh and India their national anthem.

Bangla Academy held a discussion on Tagore’s life and works and a cultural programme at its seminar hall.

Syed Abul Moksud presented a paper on Rabindranath’s thought on religion and philosophy. Prof Galib Ahsan Khan and Prof Niranjan Adhikari weighed in with their understanding of the poet.

Academy Director General Dr Syed Mohammad Shahed delivered the welcome speech at the discussion chaired by Prof Aminul Islam.

“Rabindranath’s religious and philosophical spirits were not aimed at his own peace or salvation of his own soul; his philosophy was for the salvation of the mankind,” Abul Moksud said.

Iffat Ara Dewan, Bulbul Islam, Tapan Bhattacharya, Shama Raman and Israt Jahan Pamela later presented Rabindranath’s songs.

The Rabindra Sangeet Shilpi Sangstha organised a two-day programme to mark the poet’s death anniversary at Central Public Library while ‘Swarabritta’ held a session of his songs and poetry recitals.

Bangladesh Betar, Bangladesh Television and private television channels broadcast special programmes on this occasion.

Nicknamed ‘Rabi’, the poet, the youngest of fourteen surviving children of Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi, was born on 25 Baishakh 1268 and grew up in an elevated and culturally enlightened environment, to be a landlord or ‘zamindar’ governing sprawling estates in Kushtia, Pabna and Rajshahi in the then East Bengal.

Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems, he soon became known in the West. For the world he became the voice of India’s spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.

The prolific writer enriched every branch of modern Bangla literature by writing thousands of songs, hundreds of exquisite short stories, great novels, plays and musicals.

His famed anthology of poems ‘Geetanjali’ won him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. He founded the world famous seat of learning ‘Santiniketan’.

(Source: The Daily Star)

Great Temple of Somnath as Described by Muslim Historians

July 29, 2008

As part of Hinduism Today’s research in Indian history, Hindustan Press International has been exploring the eight-volume set “The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians” edited by Henry M. Elliot. This 19th century book contains translations of extracts from mostly Muslim chroniclers of the Muslim times in India. The following extract is from “Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing” by Asaru-L Bilad, a 13th century Muslim geographer. It contains the following description of Somnath temple and its destruction:

Somnath: celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnat. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand. They believed that the souls of men used to meet there after separation from the body, and that the idol used to incorporate them at its pleasure in other bodies, in accordance with their doctrine of transmigration.

“The ebb and flow of the tide was considered to be the worship paid to the idol by the sea. Everything of the most precious was brought there as offerings, and the temple was endowed with more than 10,000 villages. There is a river (the Ganges) which is held sacred, between which and Somnat the distance is 200 parasangs. They used to bring the water of this river to Somnat every day, and wash the temple with it. A thousand brahmans were employed in worshipping the idol and attending on the visitors, and 500 damsels sung and danced at the door–all these were maintained upon the endowments of the temple. The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak, covered with lead. The shrine of the idol was dark. hut was lighted by jeweled chandeliers of great value. Near it was a chain of gold weighing 200 mans. When a portion (watch) of the night closed, this chain used to be shaken like bells to rouse a fresh lot of brahmans to perform worship.

“When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud Bin Subuktigin  went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k’ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). The Indians made a desperate resistance. They would go weeping and crying for help into the temple, and then issue forth to battle and fight till all were killed. The number of the slain exceeded 50,000.

“The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver and vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols exceeded twenty thousand thousand dinars. (Elliot’s footnote: The enormous treasures found at Somnat have been a theme of wonder for all who have written on that conquest.)

“When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on anyone side-hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some coincided, others differed. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit the idol swerved on one side, when more were taken away it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.”


Some Muslim translators of the Holy Qur’an

July 22, 2008

THE 17th century witnessed the publication of first English translation of the Holy Qur’an, that is, the one published by Alexander Ross in 1649 and in the 18th century only one translation was published; namely, the one by George Sale in 1731. The 19th century witnessed the publication of two translations; namely, those of J. M. Rodwell in 1861 and F.H. Palmer 1880. In the 20th century, there was a growing interest in the studies related to the Qur’an and this led to the emergence of tens of English translations of the meanings of the Qur’an.

The 20th century also witnessed the publication of English translations by Muslims. All of the translations published before 1905 were done by Christians, Jews and Ahmadiyyas. Those translations abounded in distortions and mistakes – unintentionally or intentionally – due to religious bias or for the sake of propaganda.

This made many Muslims translate the meanings of the Qur’an to give an objective picture of Islam and its Holy Book, the Qur’an. Dr. Abdul Hakim Khan was the first Muslim translator to publish a translation of the meanings of the Qur’an entitled Holy Qur’an Translated: With Short Notes. This translation was published in India in 1905.

His translation was followed by tens of translations by other Muslims trying as much as they could to convey some of the grandeur of the Holy Qur’an and the tolerant nature of Islam and Muslims. The most important ones are those done by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall and Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

As for Pickthall, he was the first English Muslim to translate the meanings of the Qur’an into English. In 1930, he published his translation, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an: an Explanatory Translation.

Pickthall was a convert to Islam who was not satisfied with previous translations abounding in mistakes and distortions. Due to being the Imam of one of the mosques in England, Pickthall realized the necessity of having an English translation of the meanings of the Qur’an for his sermons and to help his congregation to have a proper understanding of the meanings of the Qur’an.

Pickthall spells out his motive for translating the meanings of the Qur’an in these words, “to try to expound the glorious Qur’an to my people in a manner intelligible to them in their own language at the present day.”

To revise his translation, Pickthall resorted to a distinguished Egyptian scholar and a devout Muslim, Dr Muhammad Ahmed Al Ghamrawi. This work was supervised by Mostafa Al Maraghy, Sheikh of Al Azhar. Since its publication, Pickthall’s translation has become among the most common ones in the Muslim world.

As for Yusuf Ali’s translation, it is regarded as the most popular translation in the Muslim world. Yusuf Ali (1870 – 1953) was born in India and received his education at the University of Bombay, St John College, Cambridge and Lincoln’s Inn, London. He worked as a lecturer of Hindustani language and Indian religious manner at the University of London between 1917 and 1919.

His father taught him Arabic when he was of the age of four or five. As a Muslim, he was highly motivated and enthusiastic to present his own translation of the meanings of the Qur’an.

In the preface to the first edition, Yusuf Ali points out that the aim of his translation is to communicate the beauty, uniqueness and inimitability of the Qur’an.

– Dr. Khaled Tawfik

India in 1835

July 15, 2008

One word which goes hand in hand with ‘Language’ is ‘culture’. Let us see the importance of it in a few words from history.

That Crazy English Language

July 14, 2008

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,

Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,

Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,

But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;

neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren’t invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,

we find that quicksand can work slowly,

boxing rings are square,

and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,

grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.

If you have a bunch of odds and ends

and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English should be

committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.

We have noses that run and feet that smell.

We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,

while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language

in which your house can burn up as it burns down,

in which you fill in a form by filling it out.

So, how about finding a few such examples in our own ‘mother tongue’? That may help us discover the richness of our native language.

Afghans’ love for Indian films transcends language barrier

July 4, 2008

If one thought that only translation can transcend the language barrier, one will have to give it a second thought.

Transcending the barrier of language, Indian films and television soaps have become a big hit in Afghanistan.
“Aghanis do not bother if the content is not dubbed into local language because they understand 70 per cent of it,” are the words of Aghan film-maker Abdul Latif Ahmadi.

“Women love to watch the trials and tribulations of ‘Tulsi’ and ‘Prerna’ (popular characters of Balaji soaps ‘Kyun ki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’ and ‘Kasauti Zindagi Ki’ respectively),” Ahmadi, director of Afghan Film, the state-run film finance company, said.

Recalling that filmstars like Amitabh Bachchan and Sunil Dutt had visited Afghanistan to shoot their films before the Taliban took over the country, Ahamadi said, two years ago Kabir Khan shot his ‘Kabul Express’ in the rugged terrains of Afghanistan and added that Afghanis have a special place for Indians in their hearts.

(Source: PTI)

Importance of local language

June 26, 2008

Translation has certainly come out of confines of university curriculum and literary activities. Local language has become too vital for communications in all the spheres of life. Let us have a look at one such scenario.

Fishermen across India’s 8,000 km coastline are faced with an unusual problem. The draft notification on the Coastal Management Zone (CMZ) 2008 which has been put on the website of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, invites objections and suggestions from ‘any interested persons’ within 60 days from May 1. But there is a catch here. The draft notification is in English and there are few fishermen who understand the language.

Unhappy that the government had made little attempt to enforce the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notification of 1991, the fishermen are now demanding that the latest CMZ notification be translated into Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and other national languages so that the message could be disseminated among all members of their fraternity who neither have access to a computer nor understand English.

P Kandasamy, convenor of the Singaravelar fishermen’s movement for livelihood rights based in Tranquebar in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu, is worried. “We were told that the new draft notification restricts fishing only to the territorial waters (12 nautical miles from the coast). Our village alone has about 4,000 fisherfolk families. The restriction is bound to affect almost the entire community of about 25 lakh fishermen in the state.” Kandasamy claimed to have accessed the details of the CMZ draft notification from the office of the Cuddalore Fishermen’s Association. It was translated to him by an activist.

“We will collect signatures from the fishermen along the state’s coast against the draft and hand them over to the chief minister,” said Kandasamy. Fishermen across the country are staging protests against the government’s attempt “to sell out our coasts to commercial plunderers, condoning all violations that have taken place since 1991.” and demand that the draft notification be translated into local languages so that they would be able to read and understand it.

“This (a draft notification in English inviting objections on the website) is a cruel joke on these fishermen, already facing adversities like declining fish catch and industrial pollution along the coast. The notification makes no attempt to allay their apprehensions about the opening up of the coast to various industrial and tourist constructions,” said Harekrishna Debnath, chairperson of the national fish workers’ forum.

Sudarshan Rodriguez, a researcher with the Bangalore-based NGO ATREE, said the 2008 draft notification ushered in new players on the coast and in light of the newly proposed Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act and the new Land Acquisition Act, this would have disastrous consequences for fishermen, many of whom do not possess any land records.

He said in the preamble to the draft notification that the environment ministry allows greenfield airports and the expansion and modernisation of existing airports in coastal areas.

(Source: The Times of India)

Fiction from Wales translated to meet demand in Asia

April 26, 2008

FICTION by Welsh authors is being translated into Turkish and Arabic to meet Asian bookworms’ growing interest in contemporary Wales.

Publishers in the Middle East have chosen some of the grittiest portrayals of life in Wales for their readers – but that can cause a few difficulties.

Stories have to be chosen with care because ripe language and descriptions of sexual activity might not pass the censors or could offend readers in some countries.

And one translator said it was impossible to translate into Arabic the vernacular used by author Niall Griffiths in his novel Runt, which revolves around a teenage savant on a Welsh hill farm.

Read further here

Olympic torch, the poem and its translation

April 21, 2008

The first runner of Olympic torch

AS THE Olympic torch makes its way through Canberra on Thursday, another relay will shadow it, as it has since the torch began its journey in Greece on March 24. An initiative of writers’ organisation International PEN, and the brainchild of Sydney writer Chip Rolley, the PEN Poem Relay is a web-based campaign calling for freedom of expression in China.

Writers worldwide have translated and recorded the poem June by imprisoned journalist and poet Shi Tao into, at last count, more than 90 languages.

The poem as translated to English from Chinese by Chip Rolley is as under:

My whole life
Will never get past “June”
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in romance’s pool of blood

June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the rivers fall silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead.

The poem is a moving meditation on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, written on June 9, 2004, to coincide with the event’s 15th anniversary.

It has moved via website, from PEN centre to centre, along a route similar to the Olympic torch itinerary, adding new translations as it goes. So far the poem has been to 70 locations throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East, and it will continue its journey up to the opening of the Olympics in August. The Australian leg will include translations into Aboriginal and other languages that reflect our extraordinary linguistic diversity.