The Power Of Language, 'Found In Translation'

Play associated audio

Translation is everywhere — that's is the crux of a new book by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche: Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms our World.

From NASA to the U.N. to Chinese tattoo parlors, the book looks high and low for stories of the undeniable importance of language. One of those stories centers on a man named Peter Less, 91, an inspiration of sorts to interpreters and translators everywhere.

"He was a survivor of the holocaust and all of his family members — his parents, his siblings, his grandmother — were killed in Auschwitz," Kelly tells Jacki Lyden, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. "And he went on to become an interpreter for the Nuremberg trials, which is where the Nazi war criminals were tried, and he was the voice of the masterminds of the Holocaust."

Less interpreted for the very people who murdered his family.

"It really made me realize how difficult that must have been, because as an interpreter you're constantly trying to remain neutral and detached and, you know, be impartial and convey that information in a way that is authentic and is loyal to the source," Kelly says.

Not everyone could do that. Many interpreters at Nuremburg had to be dismissed because the testimony at the trials proved too emotionally disturbing. Kelly, a translator for nearly 20 years, asked Less how he was able to avoid that.

"He basically just said you have to detach and you have to just act like a machine," she says. "You have to shut off your emotions, and you have to just do that job faithfully. It's when you rise to the occasion, you know, that is the true sign of greatness."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Encore: 'Future Shock' 40 Years Later

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was a huge sensation when it was published in 1970. The book perfectly captured the angst of that time and prepared society for more changes to come.
NPR

In Prison, The Passion That Drove A Yogurt-Maker To Arson Still Burns

The yogurt entrepreneur who set fire to his factory remains in prison, but he's in better spirits now. "He's dreaming again," says his wife.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 1, 2016

Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo and Virginia Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax).

NPR

'Future Shock' Author Alvin Toffler Dies at 87

Toffler's warnings about 'information overload' and the accelerating pace of change in modern society made his seminal 1970 book a best-seller in the U.S. and around the world.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.