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Messages for Naj
Translating English into Russian 12/29/05

Olga with professor of music
"Bair Uskeev requested a copy of your resume after our meeting with the Minister of Culture," said Olga Kuznetsova, Vice President of Academic Affairs at the East Siberian Academy of Culture.

"Yes, and I added a paragraph to include my current activities in Buryatia as he suggested."

"I saw that. We have not translated that part. I have been going over the translation, and I have a couple questions. I want to make sure that we have it correctly."


"It says you are the director of Healing and the Arts, what do you mean by healing?"

"Well, if I have a cut on my hand and a doctor places a bandage over it and it closes together, that is curing. People go to hospitals for curing. Broken legs, surgery, and so forth."


"But whether or not you can get cured, you can get healed. Say you have an inoperable brain tumor. Learning to live with the disease, finding peace is a form of healing."

"In Russian healing has a spiritual dimension."

"It sorta does in English as well."

"Does or doesn't."

"More does than doesn't"

"Here it says you are a board member of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare."


"Why 'in', why not 'and'?"

"We use 'in' because we want to actively increase the use of the arts in healthcare."

"If you say 'and' doesn't it suggest that the arts and healthcare are equal? Isn't this your goal? Maybe it would be better. And what do you mean by healthcare? Is this to mean more than hospitals? Healthcare is a very big word in Russian. Society is a strange word. It is not so definite. What do you mean by 'Society'? Is it an organization?"

"My fellow board members would love to discuss these questions with you. Yes the Society for the Arts in Healthcare is the name of an organization."

"It's proper name?"


"Maybe we should leave even though it isn't so clear. Words like 'an,' 'in,' 'to' and 'for' all have great meaning in Russian. I think about these things. I want to clearly communicate your meaning. Look at this, 'Americans for the Arts'. What does this mean?

"It is a national organization made up of artists, arts administrators, arts organizations and others who want to make the arts available to all people who live in America, to increase the arts in education and so forth."

"Not just artists?"

"No, anybody or any organization can be a member."

"In Russian the title would spell out these details so everyone would know exactly what you mean. Such few words do not say this. Would America for Art be better? And this monograph you wrote for them 'Cultures of Care.' What cultures are you referring to? Mexican? American? Indian? Ancient cultures? So many possible meanings."

Seseg translating.

"Naj, I am working on your paper," said Seseg referring to "Lives at 90," an article I wrote for the Lake Placid News adding an opening and closing paragraph to meet a twenty-four hour deadline so it could be presented at conference on aging sponsored by the Ulan Ude Department of Social Policy on 19 October 2005 titled "Social Demographic Development of Society and Senior Citizen Issues." The City dedicated 2005, the 60th Anniversary of the Great Patriotic War, to senior citizens and is hosting the conference as one of the major events.


"I have a couple words that I do not quite understand. You quote Adrian Edmonds as saying 'I still have my real estate license. I turned the business over to my daughter, but if you are looking for some land let me know. I'm still active.' Active at what?"

"He sold real estate - property. He was saying that even though he turned over his business, if I was interested in purchasing some property, or knew of someone interested, to tell him as he still was active in the business."

"At 97?"

"Yes. Drove his daughter a bit crazy from time to time as who knew what he was selling or trying to purchase."

"Yes, I see. Now here he says 'A minister depends on prayer in his line of work. If you call me, I go fix it, sell it or build it.' What does he mean? What does a minister have to do with prayer? What does this have to do with what he is doing? Fix what?"

"First Adrian not only sells property, but if you want a house built on the property he'll build you one, or if you have a house and it is broken, say the chimney needs repair, he'll fix it."

"Still at 97? All that. I could use him on my house. What a pity he is not here. But what has a prayer have to do with anything?"

"He could have used an example of a fireman or doctor, but he was trying to say that just as prayer is basic to a minister's line of work, selling, building and fixing are basic to his line of work."

"Does your presidents always pray? Every day? When? Every time they sign a bill? Do they keep their hand on the bible?

"They have to use the bible when they take the oath of office, but I doubt that they use a bible so often. It isn't required."

"Then what ministers pray? Finance?"


"Priests? Priests pray of course, but what has that to do with government leaders?"

Translation complete.

"Ahhh. In our country, we often refer to the priest as a minister. We don't use the word minister in our country to refer to a politician. I think they do in England, but not in America."

"Now I see. I had these funny thoughts about all your government people praying every day and I couldn't see why Adrian would bring that up. I enjoyed your article. It is very different from our normal conference papers. They are so scientific and not so interesting. I think people will enjoy it. But I think I will change the word minister. Shall I use priests, or do only Catholics use that word?"

"What does visual arts mean?" said Olga as we viewed a web site on arts management together one late afternoon in her office.

"Visual arts are such things as painting and sculpture," I said.

"And performing arts?"

"Dance, theatre, opera, music."

"Why are they not called visual arts? You use your eyes to see them. How is one art you see visual and another art you see performing? Why make such distinctions?"

Next Day

"I asked our decorative arts faculty if they use the expression 'visual arts,' " said Olga. "They do not. They thought it was a funny choice of words. They suggest you Americans consider 'exhibited art' if you need such a term for paintings and sculpture. It was the closest words they could come to your meaning in Russian."

Inessa contemplating the imprecision of English.

"This word community," said Inessa, "you use it all the time in your lectures. We have no such word. It is very imprecise. Here you seem to be talking about residents of a village. Here a city. Here people who are connected with the Academy. It is very hard to translate. I do not understand."

I looked to where she was pointing at my computer screen on today's lecture on marketing as the third year socio culture students drifted into their seats. "Community means a group of people with a shared set of circumstances so in this case it means the faculty, students, administration and associates of the Academy and here it means the residents of Ulan Ude, which means the people living within the city itself as well as those who live just outside whose lives are centered around the city, and over here it stands for the cultural organizations, cultural ministries, artists and patrons that are involved in the arts."

"Exactly my point," she said expressively as a few student heads started to perk up. "How am I, or anyone listening, suppose to know who it means if you don't describe it actually as you just did?"

"When we hear the word, we listen to the context and supply in our own minds the basic details of who is included."

"So one person hearing you could be thinking differently than another exactly who is included?"

"Well, I guess. The boundaries of who is and is not included in a community are not always precise, such as the residents of city." We now have the rapt attention of a sizeable number of the students.

"Then why don't you say so in those circumstances so people more clearly understand who you mean, otherwise different people will have different understandings? How could you give and fairly grade a test that is based on such vague information?"

The word test has now created a palpable buzz amongst the students with those whose English is obviously better besieged by others. Some are now punching in numbers on their cell phones. Last minute stragglers are dashing to their seats to discover what's up.

"I see what you mean," I said. "I'll try to give a more precise description."

"Good. Thank you. That will be a big help. Now what do you mean by the phrase cultural heritage?"

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