Posts by Dominick Boyle

Asymptote Podcast: The World of Mundartliteratur

Writing in their own language.

The Swiss are known for their rules and order. Language is not exempt from this trend, except when it comes to Swiss-German in which case there are no rules and there is no order, because there is no Swiss-German. Instead, the German-speaking part of Switzerland is home to many different dialects, often referred to as distinct languages: Baseldytsch, Bärndütsch, Züritüütsch. Despite the lack of a standardized writing system, authors in Switzerland are writing the stories of modern Switzerland the way they hear them and in the language in which they live. This literature, referred to as Mundartliteratur, is a unique form of translation from the spoken to the written, as each author must create their own method for transcribing the unique sound of their “Swiss-German”. In the first of two episodes exploring MundartliteraturAsymptote Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle speaks with Professor of literature at the University of Fribourg, Ralph Müller, to provide some valuable historical context, and Swiss writer and poet Beat Sterchi who explains just why it is so important for the Swiss to write in their own language. Sterchi, a member of the collective Bern ist überall, also shares a reading, giving us a true sense of his work and the sound of his Bernese Swiss-German.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

All sound recorded and produced by Dominick Boyle.

Asymptote Podcast: Opera and Translation

Translating opera is a multimodal undertaking.

Starting off the new year fresh, we’re taking a look at opera, an art form that purports to have it all: poetry, music, costumes, and lots of drama. Opera in translation is ubiquitous, and what originally started as a private performance for Florentine nobles quickly spread beyond the palace walls and around the world with the aid of translation. With so much going on, translating opera is a multimodal undertaking. Our new podcast editor Dominick Boyle talks with Lucile Desblache, a professor at the University of Roehampton in London who led the project Translating Music. She guides us through the history of opera, explaining that translation has been there all along—just in different costumes. We also talk to Amanda Holden, a practicing opera translator who specializes in creating sung translations. She talks about how our image of opera as a boring and staid art form is a problem of translation, and how its true power can be revealed. With enough twists and turns to fill an opera, this is the Asymptote podcast.

Podcast Editor and Host: Dominick Boyle

Music provided under a Creative Commons license from freemusicarchive.com and copyright free from museopen.org and europarchive.org.

To Pay or Not to Pay: The Linguistic Hurdle to Entering the Met

Every time I asked a visitor to name their own price, I was throwing the script of a typical commercial transaction out the window

If I sold you a ticket in the last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I was running an experiment on you. Thank you for your participation.

Now, this experiment wasn’t very tightly controlled, and it definitely wasn’t sanctioned by the higher-ups, but when you’re doing the same thing 500 times a day you have to find a way to keep it interesting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the ticketing policy of the Met, it is somewhat well known in the field because you can pay anything you want for a ticket, as long as it’s above $0. For those of you familiar with this policy, it’s probably a source of anxiety.

For staff on the “frontline”, it’s a linguistic hurdle that we must cross with each and every transaction. It was impressed on me upon starting at the museum that I must make sure (probably for legal reasons) that each and every visitor understands this “pay-what-you-wish” policy which, believe-you-me, is not as simple as you might think. I began my experiment to try to find the magic words that people would understand, but confusion over the price of a ticket ensued pretty much instantaneously.

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