Distorting Mirror or Dim Reflection of a Distorted World?

Научная статья

Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

Ukrainian toponyms were also hardly recognizable. Our everyday experience of dealing with calling cards advertising letterheads and suchlike issued by Ukrainian companies and official institutions gives Kiev as the most commonly used version of the name of our capital.



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Distorting Mirror or Dim Reflection of a Distorted World?

One of Ukraine's laws translated into English suggested "the Autonomous Republic of Crime" to be

one of the country's regions, in place of the Crimea. No other mistake ever was so correct. One

thing is disturbing: it looks like a portent.

Once, trying to verify the spelling of some geographical names, I referred to an electronic atlas of

the world issued by an American company. It appeared of little assistance, however, as-many towns

and cities outside the Anglo-Saxon universe were cited in a somewhat strange manner, neither

English nor native language. For instance, it suggested neither Cologne nor Koln, but Koln, and

one of the countries bordering on Ukraine was designated as Belorus. Ukrainian toponyms were

also hardly recognizable. Kyiv alone had as many as three different names: Kyyiv, Kiev and Kyiev,

while the Black Sea port was named Ilichevsk.

Our everyday experience of dealing with calling cards, advertising, letterheads, and suchlike, issued

by Ukrainian companies and official institutions, gives "Kiev" as the most commonly used version

of the name of our capital. This is so even for the Kyiv city state administration, and Kyiv

specialized customs.

On April 19, 1996 the Ukrainian commission on legal terminology announced, "Ukrainian proper

names are reproduced by means of the English language, proceeding from their original form,

written in accordance with applicable spelling norms, without mediation of any other language."

One need not think at all: elaborating the rule, you just write a Ukrainian word, putting Latin letters

instead of Cyrillic. One thing is required, however: knowledge of Ukrainian spelling norms.

The basis for disregard of the spelling rules and for common breach of copyrights is the same:

general legal nihilism, from the man in the street to top officials, further aggravated by the lack of

self-respect or by ill-perceived self-respect.

There are some purely technical obstacles impeding the progress of translation in Ukraine. Each of

them is very serious and requires a separate discussion:

1. Lack of specialized foreign dictionaries (technical, judicial, engineering, etc.);

Lack of dictionaries of rarer languages, or, sometimes, of languages which are in high demand,
on account of Ukraine's geography, like Polish, let alone oriental languages or those of the former
USSR, although Ukrainian dictionaries have been published in China, Poland, and Uzbekistan.    '
Those  two  factors make Ukrainian translators use  either Russian or,  more rarely,  English
dictionaries, thus sometimes producing a garbled mess.  Considering the difference between
synonyms and secondary meanings, translation sometimes looks very vulgar. At the same time,
Ukraine possesses vast possibilities for compilation of comprehensive dictionaries in nearly all
major European languages, as Ukrainian linguists chair departments in European and North
American universities (few nations may be proud of Slavicists comparable to George Shevelov),
while Ukrainians have  for decades integrated into the American,  Canadian, Polish,  Czech,
Hungarian, German, French, Romanian, Lithuanian, Georgian societies, and the vocabulary need
not be artificially invented, just processed.

Ukrainian special terminology in some branches is still underdeveloped and unsettled. Such is
an objective situation caused by the past Russification of science, technology, education and
administration in Ukraine. This can be cured. In Israel modern terminology was created within a
very short period of time in a blank space, given the isolation of Hebrew from other languages and
its limited sphere of application for centuries. A bit older example is presented by the Czechs, the
"dying Czech nationality", as Friedrich Engels saw them: "Moravians and Slovaks have long lost
all traces of national identity and national viability... Professor Palack, the main advocate of the
Czech nationality, is but a learned German gone mad; he still can't speak Czech correctly and
without a foreign accent... Bohemia can further exist only as a part of Germany" Despite this, it
took only a few years for the Czech language to adapt to the challenges of statehood and industrial
revolution. Thus, to reiterate, this disease is curable.


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