Book review: Lost in translation, by Eva Hoffman

Language, culture, and perception viewed through the prism of the immigrant experience.

Lost in Translation

Author: Eva Hoffman

Year: 1991 

Format: Paperback 288 page

ISBN 13: 9780749390709 (978-0-7493-9070-9)

ISBN: 0749390700 (0-7493-9070-0)


The 'translation' of the title is used in both its meanings.

Eva Hoffman tells the story of her family's move from Poland to Canada in the late 1950s. The book's multi-layered narrative deals with childhood, parting, and identity. Ms Hoffman's experience with changing languages will have interpreters nodding in recognition.

What happens to language when a person changes country? The author vividly describes the loss of language, from everyday words, the ability to hold an audience of friends with a story. An outgoing, garrulous person is reduced to monosyllabic watcher.

It is not only language that changes, but also the cultural references and markers: "Because I don't know the background, I don't always grasp the foreground".

Language, culture, and perception are viewed through the prism of the immigrant experience. These are issues that most interpreters have encountered, albeit in diluted and ultimately non-threatening form. When we learned our languages we all experienced a degree of the dislocation so eloquently described.

And the book is funny. The incomer's descriptions of the baffling "semiotics of dating" in early 1960s Canada, the discovery of "health as effort", the political naivety of North America.

In short, a book that deserves a place in every interpreter's knapsack.



Recommended citation format:
Philip H. D. SMITH. "Book review: Lost in translation, by Eva Hoffman". aiic.net December 27, 2000. Accessed May 22, 2019. <http://aiic.net/p/306>.



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alex

   

the book: Lost in Translation: A life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman

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Stacy

   

There's a book title "A Soul's Search" in "Lost in Translation" and I was wondering if anyone knows the author of that book. If someone could e'mail me a response, I would be greatful, thank you. - Stacy

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Katarzyna,Univ.of Warsaw

   

Warsaw.2003 and I've just finished "Lost in Translation". Astonishing how almost half a century later leaving a non-communist Poland behind I've gone thru the same while learning a new life Canada. Pani Ewo! Thank you for putting my confused thoughts into the words I've have never found myself.

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Rodney Robertson

   

Does anyone know if Eva Hoffman's "Lost in Translation" has been translated into Korean?

It's for my students who have immigrated to Canada and are having a rough time adjusting.

I would appreciate any leads you might have.

Sincerely,

Rodney Robertson

Vancouver, Canada

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maugoshia

   

To read Eva Hoffman's book it was the greatest pleasure I experimented recently and at the same time very painfull..

It reminded me "my way " of adaptation in 1984 when I left Poland for Spain. Even it was different country to emigrate to and I was much older but the process of assimilation is always the same.

I am greatfull to Eva to describe this process in such deep and moving way.

It is a must for everybody who "once imigrated "!!!

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Alina Mondini

   

This book represents the best psychotherapy I ever had since I left my home country, Romania. The depht and honesty with which the Eastern European mentality is compared to the Western World, the intensity, complexity of true feelings and sensitivity boiling in ones heart, and most of all the capacity of giving the right voice to all these helped me understanding myself better than never. I would very much like to translate "Lost in Translation" into Romanian, to better find myself and to give my mother the opportunity to read this book.

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Celsa

   

In Exile, Hoffman says "But America is the land of yearning, and perhaps nowhere else are one's desires so wantonly stimulated... it is difficult to agree to being just one person." She vows to to find a spiritual individualism through deprivation. This means something to me, it draws a feeling of incompletness, regret for all the envy and wanting. Finding one's true humanity and self is the ultimate test for survival in the New World.

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iohann

   

I just finished lost in translation, and i'm still lost...in the pages of the book, in the painful acknowledgement of the reality it describes....we all are incompleted: some of us because we have left behind a whole wordl of friends, of human interactions, of wisdom...some others because have never parted, and thus don't know the power of unrootness.... (obviously my english sucks :)

anyway....it was a good book, one of those we keep forever in the back of the soul...

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Michelle

   

My friend tells me you can find anything on the Internet. I disagree. Tell him there's magic out there that just can't be translated into a computer screen. Prove him wrong. My favorite sentence in Lostin Translation begins with: We speak, my lover and I...and she uses the word deliquesce (sp?) Find it and print it on this magic machine Thanks--Michelle

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NYDIA BUCH

   

FROM A SMALL TOWN IN CUBA TO BROOKLYN,NY, I WENT THROUGH THE MOST PAINFULL FEELINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE ACCULTURATION PROCESS. BY THEN, I ALREADY KNEW, THAT I WAS HALF-WAY-THROUGH. I WAS IN A PLACE WHERE I HAD NO RETURN, BUT, STILL FAR FROM WHERE I NEEDED TO GET."LOST IN TRANSLATION" CAME OUT AND I WAS AMONG THE FIRST READERS(OF COURSE WITH MY DICCTIONARY, BY MY SIDE) SHE ACCOMPANIED ME UP TO THIS DAY..."THE NUANCES OF THE LANGUAGE" A DREAM, A BLESS, A FAITH.

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Mark Gustafson

   

I am reading this for one of my English major classes at Illinois State University. This is a great book not only from the perspetive of a person losing the ability to effectively communicate, but also gives great descriptions of post-war Europe, particularly Poland.

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