Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How a Three-Year-Old Translates digitized

Correspondence has been delayed at my end by my having to go through the learning curve of a new computer. It’s one of the new generation of ‘netbooks’, half the size and footprint with twice the power of my five-year-old laptop, and with a real seven hours of battery life. I had a computer this size 20 years ago, a NEC UltraLite, but its screen was blue and white, it had no hard disk (just a small flash memory) and it was pre-Windows. I’m discovering the pros and cons of netbooks, but this is not the place to discuss them. Switching to another computer provides a good example of the human power of conversion that I talked about in my posting of 25 July under Innateness. If I’d bought a full-size laptop, I’d have had to do even more switching because they all come now with Vista fatware whereas this netbook still uses good old XP. Even so, I haven’t been able to avoid new editions of Windows Explorer and Word, neither of which IMHO is worth the changeover from the previous versions.

In the meantime, the digitization of ‘How a Three-Year-Old Translates’ (1980) has been completed, and so it is available from me free on request. This is the companion paper to ‘Translation as an Innate Skill’, but it’s much less known because it was published in Singapore, where I happened to be teaching at the time, and for the same reason it’s always been hard to find. Yet it’s no less important. ‘Innate Skill’ has been criticized as being “anecdotal”, which is unfair to the serious longtitudinal studies by Ronjat and Leopold on which much of it is based; but anyhow the same criticism can’t be leveled at ‘Three-Year-Old’, which distils a mass of carefully recorded experimental data gathered from a single bilingual subject over a short period.

In future, the two papers will be supplied together. If I’ve already promised you a copy of ‘Three-Year-Old’, you’ll get it this week.

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