Translation from a lexicographer's point of view: problems and solutions
Mikel Morris


The author aims to give a sweeping view of how Basque language lexicography and translation has changed over the years. The article is broadly divided into two parts: 1. Practical problems 2. Basque lexicography vs. Thai/Chinese lexicography.

In the first part, the author states how translation between Basque and English is a relatively new activity. Translation between the two languages began humbly with a few scattered translations by Edward Spencer Dodgson but it is only since the 1980's that one can say it actually picked up steam. Indeed, it is reasonable to predict that in the future, most translations into Basque will be from English, not Spanish, given the overwhelming importance of English in world communication, research, bibliography, the internet, and the European Union itself.

Throughout the world, bilingual lexicography is a highly specialized activity which, due to the cost and breadth of the subject, is relatively rare. Indeed, there are rather few truly good, reliable dictionaries in any language in the world today. The countries with the best bilingual lexicography tradition are arguably England, Germany, France, Russia, and Japan. There might be great dictionaries published in other countries in the world but, in the author's opinion, said countries have the finest tradition over all.

As for the bilingual Basque lexicography tradition, there is not much to write home about. There are very few people - or publishing houses - that are continuously involved in compiling, researching, and printing bilingual Basque dictionaries on a continuous basis: Elhuyar, Bostak Bat, and Morris Academy Press. However, the small, weak market is a hindrance to development in Basque lexicography as well as a lack of true cooperation. Moreover, the Basques themselves show little ambition to compile truly large, comprehensive lexicographical works. Indeed, it is only recent that there were some officially certified Basque translators nor is there much interest in compiling bilingual Basque dictionaries in the languages of the immigrants who have come to the Basque Country. The author calls for Basques to look beyond Spain, indeed, beyond Europe and look at what has been produced in Asia. The scale of Asian dictionaries far surpasses anything done in Europe.

The author then goes on to give examples of social register. The most difficult register in Basque seems to be the very colloquial, even vulgar level of speech. He gives a large example of the F word and various solutions in spite of the myth that holds that there are no swear words in Basque.

In the second part, the author discusses why he has ventured into Asian lexicography, starting with Thai and later progressing to Mandarin Chinese. In spite of the various difficulties dealing with a language with totally different historical, religious, and cultural ties, not to mention different fauna and flora, the author expresses the idea that it is far easier to compile a Thai-English or Chinese-English dictionary than a Basque-English dictionary, and this where there are different writing systems and transliteration problems (in Thai at least). Finally, to show just how unknown and isolated Basque culture is in Asia, even the term «Euskal Herria» is mistranslated as «Basque Region» rather than «Basque Country» in several of the main languages of Asia. The author also shows some pages of a Chinese-Basque dictionary that he has designed.