Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lustiges Taschenbuch English Edition

An interesting thing--a series of duck digests for German speakers trying to learn English. Most of the stories have been printed in the US by Gemstone, mostly in their own DD and MM Adventures Digests; not all of them, however--out of a total of thirty-one stories, ten are seeing their first English printing in these volumes, which gives them a certain value for enthusiasts. When I saw that there was a boxed set of all four volumes, I was unable to resist. It took a full month for them to get to me (I don't remember waiting this long when I've ordered things from amazon.fr), but now, here they are. Woohoo.
The books are about twice the length of Gemstone's offerings. They're printed on somewhat lower-quality paper, but nothing too terrible--much better, certainly, than the absolutely horrific quality of Gladstone's short-lived digests. They include helpful introductory notes (in English, as is all of the books' text except the back cover copy) about how Disney comics are a great way to learn a language ("We think the great comics tradition of combining words and pictures is an easy and entertaining way to learn English"), as well as a glossary of terms in the back. The box is made of sturdy red cardboard.

We are also told that "the stories have been re-edited to make the language clear and simple." That obviously raises Troubling Questions, so to see what sort of "re-editing" we're talking about, I compared Pat and Carol McGreal's story "A Gal for Gladstone" (or simply "A Girl for Gladstone," as the Germans call it) as published here with the non-clear-and-simple-language version in US374.

A lot of the dialogue is unchanged, and a lot of the changes appear to have been made more for reasons of space than anything else (a number of times where the American refers to Gladstone as "that lucky nephew" or similar, the German just calls him by name). There are, however, a number of instances in which the German version is notably different; in which the changes actually impact meaning: when Gladstone is complaining about Scrooge not giving him the kind of sweet jobs that he does Donald (THERE'S a strange conceit), he protests: "but it isn't fair." The American version renders Scrooge's response as "be that as it may! Donald gets my favor, even if he is a lazy, empty-headed dolt!" The German version renders the first part of this as, simply, "yes, but Donald still gets my vote." The difference between just dismissing the complaint and actively admitting "yes, this is unfair and makes no sense." Here's something even worse:

American: "I can't get over it! Uncle Scrooge won't trust me just because he thinks I'm an irresponsible, footloose bachelor who depends solely on his luck!"

German: "I can't get over it! So I'm an irresponsible, footloose, luck-happy bachelor! Is that any reason not to rely on me?"

Rather significantly different self-evaluations there! Of course, this story isn't any sort of subtle, nuanced character study in which such things are going to make a huge difference in the aggregate, but it seems a bit sloppy nonetheless. Overall, however, I don't feel as though you're going to miss a whole lot going from one version to the other.

Mind you, regardless of editing, these stories are extremely hit-or-miss. With the sheer volume of content that has to be generated for markets like this one, it's inevitable that there would be a fair bit of dross--even more so in these lengthy digest-type stories. From my perspective, the books are valuable mostly as a glimpse for Americans into an alien world in which Disney comics are a super-popular, everyday thing. Recommended if that sort of thing interests you. If not, not.


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