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The SAT Reading Comprehension: Basic Principles

Sample Passage Drill: 12 Minutes
To get the most out of this, it's important that you appreciate the difficulties of reading on the SAT. To experience these difficulties, you'll have to set aside some time and complete the following drill at a desk as you would on the actual exam. And no, it's not the same thing to do this drill reading comfortably on your bed while listening to some MP3 tunes you've downloaded.

This passage is slightly more difficult than average, though some of the questions are quite difficult. Do the best you can; you're just getting warmed up to the reading techniques.

Time yourself using OmniProctor.

The following excerpt is from a book by Umberto Eco, an internationally renowned scholar and prolific Italian author (nonfiction as well as bestselling fiction).

(5) I frequently feel irritated when I read essays on
the theory of translation that, even though brilliant
and perceptive, do not provide enough examples. I
think translation scholars should have had at least
one of the following experiences during their life:
(10) translating, checking and editing translations, or
being translated and working in close cooperation
with their translators. As an editor, I worked for
twenty years in a publishing house. As a translator,
I made only two translations of others works,
(15) which took me many years of reflection and hard
work. As an author, I have almost always
collaborated with my translators, an experience
that started with my early essays and became more
and more intense with my four novels. Irrespective
(20) of the fact that some philosophers or linguists
claim there are no rules for deciding whether one
translation is better than another, everyday activity
in a publishing house tells us that it is easy to
establish that a translation is wrong and deserves
(25) severe editing; maybe it is only a question of
common sense, but common sense must be respected.

Let us suppose that in a novel a character says,
"You're just pulling my leg." To render such an

(30) idiom in Italian by stai solo tirandomi la gamba or
tu stai menandomi per la gamba
would be literally
correct, but misleading. In Italian, one should say
mi stai prendendo per il naso, thus substituting an
English leg with an Italian nose. If literally
(35) translated, the English expression, absolutely
unusual in Italian, would make the reader suppose
that the character (as well as the author) was
inventing a provocative rhetorical figure; which is
completely misleading, as in English the expression
(40) is simply an idiom. By choosing "nose" instead of
"leg," a translator puts the Italian reader in the
same situation as the original English one. Thus,
only by being literally unfaithful can a translator
succeed in being truly faithful to the source text.
(45) Which is like echoing Saint Jerome,* patron saint
of translators, that in translating one should not
translate verbum e verbo sed sensum exprimere de
(sense for sense, and not word for word),
even though the notion of the right sense of a text
(50) can imply some ambiguities.

In the course of my experiences as a translated
author, I have always been torn between the need
to have a translation that respected my intentions
and the exciting discovery that my text could elicit

(55) unexpected interpretations and be in some way
improved when it was re-embodied in another
language. What I want to emphasize is that many
concepts circulating in translation studies (such as
adequacy, equivalence, faithfulness) can also be
(60) considered from the point of view of negotiation.
Negotiation is a process by virtue of which, in
order to get something, each party renounces
something else, and at the end everybody feels
satisfied since one cannot have everything.
(65) Between the purely theoretical argument that,
since languages are differently structured,
translation is impossible, and the commonsensical
acknowledgement that people, after all, do translate
and understand each other, it seems to me that the
(70) idea of translation as a process of negotiation
between author and text, between author and
readers, as well as between the structure of two
languages and the encyclopedias of two cultures is
the only one that matches our experience.

* A Catholic monk and scholar (342-420) who translated the Old Testament from the ancient Hebrew to the then-contemporary Latin

  1. In lines 3–8 ("I think translation . . . translators."), the author expresses the opinion that translation scholars
    1. should have practical experience in their field
    2. should have open minds about the opinions of others
    3. are brilliant and perceptive, if somewhat academic
    4. should be less concerned with theories of translation
    5. should have more than one degree, and ideally in different fields

  2. In lines 8–15 ("As an editor . . . novels."), the author
    1. displays the scope of his erudition on multiple topics
    2. reveals conflicting attitudes about the work of translators
    3. elaborates on the source of his irritation with theories of translation
    4. summarizes the breadth of his background and perspectives on the subject
    5. confesses that he lacks the academic qualifications of typical translation scholars

  3. In lines 25–28 ("To render such . . . misleading."), the author says that it would be misleading to so translate the English statement because
    1. in Italian there are two equally valid ways of translating the words
    2. the word-for-word translation would not have the same sense
    3. an English character would not speak in Italian
    4. in Italian there is no equivalent idiom
    5. the Italian translations use far more words than does the original version

  4. In line 34, "figure" most nearly means
    1. body
    2. thought
    3. picture
    4. character
    5. expression

  5. In lines 38–40 ("Thus, only by . . . text."), the author
    1. raises a question
    2. employs an idiom
    3. poses a paradox
    4. proves a theory
    5. introduces a metaphor

  6. In referring to the "ambiguities" (line 46), the author
    1. admits that two translators might very well differ regarding their determination of the sense of a text
    2. points out that words can often have more than one meaning
    3. criticizes translators who offer only one version of a work
    4. rejects the commonsensical notion that literal translations are ineffective
    5. anticipates the possible objection that translations cannot be as clear as the original work

  7. What is the author's view of the concepts mentioned in lines 53–56?
    1. These concepts are not useful in understanding the translation process
    2. These concepts are theoretical, and refer to things that do not actually exist
    3. These concepts do not adequately reflect the tradeoffs translators must weigh in practice
    4. These concepts are outdated, and should be replaced by new ones
    5. These concepts unnecessarily distort the meaning of translations

  8. It can be inferred that the author mentions "encyclopedias" (line 69) rather than dictionaries because unlike dictionaries, encyclopedias
    1. are revised frequently, making them more up-to-date
    2. are compilations of contributions from individual experts in many fields
    3. do not contain literal definitions of words, making them more reliable
    4. contain cross-referenced indexes, affording translators easy comparisons
    5. contain the cultural contexts and connotations of the original and the new language

  9. Based on the passage as a whole, the author's approach towards translation, as contrasted with that of theoretical translation scholars, can best be characterized as
    1. mercenary
    2. untenable
    3. literal
    4. pragmatic
    5. rhetorical

You'll find the answers to these questions on the next page.

Next: Page 10 >>

From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here.

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