Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Written Word – Foreign Language

Lior Regev

Every year thousands of new titles are published in Israel. Even during an era in which the ever-present Internet, television, and radio compete to overwhelm our senses, the written word continues to flow. In the framework of the Book Law, the National Library – the body responsible for collecting and preserving Israel’s cultural assets – receives two copies of every publication issued in Israel. The library classifies and catalogues these books. Each year the library produces a report with statistical data about the new books in Israel. 

In 2012, the library recorded a total of 7,487 new books, including governmental, business, and private publications, reference books, fiction, religious texts, and children’s books. By comparison, in 2011 a total of 6,302 new books were recorded, in 2010 the total was 6,285, and in 2009 it was 6,326. 

Books in Israel are published by a variety of publishers located throughout the country. Jerusalem has consistently been at the top of the list in this regard, as the city with the greatest number of new books – significantly more than Tel Aviv and the other cities on the list. For example, in 1992, a total of 2,594 new books were published in Jerusalem, comprising 41% of the 6,271 publications issued in Israel that year. Tel Aviv, by comparison, produced only 2,051 (33%) publications. In 2002, Jerusalem produced 2,619 (35%) publications out of a total of 7,399 new titles published in Israel, and Tel Aviv produced 1,840 (25%). In 2012, a total of 2,077 (31%) new books were published in Jerusalem, compared with 1,479 (22%) in Tel Aviv and only 408 (6%) in Bnei Brak, the third city in terms of number of new publications.

Most of the books published in Israel and recorded at the National Library are in Hebrew. In 2012, the most recent year for which data have been compiled, about 81% of all publications were produced in Hebrew. So what are the other languages? The most popular foreign languages in which books are published in Israel are English, Arabic, and Russian. Out of a total of 808 books published in a foreign language in Israel, 371 (46%) were published in English, 205 (25%) in Arabic, and 165 (20%) in Russian.

When we examine the languages in which books were published across various cities, an interesting picture emerges. About 21% of the books published in Jerusalem were in a foreign language, compared with only 5% in Tel Aviv. This difference might stem from the variety in culture and background that characterizes Jerusalem compared with Tel Aviv. Out of 429 new books published in a foreign language in Jerusalem, 217 (51%) were published in English, 101 (24%) in Arabic, and 80 (19%) in Russian – comparable to the percentages for Israel. By comparison, in Tel Aviv 33 books (41%) were in English, 34 (42%) in Russian, and only 1 (1%) in Arabic.



I would like to express special thanks to Nachum Zitter and the National Library of Israel for their assistance in providing the statistical information for this column.

3 comments:

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