Monday, April 09, 2007

The Child and the Book Conference and Translating Dialects

I am back from Turkey now and eager to tell you about the the Child and the Book conference, which is an annual conference on children’s literature that focused on translation this year.

I gave a presentation on the translation of dialects in Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alan Garner’s The Stone Book Quartet. In my analysis of those books and their Swedish translations, I identified four major strategies for translating the dialects: standardization (removing the dialect and using standard language in its place), orthography and grammar (using grammatical and orthographic ‘mistakes’ and/or eye dialect), replacement (replacing the source dialect with any target dialect, or one that is geographically, socioeconomically, culturally, or stereotypically a relatively close match), and compensation (employing temporal or regional dialect in different places/amounts). Another possible strategy is omission (deleting any phrases or sections containing dialect), but I didn’t notice that in those two books, probably because not much would have been left if the translators had done that.

What is especially interesting to study in the translation of dialects in children’s literature versus that in literature for adults is whether translators feel more freedom and/or responsibility. Many adults – parents, writers, librarians, teachers, publishers, and so on – believe that children ought not be exposed to dialects; they think that the standard dialect of a language is the only correct one, or the only useful one to know. So I wonder if authors of books for children might feel more hesitant about employing dialects and also if translators of such books might be more likely to standardize the language. My opinion is that if an author has chosen to use a dialect, the translator should attempt to find a way of portraying it in the target text, but that is unfortunately not what always happens.

In the next post, I’ll write more about the conference in general.


Erika Dreifus said...

Welcome back, Brett! I look forward to reading more.

Brett Jocelyn Epstein said...

Thank you, Erika!

Best wishes,