Monday, February 25, 2008

A Round-Up of Articles

Here are a bunch of articles on language and translation; not all are recent, but that doesn’t make them less interesting or relevant.

First, here is an
obituary for Icelandic translator Bernard Scudder. I had contact with him because he was going to speak at the Nordic Translation Conference next month, and I was saddened to hear of his premature death.

Next, here is
an article on the evolution of language.

For those of you who can read Swedish and who have been following the situation with funding for translation in Sweden, you will want to read
this article for the latest news.

article by Chinese to English translator Howard Goldblatt is a few years old, but still worth a read. Interesting quotes include:
-“the unavoidable fact that a translation can only complement, not replicate, the original.”
-“And yet the relationship cannot help but be fragile, given an author's desire to have his work reach the broadest possible audience with the exact effect it had on its original readers. Too often, that desire is accompanied by absolute ignorance about the nature of translation, or a disdain for it, or a combination of the two.”
-“Translation is inadequate, but it’s all we have if good writing is to have its life extended, spatially and temporally.”

The next
article is by Israeli author Etgar Keret and is on two Hebrew words that “do have English equivalents, except that in Hebrew—or maybe it would be more accurate to say "in Israeli"—they carry completely different values.”

Sticking to the Middle East, here is an
article on learning Arabic.

For a completely different language, this
piece talks about Hawaiian making a comeback.

Finally, a bit of humor. Here is a
sketch entitled “The Impotence of Proofreading.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Italian Translation Award

I saw this announcement about an award for a translation from or to Italian on the MODLANGSRT list:


IPOC Press, the Milan, Italy-based publisher, invites translators to participate in the 2008 Paths of Culture Translation Prize by submitting translations in the following categories:
-- Translations into Italian from any language
-- Translations into English from Italian.
Competition entries may include translations in any of the following disciplines: cultural anthropology, autobiography/memoir, philosophy, management, pedagogy/educational sciences, psychology, sociology, history, and fiction/literature.

* Winning entries will be published by IPOC Press;
* The winning Translator will receive a prize of EUR150.00 as well as a contract that includes a royalty provision. (NB: In the event of works translated by multiple translators, the prize is intended as "per manuscript" and not per translator.)

Submissions must be postmarked (not received) by: 30 September 2008.
For full details and a manuscript submission form, please download the complete announcement from the IPOC Press site:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

News on Children's Literature

Some of you who read this blog know that children’s literature is one of my special interests. So I thought I’d share two bits of children’s lit-related news with you.

First, the most recent issue of
Transcript is devoted to children’s literature. Transcript describes itself as “the trilingual European Internet Review of Books and Writing” and it is “published by Literature Across Frontiers at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth,” and “funded by the European Union's Culture 2000 fund.”

Stories, the Centre for Children’s Books has launched a new website which gives “access to records of its extensive collection of artwork and archives.” Seven Stories is in Newcastle upon Tyne and people can see exhibits and do research there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Nice Pants: On Differences Between UK and US English

I've posted here about differences between UK and US English, but just because I've studied up on the topic doesn't mean I always remember my lessons.

A few days, while chatting with a Welsh woman at my university, I said to her, "I like your pants! They're quite nice!"

Well, naturally, she looked pretty shocked. I had forgotten that "pants" in UK English refers to underwear. She looked down, to make sure her underwear wasn't showing, and then she burst into laughter and said, "You mean my trousers, right?" We had a laugh then about my mistake and about UK versus US English.

It was a good reminder that translation doesn't always occur between two distinct languages; it can also take place between two versions or dialects or registers of the same tongue.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

WALTIC Conference

Some readers of this blog might be interested in the WALTIC conference that will take place in Stockholm this summer. Here is some information I received:

Welcome to WALTIC – the Value of Words!
A global arena for collaboration, creating opinion and achieving change

In June 2008, the Swedish Writers’ Union will launch WALTIC - the Value of Words, the first literary world congress of its kind. Between 29 June and 2 July 2008 one thousand writers, translators and scholars will gather for a mutual manifestation of the value of words and in support of human rights.

The key philosophy of WALTIC is to consider literature as a source of knowledge with political strength. The written word and the inherent power of the narrative is the basis for global society as a whole. That is why, in the words of Philip Pullman, “dictators and tyrants hate literature: the secret democracy of reading is too strong for them to withstand.” It is our conviction that the writers and translators of the world play an important role as mediators of knowledge, creators of opinion and as achievers of public change.

WALTIC will focus on three urgent global issues: Literacy, Intercultural dialogue and Digitalisation. The program offers a wealth of seminars, lectures and best practices. Among the speakers you will find leading writers and scholars as well as translators and innovative poets – with even numbers of women and men represented.

WALTIC will take a stand to: Increase literacy, safeguard freedom of expression, and strengthen authors’ rights.

We hope to see you in Stockholm at WALTIC 2008!

Call for Best Practice & Call for Stories now open!

Call for Best Practice

The Best Practice program will include a number of topics that concern writers and literary translators, as well as practical work related to the main themes of WALTIC. The program will hold everything from Writers’ and Translators’ Issues and Creative Writing to Literacy and Intercultural Exchange.

Call for Stories
WALTIC is a unique literary congress insofar as it also engages high-profile academics from around the world. Alongside independent writers and translators, we therefore particularly encourage researchers and academics to share their work within WALTIC’s exclusive Stories program.

The oral presentations are 15 or 30 minutes for both programs and submitters are welcome to indicate their preference. For more information and topics, see

Deadline for on-line submission 3 March, 2008

Resident of a low-income country? Please look into the WALTIC scholarship program.

WALTIC 2008 is arranged in close co-operation with SIDA, The Swedish National Commission for UNESCO and SI (Svenska Institutet)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Versioning vs. Translating

Last week, I attended the conference for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in New York City. There were several panels on translation, which was exciting to see. However, it seems quite obvious that not everyone really understands what translation is.

At the first panel I attended on translation, one woman (who shall remain nameless) was introduced as "a poet and translator." However, it quickly became clear that this woman was a monolingual. She didn't know the language she was "translating" from, nor did she know much about the culture, and she had never visited the country. How, then, did she translate?

Well, she is a professor at a university. She found a professor in the psychology department who was a native speaker of the language in question; that professor wrote a literal translation of the poem, and our "translator" then rewrote it as she saw fit. In other words, she took word-for-word translations and wrote versions of them.

Versioning is indeed a form of creative writing, but it is not translation. To truly translate, one must know the language the work is written in and the culture that informs the work. There is team-translation, but this doesn't seem to fall into that category.

It was surprising and disappointing that at a major conference, there was such confusion about what translation is.