Thursday, July 31, 2008

Contest for Japanese-to-English Translators

Japanese-to-English translators may be interested in the Kurodahan Press Translation Prize, “awarded for excellence in translation of a selected Japanese short story into English”. See this website for more details.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Question about Ergonomics

As someone who runs her own business and works very hard, I often find that I spend long days (sometimes as much as 16 hours) in front of the computer. Like many translators, editors, and writers, I have suffered from carpal tunnel and other pains in my arms, hands, neck, and back.

I’ve tried different things (physical therapy, buying a more comfortable chair, an ergonomic keyboard, voice-recognition software – well, that was some years ago and I wasn’t patient enough to keep training the software), but I still have the same problems. Now the best thing I’ve come up with is to force myself to step away from the computer and take breaks, either by doing something else in the house or by getting out for a walk. This helps to some extent, but doesn’t really solve my problems.

I saw this website, which offers many products to make your work station more ergonomic. What products do you use and what do you recommend? Do you have any pain-reducing or pain-avoiding tips to share with your fellow translators?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ideology and Translation

I want to quote from Clifford E. Landers’ book Literary Translation: A Practical Guide once more.

Regarding translation and ideology, he writes “What does the profession of translation do? Obviously, it translates. If a translator allows ideology to color anything he or she translates, the profession suffers. And when translation is stifled ether by repression or self-censorship entire nations are deprived of a glimpse into the mind of the Other.”

Clearly, his comment refers to the ideal of translation. In this ideal world, ideology would not color our translations. But sometimes (especially for texts that are not primarily factual, such as contracts) it is impossible to avoid. We translators must simply be hyperaware of the fact that our opinions and experiences do influence and they may make us choose certain translatorial strategies or words or styles of writing that perhaps are not exactly right for the text.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mission: Possible?

I have mentioned Clifford E. Landers’ book Literary Translation: A Practical Guide several times on this blog before. He includes the well-known quote from writer Kurt Vonnegut: “All I require of a translator is that he or she be a more gifted writer than I am, and in at least two languages, one of them mine.”

I know the comment is partly tongue-in-cheek, but it does reveal how high the demands are on translators. Of course, based on some books I have read, this goal is not only possible to reach, but almost impossible not to!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Round-Up of Articles

Time for another round-up of articles!

The first
article is on the translation of Chinese menus. As you know, I love menu translations.

The next
piece is on literary lists. I personally love to make lists so I was interested in this article. What would be on a list of books about translation and/or language?

The third
article is about the Pennsylvania Dutch (actually German, not Dutch) language/dialect. What words sound like home to you?

Next, we have an
article on the disappearance of the semi-colon.

This BBC
piece is about the perfect voice.

Learning languages is another of my interests, so I enjoyed this
article on that topic, specifically on learning Hebrew.

Continuing with Hebrew, this
article is about translating to and from that language. Thank you to Erika Dreifus for sending me this article!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Much Ado About Language Books

I like to read books about language. Often the books are rather serious (not so for “Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson, but in general). So I enjoyed getting the chance to read something much lighter.

Richard Watson Todd’s “Much Ado About English” is a short, easy-to-read, and entertaining book about the English language. Sure, it is educational, too (for example, many chapters have little exercises, although they are mostly fun), but basically you just find yourself giggling and shaking your head at how illogical English can be.

Every brief chapter (usually around three pages) is about a different topic, such as slang, wordplay, British versus American English, pronunciation, making plurals, and much more. You learn a lot of random but interesting facts, such as that the word “penguin” comes from the Welsh “pen gwyn”, which means “white head”, and that “bizarre” comes from the Basque word “bizar”, which means “beard.” Then you are invited to try out your new knowledge by making guesses about other words or phrases.

The section on “self-contradictory sentences” is quite amusing, when you consider sentences such as “This vacuum cleaner really sucks” (is that good or bad?) and “Her intelligence is legendary” (does that mean the legend is true or false?). You’ll be wondering how people actually communicate in English.

I’m always looking for suggestions for books about language, so
email me if you have any ideas. During the summer, I’d especially like to read some entertaining books, like Todd’s was.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

No to Age Banding

Last month, on one of my children’s literature lists, the writer Philip Pullman posted a note, wondering what list members thought of age banding. Age banding is when publishers place an age recommendation/restriction on the book, much like what generally occurs with films.

I believe everyone who responded on the list (including me) was against age banding. Naturally, publishers may find that it boosts sales and is also a way of protecting themselves against parents or teachers who complain about (or who even threaten to sue over) books that they feel are not age-appropriate for their children or students. However, there are many reasons against this.

Mr. Pullman and a group of other writers, including David Almond, Aidan Chambers, Terry Pratchett, Helen Dunmore, and Melvin Burgess, then decided to write an explanation of why they are against this. Their letter has now been published in the
Bookseller. In addition, they have started a website that serves both to express their view on this subject and also to collect signatures of those who agree with them about it.

Their sensible reasons include:

“Each child is unique, and so is each book. Accurate judgments about age suitability are impossible, and approximate ones are worse than useless.

Children easily feel stigmatized, and many will put aside books they might love because of the fear of being called babyish. Other children will feel dismayed that books of their ‘correct’ age-group are too challenging, and will be put off reading even more firmly than before.

Age-banding seeks to help adults choose books for children, and we're all in favour of that; but it does so by giving them the wrong information. It’s also likely to encourage over-prescriptive or anxious adults to limit a child's reading in ways that are unnecessary and even damaging.

Everything about a book is already rich with clues about the sort of reader it hopes to find – jacket design, typography, cover copy, prose style, illustrations. These are genuine connections with potential readers, because they appeal to individual preference. An age-guidance figure is a false one, because it implies that all children of that age are the same.

Children are now taught to look closely at book covers for all the information they convey. The hope that they will not notice the age-guidance figure, or think it unimportant, is unfounded.

Writers take great care not to limit their readership unnecessarily. To tell a story as well and inclusively as possible, and then find someone at the door turning readers away, is contrary to everything we value about books, and reading, and literature itself.”