Friday, August 29, 2008

The Visual Made Verbal

As I mentioned in the last post, at the FIT conference, I learned about a different kind of translation.

Joel Snyder gave a very interesting presentation on audio description, which can be said to be a form of translation for blind people. He defines audio description as “a verbal version of the visual image.” In other words, while visually impaired people listen to a tv show or movie or even a live performance, they not only hear the dialogue, but they also hear a description of what is being shown.

Mr. Snyder gave an entertaining and informative presentation and since his
website offers a lot of details on audio description, I won’t repeat it here. However, what I want to emphasize in this post is that learning about this field broadened my understanding of translation. Mr. Snyder may not translate from one language to another, but he does translate from one format to another and he transfers cultural and visual elements for his customers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On the FIT Conference

Earlier this month, I attended the FIT conference in Shanghai. It was a huge event, with over 1500 attendees from 70 countries, 4 keynote lectures (including one by Karl-Johan Lönnroth, the Director-General of the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission), and 8 parallel sessions with ten or so choices per session (i.e. 80+ parallel sessions, some with 5 speakers per session).

There were presentations on everything from the translation of Chinese medicine to terminology, from interpretation studies to translation and culture, from corpus-based translation studies to the translation industry, from publishing and copyright to translation criticism. I myself spoke about translating allusions in children’s literature. Talks were given in Chinese, French, and English, and despite this being a translation conference, only the keynote speeches were interpreted, unfortunately.

There were also poster presentations, including one by Yann Foucault, who translates accounting texts between English and French. His conclusion was relevant to fields far beyond accounting, however: Mr. Foucault felt that by translating texts and not just keeping them in the international language of English, one was both expanding the target language and allowing new, useful ideas to be created in that language.

In the next post, I will discuss a new kind of translation I learned about at FIT.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another Round-Up of Articles

The first article is by Hillel Halkin, whom I mentioned just a few posts ago. Thank you to Erika Dreifus for sending me this article!

The second
piece is on Sweden, where I lived for a number of years, and its literature. Thank you to Professor Duncan Large for sending me this article!

The next
article is about online writing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Reference Website

h2g2 is a website put out by the BBC. It is a bit like Wikipedia in that anyone can contribute to the information, but the focus is somewhat different. It calls itself “an unconventional guide to life, the universe, and everything

There are around 200 articles in the
language section, on topics such as alphabets and usage. An interesting article is on the letter thorn.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


At the beginning of July, I attended the WALTIC conference in Stockholm. It is a bit late to write about it, but I did want to say that it was an enjoyable opportunity for translators, writers, and others interested in literature and literacy, to meet and discuss things.

There were several sessions on translation and I attended as many of those as I could. Some were rather disappointing, as people were not always as well-prepared as they should have been, but I enjoyed learning about, for example, Russian literature (as I mentioned in my last post) and about writing in Mongolia. The latter presentation was read by a translator on behalf of Khaidav Chilaajav, a Mongolian poet who started
the Union of Mongolian Writers. Mr. Chilaajav passed out copies of The Poetry of the Steppe, which afforded us a chance to experience Mongolian writing.

The keynote speeches by authors Mia Couto and Nawal El Saadawi were enjoyable. Around the city during the conference, there was a free literature festival as well. I attended one on children’s literature that included authors and/or story-tellers Philip Pullman (who spoke well about
age banding, among other issues), Gcina Mhlophe, and Sonia Nimr.

My biggest criticism is that the conference was very expensive to attend, and I knew many people who would have liked to go but could not afford it. Since many writers and translators don’t necessarily earn much money, I think the price of future WALTIC conferences would have to be significantly lower.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russian Writing in Translation

I have written nothing about the WALTIC conference so far (see the next post!), but I would like to mention a publisher I learned about there called Glas Moscow. Glas publishes contemporary Russian writing in English translation, including quite a few interesting anthologies, and their catalog is worth a look.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Books with Translators

We know that translators translate books, but are translators ever characters in books? I don’t believe that it is too common for “translator” to be a character’s job title. Why is that?

I recently read The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yehoshua (I read it in translation by Hillel Halkin) and was happy to see that one character, though a fairly minor one, was a translator. Hannah Tedeschi, referred to as “the translatoress”, is the second wife of the main character’s former mentor, and she translates from Arabic to Hebrew. In fact, she does some on-the-spot translations that the main character judges to be excellent and moving. The reader never sees her working (except in the one scene where she translates as a poet reads the poems, though her actual labor is not portrayed), but we do experience her actual translations.

Can you think of other books with translator characters?