Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Article Round-Up

Time for another article round-up!

The first
article is on the growing strength of Latin courses. As someone who studied Latin (and even attended the Latin School of Chicago!), I was happy to read that.

Next is a
piece on text analysis and the use of words.

article on preserving the Arapaho language also has an accompanying video.

Speaking of videos, I also liked this brief
one featuring physicist Murray Gell-Mann talking about languages.

review made me want to read of Roy Blount Jr.’s new book The Alphabet Juice.

Penultimately, here is an
article on on urban fiction, or “street lit”.

And finally, the
piece on translation and the U.S. This article includes quotes such as the following:

It is a commonly held assumption that Americans don’t like to read authors who write in languages they don’t understand. That belief persists here in Frankfurt, where publishers from 100 countries show off a smorgasbord of their best — or at least best-selling — books.
By and large, the American publishers spend most of the week in Hall 8, the enormous exhibit space where English-language publishers hold court.

“When you look at how much is paid for a mediocre midlist author” in the United States, he said, “and how much you have to pay to get a world-class author who has been translated into 18 languages, it is ridiculous that more people don’t invest in buying great literature.” Mr. Godine said he had purchased the rights to a foreign book for as little as $2,000.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Conference on Subtitling

I saw this announcement for a conference on subtitling and thought some of you would be interested:

Languages & The Media
7th International Conference on Languages in the Audio Visual Media


Quality Audiovisual Media for All

// Quality standards of subtitling and translation are high on the agenda of this year's Languages and The Media conference //

Berlin, Germany. The conference programme of Languages and The Media has been finalised. The 7th International Conference and Exhibition on Language Transfer in the Audiovisual Media will take place from October 29th - 31st at Berlin's Hotel InterContinental.

Bringing together delegates from more than 20 countries, the conference will contribute to the international debate on inclusion and universal access to mass media on a global scale.

The event focuses on the translation and transfer of language in films and on television, as well as in interactive media such as computer games and the Internet. Experts from the fields of media, translation and academia from all over the world discuss current developments in the media industry and exchange their expertise.

The conference programme offers insight into quality standards of translation, synchronisation and subtitling. Further topics are the localisation of content, as well as the effect of new tools and future technologies on the transfer of language, like machine translation and speech-recognition captioning.

Localisation refers to the process of adapting digital content to culture, locale and linguistic environments at a high quality. Carmen Mangiron, who is one of the localisers of the Final Fantasy series into Spanish, will show how language barriers in video games can be overcome through audiovisual translations and editing techniques.

Subtitling and audio description enable the deaf and hard-of-hearing as well as the blind or partially sighted audiences to access media. Bernd Benecke from Bayerischer Rundfunk - Germany's only full-time editor for audio description - will offer insight into this rare discipline in a pre-conference workshop.

The conference will be accompanied by an exhibition, showcasing vendors and manufacturers of language technology products and providers of language services.

Further information: www.languages-media.com

7th International Conference & Exhibition on Language Transfer in Audiovisual Media
October 29 - 31, 2008, Hotel InterContinental Berlin

Participation fees: 400 Euro, students 190 Euros
Organiser: ICWE GmbH, Leibnizstr. 32, 10625 Berlin, Germany
Contact: Ms Astrid Mendoza, Tel: +49 (0)30 310 18 18-0
info@languages-media.com, www.languages-media.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Best Translations?

The Society of Authors has posted a list of the 50 best translations to English from the last 50 years. In a way, the list represents the usual suspects. It’s perhaps not surprising that many of the books reflect the few foreign books English-speaking readers have actually heard of. What do you think?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ethical Concerns, Or, Being Plagiarized

Ethics are important in every job. In our field, our customers rely on us to be the experts, especially as they may not have the knowledge to check over our work. It is up to us to make sure we translate the words correctly, edit the text multiple times, and so on. Doing something incorrectly or sloppily can cause a lot of damage for our clients.

So I can’t help but wonder what it means for their clients when a translation company plagiarizes and doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about ethical and legal behavior. It could very well imply that said company doesn’t have good oversight and that they don’t care about doing things the right way. That’s bad news for the company’s clients.

A few weeks ago, I was made aware that a British translation company called Merlin Translations (I won’t link to them, so as not to give them additional traffic) was plagiarizing me. They post this blog on their website so that it looks like they themselves do all the work of researching and crafting these posts.

I emailed them. A manager claimed not to have been paying attention to what an employee was doing. That suggests a clear and worrisome lack of supervision that shouldn’t exist in any company, including a translation company. I said that either they could credit me for each post they used or else they must remove all my content from their site. Not only have they made no improvements to the situation, but they also have continued to post the content from Brave New Words.

I’m a person who works hard at what I do. I take my work as a translator, writer, and editor very seriously. I also enjoy making knowledge about translation more widely available via this blog. So it is disappointing and upsetting to me personally when I am being plagiarized in this way. But on a bigger scale, the fact that a company that provides services to clients would use unethical means to try to make themselves look better (that is, increasing the material on their website by plagiarizing others) is disturbing indeed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Call for Submissions

TWO LINES Call for Submissions

TWO LINES World Writing in Translation is currently accepting submissions for its sixteenth volume, guest edited by award-winning translators MARGARET JULL COSTA and MARILYN HACKER.

DEADLINE: October 31, 2008.

TWO LINES World Writing in Translation publishes original translations into English of writing from any literary genre. Translations from any language will be considered, and works from outside Europe are especially sought.

- Previously unpublished work only.

- The translator cannot also be the author of the piece unless it is a co-translation.

- We generally publish one to four poems from a single submission, but we will read up to a maximum of ten pages.

- The average prose submission is about 2500 words, but we do publish shorter and longer pieces (1000-4000 words). Short stories are preferable to novel excerpts. However, novel excerpts will be considered if thoughtfully excerpted to stand as independent pieces (to the extent possible).

- In order to be considered, submissions must include a brief introduction (400-500 words) with information about the original author, the background of the piece, and unique issues that the translation process presented.

- All submissions must include a copy of the original text.

- Translators are expected to acquire copyright permission for all work not in the public domain.

Electronic submissions are preferred, but hardcopy submissions are also accepted. For electronic submissions, please save your documents as RTF (Rich Text Format). If you would like your materials returned, please send an appropriately-sized SASE.

Send submissions to submissions@catranslation.org or to the postal address below.

35 Stillman Street, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA 94107

We highly encourage everyone who submits to TWO LINES to read a copy before submitting.

Translators will be notified of editorial decisions by February 1, 2009.

We offer a complimentary copy of TWO LINES to translators and living authors whose work is chosen for publication as well as a nominal honorarium.


Lauded for her translations of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago's novels of the last decade, including SEEING, MARGARET JULL COSTA has also brought the work of Fernando Pessoa into English, for which she received the Portuguese Translation Prize. Costa also translates from Spanish, her work with novelist Javier Marias having garnered an International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Instituto Cervantes Translation Prize. This year Costa was awarded both the PEN Translation Prize and the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize for her translation of THE MAIAS by Eca de Queiroz. Described by Jose Saramago as "the greatest book by Portugal's greatest novelist," THE MAIAS first appeared in excerpt in TWO LINES World Writing in Translation.

Distinguished with the first ever Robert Fagles Translation Prize, MARILYN HACKER has published numerous volumes of her translations of poets Venus Khoury-Ghata, Claire Malroux, Emmanuel Moses, Guy Goffette, and Marie Etienne from French, several of which have appeared in previous volumes of TWO LINES World Writing in Translation. Also the author of twelve books of poetry, most recently ESSAYS ON DEPARTURE and DESESPERANTO, Hacker has been a recipient of the National Book Award, two Lambda Literary Awards, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Hacker's numerous honors include the Bernard F. Conners Prize from the Paris Review, the John Masefield Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, and a Guggenheim fellowship.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Call for Submissions: Translations from Spanish

I saw the following call for translations in Erika Dreifus’ excellent newsletter:

Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories Wanted for New Anthology from W.W. Norton. "We seek translations from the Spanish of short-short stories from Latin America. The stories may be previously published, preferably within the last ten years, or unpublished, and should be between 500 and 1750 words long. Any topic or style, traditional or experimental - we are looking simply for the best recent stories from Latin America in this length. Our past anthologies, such as Sudden Fiction International, have included some of the world's most well known writers, and some yet to be known. If there's a great story that's just a little outside our time period or length limits, we'll consider it - but the odds of acceptance are much
better if it's within. The pay is not great but the company of writers will be excellent. Projected fee: $150 total to include both translator and author. Deadline: December 1, 2008." For more information, see the announcement on the
ALTA Calls for Submissions page,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Nobel Prize

Once again, it's time for the Nobel Prize in literature.

The secretary of the Swedish Academy, Horace Engdahl, recently got himself into some trouble with his comments about American literature. If you can read Swedish, check out this
article. And if not, here is one in English.

Basically, Engdahl criticized American literature and suggested that not much good is coming out of the U.S., literature-wise at least, now (also implying that American writers better not hope for a Nobel any time soon!). What do you think? Is American literature more insular than that of other countries? Do any Americans deserve a Nobel Prize for their writing?

This year's winner is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl├ęzio.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Debate on Children’s Literature

On September 16, at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, there was an interesting panel debate on children’s literature. The participants were Lotta Olsson, who reviews books for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s biggest newspaper; the author Ulf Stark; Karin Salmson, the publisher of Vilda, a publishing company that only puts out books that are politically correct; Jan Hansson, the head of the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books; Kristin Hallberg, who teaches children’s literature; Dag Henried, the publisher of Alfabeta; and Johan Unenge, an author and illustrator. The debate was led by Lillemor Torstensson, who also works at the Swedish Institute for Children’s Books.

Earlier this year, Dagens Nyheter criticized Vilda for the way it marks books as though they were organic or free-range products and for the ideology that runs through them. This set off something of a debate in the Swedish media and among Swedish children’s authors and illustrators of children’s books. So the debate on the 16th focused on art versus ideology, commercialism, and what children’s books are instruments of/for.

Kristin Hallberg felt that children’s books “create a meeting” between text/author and reader. She said they shouldn’t have morals or points or be used for a specific purpose. Others agreed that it should be about the story and if the story happens to teach or comfort or do anything else, that’s fine, too. Obviously, Karin Salmson thought differently. She felt that it was important to have books with gender equality, race quality, etc. Some participants, including some audience members who spoke, agreed that it was important for all children to feel they were “reflected” in books (i.e. that there were books about people like them), but that marking books or having requirements for books might be going a bit far. Then the issue of whether ideology affects quality was raised, but no final points were made regarding this.

Another topic that came up was Dagens Nyheter’s recent list of the 100 most important children’s books. About 1/3 of the books were by Swedish writers, mostly modern ones, and the rest of the books were primarily classics from the western world. Some felt that it was strange that so few Swedish books were on it, while others felt that too many were. Others thought older Swedish books and more modern foreign books were ignored. My own annoyance with the list came from the fact that for foreign books that had been translated to Swedish more than once (which is often the case for classics, such as Alice in Wonderland), the newspaper simply wrote “multiple translations available”. As we translators know, translations can vary wildly in quality, and therefore I think it is important that if one recommends a book in translation, one also recommends which translation is best.

It was an interesting evening and I hope there will be future debates on children’s literature, both in Sweden and elsewhere. Over 100 people were in the audience and it was great to see how many people are actively engaged in and concerned about the field of children’s literature.