Wednesday, December 30, 2009

100 Best Blogs for the Literati

In case you are having a cozy New Year’s Eve at home and want even more reading material than I listed in my last post, check out this list of the top 100 blogs for the “literati.” It includes yours truly, Brave New Words, and many other blogs that may interest you.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Round-Up of Articles

Here is some material for you to read during the holiday season, in between any festivities you are hosting or attending.

First, here is an article on the death of many Canadian languages.

Next, a piece on the basic question of what language is.

Third, an article on how the sounds babies make are influenced by the sounds they hear when in the womb.

Thanks to Jens Hillman for sending me this, about lexicography.

Thanks to Erika Dreifus, for mentioning this article on Yiddish on her blog.

Here, Swedish author Kerstin Ekman discusses translation.

And finally, this article, which is in Swedish, is about the team-translation effort, if it can be called that, in which Dan Brown’s latest book was divided into sections and translated by a number of different people. Doesn’t say much for the quality, probably, but does reveal some of the challenges involved in translating fiction. English-language publishers don't want foreign-language authors to have access to manuscripts, because naturally they want to sell as many copies in English as possible. So they hope that by having English-language books, such as by best-selling authors J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, only available in English initially, readers around the world will buy the books, even if they would be more comfortable reading in their native tongue. This then puts pressure on foreign-language publishers to get translations out as quickly as possible and as soon as they finally get access to the source texts, and this leads to team-translations and other time-cutting maneuvers.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Useful References and Links

Now that I’ve changed the look of the blog, I no longer have the blog and reference list running down the side of the page. Instead, I will keep this post updated with useful links for you.

Translator Associations

  • Sveriges Facköversättarförening/ Swedish Association of Professional Translations

  • American Literary Translators Association

  • American Translators Association

  • Föreningen Auktoriserade Translatorer/ Federation of Authorized Translators

  • International Federation of Translators

  • Institute of Translation and Interpreting

  • The Translators and Interpreters Guild

    • Reference

    • Dictionary and Thesaurus

    • Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus

    • Swedish-English Dictionary

    • Svenska Akademiens Ordbok/Swedish Academy's Dictionary

    • Scandinavian Dictionary

    • Online Etymology Dictionary

    • Fact Index

    • Library Spot

    • Online Conversion

    • World Wide Words

    • Bartleby

      • Other Blogs

      • Practicing Writing

      • Ur språkens tunnlar

      • Översättarbloggen

      • Translation Times

      • Nordic Voices

      • Three Percent

      • Poems Found in Translation

      • Beyond Words

      • ALTalk Blog

      • Language Log

      • David Crystal's Blog

      • Language Hat

      • Omniglot

      • From Our Lips

      • Web Translations

      • Word du Jour

      • Life In Translation

      • Translating is an Art

      • Masked Translator

      • About Translation

      • if:book

      • Separated by a Common Language

      • Spanish Legal Translation

      • George Szirtes's blog

        • Other Translation-Related Links

        • Swansea University Translation Links

        • Inttranews Translation News

        • PEN's Guidelines for Reviewing Translations

        • Center for the Art of Translation
        • Monday, December 14, 2009

          Online Certificate in Applied Literary Translation

          I learned that Dalkey Archive Press, at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), will be offering an online certificate in Applied Literary Translation beginning in January 2010. Here is the information I received:


          Beginning in January of 2010, Dalkey Archive Press at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign will initiate a new and ambitious certificate program designed to help translators at any point in their early careers, and that will result in the publication of their first book-length translation. This program represents a unique opportunity for young translators to gain invaluable experience as well as produce a translation that will aid them in gaining future work with Dalkey Archive and other publishers.

          Program Goals

          1. Provide practical, invaluable translation and editorial experience to beginning translators who have not yet published a book-length translation.
          2. Result in one book-length translation per enrollee to be published by Dalkey Archive Press.
          3. Gain broad-based experience in various areas of translation and publishing.

          Who is this program intended for?

          The program is intended for translators who are at a point in their careers where they are ready to undertake professional translation work but do not know where to go next, and especially for those who need a flexible schedule because of geographical limitations and other commitments.

          Program Description

          During the course of the yearlong program, translators will:

          * Do sample translations of books that Dalkey should consider acquiring, and learn how to write readers’ reports, cover letters to editors, queries to publishers and agents, grant proposals, and other secondary documents necessary to professional translators.

          * Have the opportunity to complete one book-length literary translation to be published by Dalkey Archive Press, with an emphasis on literary fiction; books to be translated will be selected by Dalkey Archive Press in consultation with the translator.

          * Receive frequent and individualized feedback from Dalkey editors on translation work.

          * Gain experience in editing translations.

          * Will work directly with authors as well as other translators.

          Editors at Dalkey Archive Press will be assigned to train applicants via email on a one-to-one basis. Occasional meetings at Dalkey Archive Press’s offices or videoconferences may also be organized.

          The program is highly competitive and is intended for promising translators who are at an early point in their careers, but who have already achieved the skill level to undertake professional translation work. Ten students will be selected based on the strength of their application materials, and the relevance of their background to the kind of literature that Dalkey Archive publishes.

          Application process

          1) Translators interested in applying should send the following to as early as possible; though start-dates may be flexible, no more than ten students will be accepted:

          * Curriculum Vitae, including employment history

          * A letter of intent detailing:

          - Qualifications, with an eye toward demonstrating that the applicant has the necessary translation skills to benefit from this program
          - An in-depth knowledge of the historical roots of the literary aesthetic represented in Dalkey Archive book
          - A brief list of the applicants favorite authors and authors most interested in translating
          - Evidence of a substantial reading background in the applicants’ chosen language(s)

          * 3 sample translations of fiction from the applicant’s language(s) of specialization (translations of poetry or nonfiction may not be included in place of a fiction sample)

          2) Applicants should follow the guidelines below very carefully:

          * Samples should consist of the first pages of a published novel or short story only.

          * Samples should not be from books that have already been translated and published in English.

          * Each sample should be 5 to 10 pages long.

          * Do not include the original-language versions of your samples.

          * Complete applications, including all abovementioned materials, should be sent via email as a single .pdf file only (no other formats will be read) labeled with the applicant’s name (i.e., lastnamefirstname.pdf).

          * Within this file, application materials should be ordered as follows: CV, letter of intent, 3 samples, 3 letters of recommendation.

          * Letters of intent should not be sent in the body of the email, but should be part of the application file. No substantial information should be included in the body of the email.

          The admissions process will quite likely include an interview.

          Emphasis will be placed on readiness to benefit from this online program rather than on academic experience or degrees.

          Applicants who have in-depth knowledge of Dalkey Archive’s books and general aesthetic will be given preference.


          $5,000 at the time of acceptance. This fee will be partially or fully offset by grants awarded by funding agencies for enrollees who complete a publishable translation.

          Announcement of Results

          Admissions announcements will be made within two weeks of receipt of applications.

          Any questions or requests concerning the application process and program should be sent to Jeremy Davies at

          Wednesday, December 09, 2009

          FAQ # 3: Research Means Just That

          This FAQ is going to sound very obvious, but the number of emails I get on this makes it worth repeating.

          Research means just that, i.e. research. If you want to do an MA or a PhD in translation studies, you need to be an independent and active researcher. You have to take responsibility for your own work (this is true for any subject, of course, and not just translation studies or literature). I get many emails from readers asking me for research topics, book lists, literature reviews, and other information that, if they are truly serious about doing research, they should be doing themselves.

          So: if you want to be a researcher, take responsibility for your own work and do your research.

          Friday, December 04, 2009

          Language Courses Online

          I've posted a number of short lists of online resources for various languages, so I was pleased when I was sent this list of 100 open courses online. The list certainly tempts me and makes me want to learn lots of languages!

          Sunday, November 29, 2009

          Learn Cornish

          I just had a great brief holiday in Cornwall, so I thought I would post a couple of Cornish language resources.

          The BBC Cornish site

          Learn Cornish

          Chons da! (Good luck!)

          Tuesday, November 24, 2009

          Saturday, November 14, 2009

          Call for Papers

          There is a conference here at the University of East Anglia in the spring and you can still submit a paper proposal. Here is the information:


          Graduate Symposium in Translation Studies Friday 26th and Saturday 27th March 2010
          Elizabeth Fry Building
          University of East Anglia

          This postgraduate symposium, the fourth in a biannual series hosted by
          the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of
          East Anglia, aims to advance the state of knowledge in the academic
          study of translation. Its objective is to facilitate the exchange of
          expertise in the theory and practice of translation within and without
          the discipline based on the thesis that translation is a fluid concept
          that crosses and penetrates into several disciplines.

          KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Dr. Karin Littau, University of Essex; Dr. Thomas
          Greaves, School of Philosophy, University of East Anglia; Dr. George
          Szirtes, School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East
          Anglia; Professor Jean Boase-Beier, School of Literature and
          Creative Writing, University of East Anglia.

          Extended deadline for receipt of abstracts: Friday 20th November 2009

          Please send to:

          Or by post to: Translation and Interdisciplinarity Symposium, School
          of Literature and Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and Humanities,
          University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, England.

          Tuesday, November 10, 2009

          And We Have a Winner

          The winner of our first give-away is Nina, who wrote:

          "_In the Land of Invented Languages_ by Akira Okrent discusses non-naturally occuring languages like Esperanto, Klingon, Bliss Symbols (an early communication system for people with disabilities who are nonverbal. This is perhaps an unconventional choice, but I read it some time ago, and found it interesting."

          Nina, please email me with your contact details so I can pass them on to the publisher.

          Thank you all for your comments and recommendations! Check back soon for a compiled list of suggestions and also for another give-away!

          Friday, November 06, 2009

          A Magnificent Give-Away

          Brave New Words is pleased to present our first give-away. In order to win a copy of John McWhorter’s book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

          In your comment, please recommend a book about a language. Give the name of the book and its author, and write a couple of sentences about why this is a book worth reading.

          You do not have to use your real name and you should definitely not post your address, but you do need to include your e-mail address, so I can contact you, and you have to be prepared to give me your real name and your address so I can make sure the book reaches you. Your personal information will not be used for any other reason.

          Post your comment by midnight (GMT) on November 9 and I will randomly pick a winner the following day.

          Good luck!

          Tuesday, November 03, 2009

          A Magnificent Book Told in a Magnificent Bastard Tongue

          This past weekend, I read what I quickly realized was my favorite language book of the year, John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English.

          This fascinating book is not about words, as interesting as they are. Instead, it is about grammar. Why is English grammar different from that of the other Germanic languages? As Mr. McWhorter puts it:

          “English’s Germanic relatives are like assorted varieties of deer-antelopes, springboks, kudu, and so on-antlered, fleet-footed, big-brown-eyed variations on a theme. English is some dolphin swooping around underwater, all but hairless, echolocating and holding its breath. Dolphins are mammals like deer: they give birth to live young and are warm-blooded. But clearly the dolphin has strayed from the basic mammalian game plan to an extent that no deer has.” (p. xx)

          Mr. McWhorter explores how English came to be the dolphin it is and, as you can tell from the quote, he does so in an entertaining, easy-to-understand way (he also calls English “kinky…(with) a predilection for dressing up like Welsh on lonely nights.” (1))

          So what exactly happened to make English so deviant? Why do we have the “meaningless ‘do’” in negatives and in question sentences? Why do we employ verb-noun progressives to express the present tense (i.e. “I am walking to my office”)? Why do we have certain sounds that other Indo-European languages don’t? Why are there no genders in English? And why do linguists not discuss these issues or, if they do, why do they fall into certain assumptions about language and in particular about the English language? Why do linguistics mostly look at how contact with other cultures and languages influenced vocabulary but not grammar?

          Mr. McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for The Sun, reviews the evidence for and against the ways that the following tongues influenced and bastardized English grammar: the Celtic languages via Welsh and Cornish, Old Norse thanks to the invading Vikings, and the Semitic languages Akkadian and Aramaic. He makes very solid and persuasive cases for all these language groups, which I will not summarize here because I’d rather you just read his hard-to-put-down book.

          My one complaint was that the sources weren’t more detailed, but I have to keep in mind that Mr. McWhorter wanted this book to be popular and not scientific, and that’s why there aren’t long footnotes and bibliographical lists.

          I highly recommend this book to anyone who knows and uses the English language. English is unique and if you want to know why it is the way it is – and if you use it, you should want to understand it – this book will offer you insight into its grammar. A magnificent bastard tongue indeed.

          P.S. Check back later in the week for Brave New Words’ first give-away – a copy of John McWhorter’s magnificent book, courtesy of his publisher, Gotham.

          Sunday, November 01, 2009

          Translations by Cedric Barfoot

          I saw the poem "Translations" by Cedric Barfoot featured in the book Drama Translation and Theatre Practice, edited by Sabine Coelsch-Foisner and Holger Klein:

          Glosses, interpretations, versions,
          adaptations, reversions – we

          translate ourselves from one
          place to another, from one

          thought to another, from one
          self to another. Furnishing

          an equivalent of self, abbreviating,
          burnishing, augmenting or abandoning

          its bawdy, to authenticate our selves
          as glosses on interpretations

          or creative plagiarisms of self,
          versions and reversions of self.

          Selves adapted to different companies,
          in different places to trip over

          and different tongues to trip off,
          to drip off, adapt, wrapped on self,

          randomly, raptly, translated.

          Monday, October 26, 2009

          A Collection of Pseudotranslations

          During my last holiday (a busman’s holiday, but never mind), I read The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel. It’s a collection of short stories with an interesting premise.

          His preface talks about how he was in touch with the Chinese poet Helan Xiao and then lost touch. But then she contacted him “to assist with the translation of her acclaimed collection of stories set in contemporary Beijing…Helan has contributed a foreword to this edition, and I have taken the liberty of adding a concluding chapter, narrating certain episodes in her life. For any misrepresentations, and for any errors that may have crept into my adaptation of her work, I alone, of course, am wholly responsible.” Helan’s foreword is a short two-page introduction to Beijing.

          Yet, surprisingly, only Tel’s name appears on the book. If it is a true translation, shouldn’t Helan Xiao’s name also be there? So is this translation or adaptation? Well, in fact, it is even more complicated than that. The Beijing of Possibilities is not a translation or an adaptation; it is a pseudotranslation. This is to say that there is no Helan Xiao and Tel had no contact with such a Chinese poet. He is the sole writer.

          Such a framework could make a collection of stories a lot of fun – reviewers have compared Tel to Calvino or Sebald, though I personally didn’t see such connections. My final opinion was that not enough was done to play with the idea of translation and adaptation and cultural exchange. People often discuss whether someone from outside a given country have the ability or the right to write about that country and culture, and this book could have been a good intersection point for such a conversation, if only the quality were higher.

          Wednesday, October 14, 2009

          Right Words

          You may be interested in Right Words, a competition for children to write about a human rights issue.

          Wednesday, October 07, 2009

          Thursday, October 01, 2009

          MultiLingual Magazine

          I have started receiving MultiLingual, a magazine on language, technology, and business. It is practical rather than theoretical and seems to have a focus on localization versus on translation proper, but it has some nice features, such as a list of terminology for each issue, a focus on a particular industry aspect (for example, medical translations), short news items, and a calendar of upcoming events. A recent issue had an interesting column by geographer and geostrategic content manager (a job I’d never heard of before) Tom Edwards on the country list used when we sign up for services or place an order online. I’d never even considered all the linguistic and political implications of this before, such as how certain countries do not recognize others or how some names are still up for debate. So such localization issues were new for me. This same issue had an article on global information management systems and another on “incorporating local regulations and culture into translations” and a more business-related piece on how “capitalizing on trends reduces translation costs.”

          Friday, September 25, 2009

          Taking a Break

          I will be posting less frequently for a few weeks, because I am in the process of moving to a new city (technically to a new country, too -- from Wales to England). I am moving in order to take up a post as a lecturer in literature and translation, so I will have plenty of new ideas for posts in the near future. See you back here soon!

          Monday, September 21, 2009

          Learn Icelandic

          While reorganizing my bookmarked links, I found a bunch on learning Icelandic online.

          The first link is for a free online Icelandic course.

          Here is a site with some Icelandic vocabulary words. The main page offers such vocab in lots of different tongues.

          This website is on Icelandic grammar.

          Wednesday, September 16, 2009

          Learn Yiddish

          I’m always interested in online resources for learning languages, so I found Erika Dreifus’ post on a new online course learning Yiddish useful.

          Friday, September 11, 2009

          Automated Translation

          I’ve heard through the translation grapevine that some translators are using this new site as a source for translation help or initial translations. I still avoid all machine translation, but I’d be curious to learn whether other translators use such things as tools for their work.

          Sunday, September 06, 2009

          Point of Contact

          Earlier this summer, I read Point of Contact, a journal/book from Syracuse University. This issue is about Saúl Yurkievich and his translator Cola Franzen and is a bilingual edition of their letters, as well as a few essays and art, with an introduction by and an interview with Franzen. The book also comes with a CD of a dual-language reading of Saúl’s work. And, it has some previously unpublished poems by Yurkievich but, oddly, they were not translated by Franzen.

          It is fascinating to get to see how the translator and her writer correspond, how they discuss and negotiate, how they doubt, clarify, explain, how they work through the publishing process and receive awards, and how, over the years of their correspondence (1982-2003) they become closer, which ultimately helps the translation work.

          Some messages are rows of corrections (such as pp. 96-97), while others are about who to submit to and when (41-43), and still others use metaphors to describe the translation process. For example, Cola writes “My feeling about the poem is that it is like a soap bubble, and that my task is to launch it, get it spinning, not let it land or break until the last word when it just blinks out.” (44) and “…the poems are yours, no matter what linguistic clothes they are wearing. It must be strange for you to see your poems turn up in new skins…” (49)

          Most interesting of all are the explanations, from Saúl about what he meant in his originals and from Cola about how she has chosen certain translations. For example, she writes “for el gran ovillo se engalleta, I have decided on the enormous skein becomes knotted. We don’t use jamming, jam up for hair, or threads, or fiber. Those are tangled, snarled or knotted. A mechanical part that sticks is jammed; traffic is jammed, etc. I played with the idea of snarl, ensnarled, but it’s such an ugly sounding word, and engalleta is so nice, with the cookie embedded in it. And then animals snarl…it’s a sound-word as well. Knotted is in a way harsher than snarled, and the poem is turning more serious at that line…” (36-7)

          The correspondence clearly reveals the attention paid to each poem, each word. I noticed some typos and errors in the book/journal issue, but if one can overlook that, it is worth reading to get insight into the translator-writer relationship.

          Monday, August 31, 2009

          FAQ #2: On Research Topics

          I get many questions regarding possible research topics for people who are writing theses or dissertations on translation studies. Since you spend a lot of time and energy on your research, you need to choose something that you actually find interesting and worth looking into, not just something you think sounds good. It’s true that there are quite a few underresearched areas out there (children’s literature, for example, or subtitling, or certain language pairs), but you shouldn’t choose a topic based on that alone.

          So I am sorry to say that I can’t offer readers lists of potential subjects for their research. All I can suggest is that you think carefully about what languages you know, what you have studied or excelled at in school thus far, and what your hobbies and interests are, and then try to find a way to combine them. In my case, for example, I learned Swedish by reading children’s books and that led to me falling for children’s literature in Scandinavia and making its translation the subject matter for my research.

          Wednesday, August 26, 2009

          A Reading Round-Up

          Here are a couple of articles, sites, and blogs for you to check out.

          This article is on the Cherokee script.

          This article is on linguist Tucker Childs and his work in Africa.

          The next piece was sent to me by BNW guest blogger Theo Halladay and is on a small translation business.

          Here’s a great list of blogs, which will provide plenty of reading pleasure.

          Here’s a language news site.

          And just for fun, check out this picture.

          Friday, August 21, 2009

          What’s Cooking

          The most recent issue of the Translation Journal has an article by me about translating food.

          What's Cooking:
          Translating Food
          by Brett Jocelyn Epstein

          I have translated or edited a number of cookbooks and while such work is a lot of fun (and can make you hungry, especially if there are accompanying pictures), there are certain challenges involved. Here, I want to mention the top four difficulties and possible solutions.

          1) Availability of ingredients

          Despite the growing popularity of cooking these days and the new trendiness of certain ethnic ingredients, the fact remains that not all items are available in all countries (and in some cases, they are only available at exorbitant costs). For example, a couple of years ago, I was the project manager for the translation to Swedish of two cookbooks that were written in Australia. Naturally, the recipes included many ingredients that were specific to Australia or to Asian countries much closer to Australia than to Sweden. Some of these ingredients were not possible to find in Sweden, so the publisher suggested simply substituting them, without any notice to the target reader. I disagreed with this approach. Substitution can definitely be an appropriate solution in some cases, but if it is used regularly throughout an entire cookbook, it seems to me that the recipes are being changed much more than a translation warrants. Therefore, my suggestion was to include the original ingredients and a list of possible substitutes. As I reminded the publisher, food trends change so rapidly that what once was only available in just one country can suddenly be available all around the world, and if we don't want the translations to date too quickly, we have to be aware of this fact. The final translations of these books included a glossary of terms and suggestions for possible substitutions.

          Here, I must also point out that it is not enough for a translator to simply think, "This recipe calls for lobster, but that is too expensive and not so easily available, so I'll write shrimp instead." For recipes, translators ought to stick as closely to the original as possible and if ideas for substitutions are being offered, the translator must explain why. Also, the translator or another person connected to the project should try to cook recipes both in their original form and in the version with substitutions, to make sure that the tastes, appearances, smells, and other salient features are preserved.

          2) Cuts of meat

          Related somewhat to challenge 1), cuts of meat are not necessarily the same in different countries. Translators who are not "foodies" themselves or those who, like me, do not eat meat, must be aware of this fact. Here, asking experts and using reference materials is a great help. There are cuts of meat charts that are easily found on Google or you can get acquainted with chefs or others interested in food and ask for their advice. Many translators either do not think about asking for help or they get nervous about doing so. In my experience, however, experts are glad to help, and some professional translators build up a "little black book" of experts to call when they need advice on botanical, architectural, culinary, or any other matters. I'll give an example of this below. In any case, do not make assumptions about cuts of meat being the same, even if the terminology is the same or similar. Always check on this or a recipe might not turn out well.

          3) Measurements

          Cups or grams? Tablespoons or ounces? As is well known, there are different measurement systems around the world and it is not enough to, say, go to, type in the numbers from the source text and write down what the website has offered you. If you did that, 2 cups would be 4.7317 dl, and when have you ever seen a recipe that calls for 4.7317 dl flour? In cases where measurements have to be changed, there are two major possible strategies. The first is that the publisher simply retains the measurements and then offers a conversion table at the back of the book. This can be quite irritating for a reader, however, because then she or he has to keep flipping from the recipe to the table. If the cookbook is more of the coffee table type, however, which is to say one that people read and look at, but don't really plan to cook from, this solution is fine. But for a cookbook that is meant for real use, it is just not practical. In this situation, new measurements based on the target culture's system must be used. This can be done either via complete replacement or replacement and retention. Complete replacement means that either the translator or another expert tests all the recipes and shifts the measurements so that instead of 4.7317 dl flour, the recipe calls for 5 dl flour. The translator must be careful here to ensure that all the new measurements make sense in the context of the recipe and that all have been converted. A recipe may not work if even one measurement is off, especially for baked goods. Replacement and retention is a combination strategy that means both changing the recipe so it reads 5 dl flour and also keeping 2 cups flour in parenthesis. This can, however, confuse readers, so it is a rare book that will use this strategy.

          4) Implements, pots, and pans

          As with ingredients, some countries have different implements, pots, pans, and other essential cooking items, or they may use drastically different words for a similar tool. For example, I was working on translating a cookbook from Swedish to English and was stuck on one word that kept appearing in recipes. It referred to a specific kitchen tool that does not exist in English (and, frankly, is one of those tools that don't need to exist either): a "potatissticka," or a "potato stick," which you use to check if the potatoes you are boiling are ready. I always use a fork myself, but I thought I should make sure that there really was no such item in English-speaking nations. First, I asked some other people I know who like to cook; no one had anything like it. Then, I went to a store that sold only kitchen tools and cookbooks. I said to the woman behind the counter, "I'm sure this sounds a little odd, but I'm a translator working on a cookbook and I wonder if you can help me with something." She confirmed that there is no "potato stick" in English-speaking countries, but that people use cake testers, skewers, forks, toothpicks, or meat thermometers instead. In this case, I was able to rewrite the sentence, but for other implements, there may actually be a proper word for it. It is important to find out, so ask an expert when you are not sure.

          In summary, I am suggesting 1) that you have sources (whether chefs, other translators, people who enjoy cooking, shop-owners, or anyone else) who can offer ideas, 2) that you not be afraid of recommending substitutions, where appropriate, 3) that you be willing to test and compare original recipes and your translations, and 4) that you include glossaries, translators' notes, substitution lists, or other extratextual material where necessary.

          I hope that this advice will offer you a recipe for success when it comes to translating cookbooks!

          Sunday, August 16, 2009

          How Language Works

          My summer reading included David Crystal’s book How Language Works. It’s an easy-to-understand explanation of many aspects of language, including how we physically are able to speak and to understand language, how and when children learn languages, different writing systems, sign language, what dialects are, pidgins and creoles, and teaching languages. In short, this book is a good introduction to what language is and does.

          There’s even a brief section on translation and interpretation. This section includes the following paragraph that defines what translators do and are:

          “Translators aim to produce a text that is as faithful to the original as circumstances require or permit, and yet that reads as if it were written originally in the target language. They aim to be ‘invisible people’ – transferring content without drawing attention to the considerable artistic and technical skills involved in the process. The complexity of the task is apparent, but its importance is often underestimated, and its practitioners’ social status and legal rights undervalued. Some countries view translation as a menial, clerical task, and pay their translators accordingly. Others (such as the Japanese) regard it as a major intellectual discipline in its own right. The question of status is currently much debated.”

          Tuesday, August 11, 2009

          Thursday, August 06, 2009

          FAQ #1: On Hiring

          I regularly get questions via email from readers of this blog, so it occurred to me that instead of me constantly writing individual responses to them, I could collate some of the regular questions and answers here. Therefore, I’ll write a series of FAQ posts.

          First of all, I’ll start with the easiest answer: no, except in very particular circumstances, I am not hiring. When I do need someone’s help on a project, I have contacts that I work with. So while I appreciate all the cover letters and CVs you send me, I am sorry to say that nothing will come of them.

          In general, you should do more research before approaching a potential employer. I get a lot of emails from people who work with Arabic, but if you would carefully study my website, you’d see that I never work with Arabic and thus have no jobs to offer in that area. The same goes for most other languages and for subject matters such as engineering or medicine. You should always review someone’s website and materials before wasting your time contacting someone who doesn’t have work for you.

          Stay tuned for more FAQ!

          Saturday, August 01, 2009

          Call for Papers

          The following information is from Swansea University, where I just finished my Ph.D. I hope to see some of you at this conference!

          Call for Papers

          The Author-Translator in the European Literary Tradition

          Swansea University, 28 June – 1 July 2010

          Confirmed keynote speakers include:

          Susan Bassnett, David Constantine, Lawrence Venuti

          The recent ‘creative turn’ in translation studies has challenged notions of translation as a derivative and uncreative activity which is inferior to ‘original’ writing. Commentators have drawn attention to the creative processes involved in the translation of texts, and suggested a rethinking of translation as a form of creative writing. Hence there is growing critical and theoretical interest in translations undertaken by literary authors.

          This conference focuses on acts of translation by creative writers. Literary scholarship has tended to overlook this aspect of an author’s output, yet since the time of Cicero, authors across Europe have been engaged not only in composing their own works but in rendering texts from one language into another. Indeed, many of Europe’s greatest writers have devoted time to translation – from Chaucer to Heaney, from Diderot and Goethe to Seferis and Pasternak – and have produced some remarkable texts. Others (Beckett, Joyce, Nabokov) have translated their own work from one language into another. As attentive readers and skilful word­smiths, writers may be particularly well equipped to meet the creative demands of literary translation; many trans­lations of poetry are, after all, undertaken by poets themselves. Moreover, translation can have a major impact on an author’s own writing and on the development of native literary traditions.

          The conference seeks to reassess the importance of translation for European writers – both well-known and less familiar – from antiquity to the present day. It will explore why authors translate, what they translate, and how they translate, as well as the links between an author’s translation work and his or her own writing. It will bring together scholars in English studies and modern languages, classics and medieval studies, comparative literature and translation studies. Possible topics include:

          · individual author-translators: motivations, career trajectories, comparative thematics and stylistics

          · the author-translator in context: literary societies, movements, national traditions

          · the problematic creativity of the author-translator

          · self-reflective pronouncements and manifestos

          · the author-translator as critic of others’ translations

          · self-translation: strengths and weaknesses

          · authors, adaptations, re-translation and relay translation

          · the reception and influence of the work of author-translators

          · theoretical interfaces

          Proposals are invited for individual papers (max. 20 minutes) or panels (of 3 speakers). The conference language is English. It is anticipated that selected papers from the conference will be published. Please send a 250-word abstract by 30 September 2009 to the organisers, Hilary Brown and Duncan Large (

          Author-Translator Conference

          Department of Modern Languages

          Swansea University

          GB-Swansea SA2 8PP

          Tuesday, July 28, 2009

          Plagiarism Concerns for Translators

          Long-time readers of this blog may remember the very interesting guest post by Sarah Alys Lindholm on interpretation versus translation. Ms. Lindholm has now written an article on plagiarism concerns for translators, and it is definitely worth a read.

          Thursday, July 23, 2009

          More on Nordic Voices

          I've mentioned the Nordic Voices blog here before. I've recently joined it and will be posting there once in awhile about particular Nordic issues (see, for example, posts on 17 June and 20 June). I hope you will check it out once in awhile!

          Saturday, July 18, 2009

          Encyclopedia of Translators

          This encyclopedia of translators is a very interesting and useful resource. As it points out, translators are often forgotten. But the main page quotes Birgitta Trotzig, who said that translators are "half of our national literature." What a true statement.

          At the moment, this encyclopedia is only in Swedish and only focuses on Swedish translators. I don't know if there are any plans to translate it. But I do wonder if other countries have similar encyclopedias of translators or if they are developing such things.

          Monday, July 13, 2009

          Saving Endangered Languages

          About two years ago, I read Dr. K. David Harrison's book When Languages Die and subsequently posted about it here. Dr. Harrison then suggested that I read a book called Saving Languages, by Lenore A. Grenoble and Lindsay J. Whaley.

          It is very interesting to read and think about these two books. Dr. Harrison writes about what happens when we lose a language and Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley write about how we can prevent that from happening, and thus they should be read in that order.

          Saving Languages talks about working in a "community-driven, bottom-up" way, which means that it is the people themselves who should decide whether to save their tongue and how, and not the government or other authorities. Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley also give suggestions for how languages can be revitalized.

          In their book, they discuss issues of literacy (which is a very important topic, in part since many people are not literate and/or written language is not always prioritized or emphasized, how language policies in countries can affect revitalization (for example, Syria apparently bans the use of Kurdish), attitudes towards language, and the influence of religious groups (Bible translations can be the first or only texts in certain languages or missionaries can be the first foreigners to learn a certain tongue). They also give information on different kinds of revitalization systems, such as total-immersion programs (which they say are the best but are not always possible), partial-immersion or bilingual programs (which they say tend to develop into transitional programs, and they do not advocate this idea), teaching the language as a second language, community-based programs, master-apprentice programs (so elders work with language learners, and this takes place solely in the language to be taught and involves real-life situations and activities, and focuses on oral skills), language-reclamation models (reviving languages that are not longer spoken, and also documenting (though this is not really resuscitating a language, merely recording it, though it helps in reviving a tongue).

          In addition, they discuss creating or standardizing a written form of a language, issues of orthography, the usage of different scripts (some groups choose a certain script or other aspects of orthography deliberately to avoid having one like that of the majority language, such as how the Inuit based their alphabet on a Cree one rather than the Roman one, as a way of showing identity, or how Croatian uses the Roman alphabet while Serbian uses Cyrillic). And they give advice for creating a language program, looking into financial, language, and human resources, assessing the vitality of a language, and the needs of the community as well as their attitudes; as well as for avoiding potential problem situations, both internal and external to the community. And Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley use case studies to explore different ways of saving and revitalizing languages.

          Dr. Harrison's When Languages Die and Dr. Grenoble and Dr. Whaley's Saving Languages are fascinating books, and I recommend them both.

          Thursday, July 09, 2009

          Vote for Brave New Words!

          Some readers may remember that last year, Brave New Words made it to 78 on a list of the top 100 language blogs. Well, BNW has been nominated again this year and now readers have to vote for their favorites. So if you enjoy this blog and would like to see it listed amongst the top language blogs in the world, please visit this site.

          As we say in my hometown of Chicago: vote early and vote often!

          Thank you for your support!

          Friday, July 03, 2009

          Translating Poetry

          I find this quote interesting:

          Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer

          I think Samuel Johnson was a bit off here. Who in the world could realistically learn all the languages she or he wants to, all in order to read poetry in its original tongue? It sounds like an idealistic viewpoint and this is simply not possible.

          Poetry can be translated and is translated. There's no way around the fact that if we want to read foreign texts (and we do and we should), we must have translation. Nevertheless, it is also obviously a good thing to learn other languages.

          Sunday, June 28, 2009

          Watercooler for Translators

          Fellow Swedish-to-English translator Andy Bell has started a sort of joint blog, which he terms "watercooler," for translators. You have to sign in, but it's free and there's some good information and networking possibilities there.

          Tuesday, June 23, 2009

          New Translators' Association

          I received the following email about a new association for translators. The organization seems to be free, but I don't know enough about it to be able to comment on it. If anyone has more information, I'd be interested. Here is the message:

          I’m pleased to present the new translator organisation “Global Internet Translators Association (GITA)”, founded at the beginning of 2009.

          GITA ( aims to incorporate modern media into the translation industry and has set itself the target of building an optimal framework for translation to be carried out online.

          GITA advocates further research and training in the field of online translation, and represents a central point of contact for translators, customers and other interested parties. GITA works alongside various institutions from the translation and new media sectors to put the vision of enabling translators to use the internet as a working platform into practice.

          The function of the organization is to represent the interests of its members. GITA is open to the revision and expansion its aims to encompass new translation issues as long as they are appropriate and conducive to its purpose.

          GITA welcomes translators and translation agencies who identify with its aim and would like to work with GITA to realize and develop this concept. Membership is free for freelance translators. Approved GITA members can download the official organisation emblem ( and profit from the positive implications.

          Thursday, June 18, 2009

          A Round-Up

          Here's another round-up of blog posts and articles for your reading pleasure.

          Here is an article, unfortunately only in Swedish, on the need for new translations. It's an interesting topic. Do translated books need to be updated? How often? Why?

          Here is a blog post on protolanguage. The rest of the blog is good reading, too.

          On to a guest post by me on crime fiction.

          Next is a guest post by me, based on a post I had here on BNW.

          And finally, another guest post, this one on the nice new Macmillian dictionary blog. The new Macmillian dictionary website is also worth spending time on.

          Saturday, June 13, 2009

          Translation Book Launch

          In case you are near Swansea (in southern Wales) and are free on Monday, feel free to come to this event. There will be food, wine, and, best of all, translated books and books on translation! See the following information:

          You are warmly invited to a Swansea University translation studies book launch and showcase, with light refreshments, to be hosted by Waterstone’s and the School of Arts on campus next Monday (15 June) from 1.00.

          Last year a very successful Nordic Translation Conference was organised by PhD student BJ Epstein at the Institute for Germanic and Romance Studies in London. BJ has now edited the proceedings and they have been published by Peter Lang with the title:

          Northern Lights: Translation in the Nordic Countries

          The book launch is to celebrate the publication, as well as the recent award of BJ's doctorate.

          It will also be an opportunity to come and see some of the wealth of work in translation studies published in recent years by Swansea academics, mostly from the School of Arts. Literary translations from a range of languages and research publications in different areas of this fast-evolving field will be on display.

          Sunday, June 07, 2009

          Shameless Bragging

          As I posted not long ago, I have spent the last two and a half years in a translation studies program. I am happy to say that after submitting my dissertation and passing the defense (also known as the viva voce), I have now completed my PhD in translation studies.

          Wednesday, June 03, 2009

          A Good Quote

          "To all parents who ask me what my advice is to their boys' education, I always say: 'Let them learn foreign languages: French, Italian, German, Spanish, as many more as they can. The other things – the length of rivers, the accession of kings, the names of battles, even multiplication and subtraction – are negligible; but conversation with foreigners is vital.'"
          –E.V. Lucas

          However, I would add that this is important for girls as well as for boys!

          Friday, May 29, 2009

          Getting a PhD in Translation Studies

          I am nearing the end of my time in a doctoral program in translation studies, so I thought I would write a little bit about what it means to get a PhD in the field. A shorter version of this was published as a guest post earlier this month.

          In September 2006, I moved from Sweden to Wales in order to study at Swansea University. There are not that many schools yet that offer translation studies; more often, one must study a language or comparative literature. So what does it mean to be in a translation studies program?

          Translation programs on the BA or MA level generally focus on training translators. Such programs combine theoretical and practical work. Students improve their language skills, read and discuss translation theory, practice translation, learn about computer programs and terminology, and maybe get information about starting a company or working for agencies, and other such things. In other words, these kinds of programs are aimed at students who are good with languages and want to work in the field of translation.

          In a sense, translation studies might as well be totally unrelated. I have met many people who study or work in the field of translation studies and yet have never translated and have no intention of doing so (I tend to find this odd, but that is a different issue). In a PhD program, a student is being prepared to become a researcher, not a translator. As in BA or MA programs, students learn about translation theory, but by the PhD level, they are expected to have (or to quickly obtain) in-depth knowledge about this. Students should already have extensive language skills. One doesn’t really attend courses, although this depends on what country the program is and what individual students require. For example, I chose to sit in on several classes about translation theory and the history of translation, mainly out of interest and a desire to refresh or extend my knowledge. Basically, one spends most of the time researching.

          Research what? Well, there are many different possible areas. One can research and analyze the translation of specific kinds of non-fiction or fiction works or specific types of language, the translation of a particular author, what it means to translate between two or more different languages, how translators feel about their jobs, what translators actually do as they work, how translators are or ought to be trained, how translators use (or don’t use) computer tools, how ideas of translation have changed over time, critiquing translation, how translation can be used to control certain populations, how translation can develop a target language, what conditions translators work in, differences in how translators and those studying to be translators work or think about their work, and much, much more. Remember that much of this can apply to interpreting too, which is generally subsumed under the field of translation studies, though interpreting studies as a separate field is growing, and also to subtitling.

          As an example, my own research has been focused on children’s literature and I have been particularly interested in how figurative language is used and translated in books for children from English to Swedish. I also know people who research the translation of medical texts between English and Chinese, and the translation of idiomatic phrases in non-fiction from Spanish to English, and the subtitling of talk shows. Some researchers use computer programs to help with their research (particularly if they need a large corpus of texts), while others interview translators or sit with them while they work, and still others focus on close analysis of texts.

          Those who are starting out in the field often spend a lot of time learning about translation theory in general and their particular field specifically. For example, in my first term or two in the PhD program, I read everything I could find on the translation of children’s literature, on translation in the colonial and postcolonial contexts (this was related to my need to learn more about translation and power), on functionalist theories and skopos, on translating dialects and wordplay, and related topics. Others might want to read about gender theories or issues of in/visibility or financial translation or interpreting in a legal setting or think-aloud protocols.

          The next step is picking one’s texts and starting the research and, of course, trying to find something new and important to contribute to the field. I use primarily textual analysis and statistical analysis, which means I study texts and their translations, and then compute how common certain translatorial strategies are. In the first term, students often begin writing literature reviews and chapters of their dissertation. Here, one’s supervisors should give detailed criticism on one’s writing style and ideas.

          In the first year, many students start attending academic conferences and sometimes even presenting at them. Conferences are an excellent way to learn about what research is taking place in the field and also to get feedback on one’s budding research. Next, one ought to try to get articles published. Attending and speaking at conferences and having work published are both essential when one is finished and looking for a job. Research trips may also prove beneficial; I spent two wonderful weeks at the National Library in Stockholm, studying various translations of work by Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain.

          Students must be independent and good at working hard and making their own schedule. Many people don’t understand that being a PhD student is very different from studying at the BA or MA level. No one will give you deadlines or tell you what to do (generally, that is; some supervisors might be a bit more hands-on). You have to recognize that everything is up to you and that you have to prepared to be very active.

          I have really loved my time being a PhD student in translation studies. I have continued to translate, edit, write, and teach throughout my years in Wales, and that has been really stimulating for me, although many PhD students prefer to focus solely on their research. It’s a lot of fun to research translation and to try to contribute to the field and in the future, I hope to continue combining research with being a practicing translator.

          Monday, May 25, 2009

          Cipher Journal

          I recently learned about Cipher Journal, an online publication that focuses primarily on translation. It is definitely worth reading and submitting to.

          Thursday, May 21, 2009

          End of the Relay

          I was reading the 23 March edition of the New Yorker and noticed the following description of Ismail Kadare in a short book review: “Albania’s most distinguished novelist…” And yet, as the review points out, the book being reviewed was translated first from Albanian to French and then from French to English. In other words, a relay translation.

          Wouldn’t “Albania’s most distinguished novelist” deserve better? Let’s face it – nearly any writer deserves a one-to-one translation, versus the multiple languages and changes involved in a relay translation. I’m surprised and disappointed that this is still so common.

          Saturday, May 16, 2009

          Nordic Voices Blog

          I was excited to learn that there is a new blog on Nordic languages and literature. One of the people running has been featured on BNW, Eric Dickens. The new blog is one I will return to often.

          Monday, May 11, 2009


          Most of us aren’t lucky (or unlucky) enough to get a concept named after us. Thomas Bowdler, however, gave his name to the idea of cutting out any pieces of a work of literature that are not appropriate for women and children. Most famously, Bowdler bowdlerized Shakespeare.

          My reason for posting about him is twofold: he lived in the same city where I currently live and I am very interested in the ways in which authors, editors, or translators change texts for children (or, as in Bowdler’s case, for women!). Some people might say that Bowdler was a product of his time; that may be true in part, but the fact is that bowdlerizing takes place today too, hence the continued popularity of the eponym.

          We translators and editors have to be aware of the target audience, obviously, but we also need to be careful that we don’t abuse our power and underestimate what readers can handle and should have access to.

          Wednesday, May 06, 2009

          Some Reading

          Here are two guest posts by me, two other articles, and some new language or translation blogs for you to read.

          I wrote a guest post on the London Book Fair on the Practicing Writing blog.

          My second guest post is on getting a PhD in translation studies. A slightly longer version of this post will appear here later this month. The Translation Times blog is run by the lovely translating twins.

          This article is on language in Belgium – I never knew they had a German-speaking minority, so it was educational for me.

          The second article is about puns, which can be a lot of fun, but also are difficult to translate.

          There is a new blog on vocabulary on the NY Times website.

          Here is a translation blog.

          Jody Byrne, an academic I met at a conference in Shanghai, also has a new translation blog.

          And another translation blog.

          Friday, May 01, 2009

          A Guide to Working as Freelance Translator

          A translation company contacted me earlier this year about a book they have written. It contains a lot of basic information about working as a freelance translator and could be useful to those of you who are now starting your translation careers.

          Monday, April 27, 2009

          Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little

          When I was on a trip to Vienna, I stayed with a friend (a fellow translator) who had a wonderful book collection. I didn’t have time to read them all, unfortunately (I’m hoping she invites me back so I can!), but I did read Biting the Wax Tadpole by Elizabeth Little. The title is entertaining, as is the whole book. Basically, it’s a light romp around the world’s languages in 200 pages.

          Ms. Little’s book is about grammar and how it works in different languages. She claims (or admits, it’s hard to tell which!) that she isn’t very good at learning languages, but she does enjoy thinking about how grammar works around the world. Among other things, she writes about the 18 cases in Hungarian and the 17 in Basque and she discusses deponent verbs (i.e. verbs that look passive but are actually active). She gives examples from Swedish, Sami, Swahili, Khmer, Tibetan, Hausa, Tlingit, German, Ngiti, and many other languages in order to show what is similar or different among the many languages and their grammar.

          My one complaint is the lack of a bibliography, but nevertheless, it was enjoyable for me to read one chilly night in Vienna.

          Wednesday, April 22, 2009

          Håkan Nesser on Translation

          At the SELTA meeting in London last month, the Swedish writer Håkan Nesser gave a guest talk. Mr. Nesser is best known for his crime novels (he mentioned that “life is reflected in death,” which is one reason why he writes such works), but he has also written literary fiction as well.

          He was very entertaining and, as befits the setting, he spoke in part about translation. Mr. Nesser’s works have been translated to many languages and he said he’s received questions or comments from about half his translators. He said that he once offered some comments on an English translation and got the following response, “Håkan, I thought you knew English!” After that, he’s avoided critiquing translations. The way he thinks about the translated target texts is that they are “written by the translators with [his] books as the basis.”

          Saturday, April 18, 2009

          Call for Submissions

          Here is a literary magazine interested in translation. Their call for submissions reads:

          We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
          Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced)
          Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format)
          * Translators must hold the necessary rights and permissions for the original work, unless it is in the public domain. Please append short (1-2 paragraph) biographies for both the translator and the original author. Translators who wish to have their contact information published with their bio should provide it. For excerpts, please also include a brief synopsis of the work as a whole.

          Tuesday, April 14, 2009

          Medical Translation

          I have only once done a medical translation and that was a very unusual situation (my beloved grandfather had come to visit me in Sweden, gotten quite sick, spent his entire first day in the hospital and then was sent back to the US the next day, and I translated the records from his stay at the Swedish hospital for his doctor back home). Other than that, I have stayed away from medical work, partly because of the bad memories it brings up and partly because I simply do not feel qualified to do it, and I think it is important to recognize one’s strengths and weaknesses as a translator.

          Nevertheless, it can be interesting for me and useful for other translators to check out this blog on medical translation.

          Friday, April 10, 2009

          Language Map

          I was sent this link to a language map and I think it is actually rather attractive and interesting.

          Sunday, April 05, 2009

          Tuesday, March 31, 2009

          Guest Post: The Translating Twins

          In February, I was lucky enough to meet the delightful translating duo of Dagmar and Judy Jenner. Together they run Twin Translations and the blog Translation Times. They graciously agreed to write a guest post about working together as translating twins.

          The Translating Twins

          We frequently get asked if we are really twins or whether we are using the business name Twin Translations just because it sounds good. We are indeed identical twins. Judy is older by ten minutes.

          A little bit about us: We were born in Austria and grew up in Mexico City, which makes for two native languages. After high school, Judy went to Las Vegas for college (yes, there’s a university in Vegas!) and has lived and worked there for 14 years. She’s a recovering former in-house translation manager for a big Spanish-language travel website and has an M.B.A. in marketing. Dagmar studied French and communications at the University of Salzburg/Austria and at the University of Tours/France. She is currently finishing her degree in translation and interpretation studies at the University of Vienna. Judy is on the board of directors of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association, and Dagmar serves on the board of UNIVERSITAS Austria, the Austrian Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association. Our translation practice focuses on marketing, e-commerce, tourism and travel, IT, legal and financial texts. Our working languages are German, Spanish, English, and French. We run Twin Translations ( and Texterei ( from both sides of the Atlantic. Dagmar is based in Vienna, Austria, and Judy is based in Las Vegas, NV.

          How did you decide to work together?
          Even back in high school in Mexico City, we knew we had an affinity for languages and always envisioned working together. When we were 15, we talked about having a business called “Jenner + Jenner Cross-Cultural-Communications”. Our current business is somewhat similar to what we envisioned more than 15 years ago, and perhaps at some point we will offer language consulting services as well. We always wanted to work together because there’s no one we trust more than each other. And it’s no surprise that we work very well together. And no, we can’t read each other’s minds. However, as twins, we know each other so well that we are usually pretty certain about what the other one is thinking.

          How can you run a business on two continents?
          It actually works to our advantage because of time difference: we are available for our clients almost 24 hours a day, and the two of us work together around 10-12 hours a day if needed. When the other person needs to proof a document, we oftentimes do this when one of us is sleeping, so one can wake up to a fully edited translation. Our American clients are usually quite delighted to hear that if a project is due, say 9 AM PST, that Dagmar has all day to work on the project, as Vienna is nine hours ahead of Vegas.

          How do you decide who does which project?
          It depends on the subject matter and language combination. We leave translations into German mainly to Dagmar, as she’s lived and worked there for 15 years, while I have lived in the US since I was a teenager. Ergo, I do more of the into-English translations. In terms of subject matter, Judy is the marketing/press release expert, and Dagy has substantial legal translation experience. We are a good fit. For translations into Spanish, we mainly work together. I don’t have French as one of my working languages, and Dagmar translates from French into German, English, and Spanish, so those translations are always hers.

          What’s your editing process like?
          It’s pretty thorough and includes at least 3 - 5 steps, depending on length and difficulty. One of us does the initial translation and consults with the other during that process. Once the first draft is finished, it goes to the other person for an in-depth review and revision, which usually takes a few days (we are not the fastest translators and don’t accept unrealistic deadlines). The changes/suggestions/comments are added via track changes in Word. After that second step, the original translator thoroughly reviews the changes and accepts or rejects them. The final product then goes to both of us again. We both print out a hard copy and edit it on paper.

          How are you different from each other? Is one better at something than the other?
          Dagmar is, without doubt, the better negotiator. I tend to be a bit too accommodating, but she usually sets me straight and tells me to stick to our prices, which are non-negotiable. Dagmar is also more creative than I am when it comes to marketing ideas, even though I am the one with an M.B.A. in marketing. Last but not least, my twin is the queen of the new German spelling. Nothing in German ever leaves my desk without a thorough re-work from Dagmar.

          Dagmar: Judy is the more outgoing of the two. She loves meeting new people, going to networking events of all types, and follows up on all leads. We are both not natural salespeople, but Judy has a knack for telling everyone she meets what we do and how much we love it. Through that, many times business follows. Judy has also built an impressive circle of business acquaintances through social networking and blogging (

          How do you handle international payments?
          We try to make it as easy as possible on our clients. For European clients, Dagy does the billing in euro and receives payment to her account in Vienna. Judy bills the American clients and receives payment to her American account. If one did a project for the other, we simply log that as a business expense on the respective account. Judy has a registered company in the U.S., while Dagmar’s business is registered in Austria. We could both be registered with our businesses in both countries, but that adds a whole new dimension of tax difficulty, so our accountant did not recommend that.

          Friday, March 27, 2009

          Call for Papers

          Some of you might be interested in submitting papers to or simply attending the following conference:

          Between Cultures and Texts: Itineraries in Translation History
          April 9–10, 2010, Tallinn

          Scientific Committee: Marie Vrinat-Nikolov, Kristiina Ross, Hannu K. Riikonen, Antoine Chalvin, Peeter Torop, Stefano Montes, Ülar Ploom

          In reader's experience translations are often literary works in their own right, and as such they've often functioned in culture, shaping histories. Cultures and texts have been more open to the foreign than the rigidly indexed academic studies oftentimes reveal: from national literary histories translations as texts of vital significance have been frequently excluded to find their place in separate histories of literary translation only recently when scattered studies have been assembled in the five-volume Oxford History of Literary Translation in English (publication in progress), or the Finnish Suomennoskirjallisuuden historia of 2007, to give just two examples.
          With histories being written and methodological issues on the agenda for some decades already, the list of possible empirical techniques and theoretical approaches is long enough to maintain enduring academic interest. As Anthony Pym in his 1998 „Method in Translation History" says, „translation history could be an essential part of intercultural history". There are different possibilities to frame translating that need not be understood only as a representation of the foreign but also as transmission, transfer and transculturation, borrowing critical instruments from linguistic and literary studies but also from semiotics, critical sociology, postcolonial or gender studies.
          The Estonian Institute of Humanities and the Institute of Germanic-Romance Languages and Cultures of Tallinn University, in collaboration with the Paris INALCO Centre d'étude de l'Europe médiane and the University of Tartu, will host a conference in Tallinn, Estonia, on April 9–10, 2010 on these themes. Papers could address each of the terms "culture", „history", „method", and "translation". Possible subjects may include:
          * Getting data for translational histories
          * Theoretical and historical approaches – an opposition?
          * Critical review of existing monographs or experience reports by authors
          * Criteria of periodization in translation histories
          * The role of translators in cultural histories
          Confirmed keynote speakers at the conference will be Nikolay Aretov (Sofia), Jean Delisle (Ottawa), Theo Hermans (London), Peeter Torop (Tartu).
          In addition, Marie Vrinat-Nikolov (INALCO) speaks of the methodological problems she encountered with her book about translators' discourse in France and
          Bulgaria, and Jean-Léon Muller (INALCO) gives a survey of studies in the history of
          translation in Hungary.
          Proposals for papers (in either English or French, no longer than 200 words) should be submitted before September 30, 2009 to one of the following e-mail addresses:

          Notification of acceptance will be sent out no later than October 30, 2009.

          Monday, March 23, 2009

          Translation Studies Summer School

          If you are interested in getting into translation studies, you might want to attend the following program:

          The HONG KONG TRANSLATION RESEARCH SUMMER SCHOOL – TRSS (HK) – is a new initiative based at the Centre for Translation, Hong Kong Baptist University. TRSS (HK) provides a parallel programme to the well-established UK-based Translation Research Summer School, and is organized in close collaboration with the three British institutions that run the UK programme – the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester, the Centre for Intercultural Studies at University College London (UCL), and the Translation Studies Graduate Programme, at the University of Edinburgh. TRSS (HK) offers a two-week course in Hong Kong, providing intensive research training in translation and intercultural studies for prospective researchers in the field.

          It is now open for application. For details of the Hong Kong Translation Research Summer School, please refer to the website For enquiries, please email

          Thursday, March 19, 2009

          A Visit to a Museum

          On a trip to Vienna last month, I spent a lovely cold afternoon at the Kunsthistorische Museum. I noticed that I was much more interested in paintings of St. Jerome and of the Tower of Babel than I was of many of the other works. Obviously, being a translator has affected all aspects of my life, including my taste in art!

          Saturday, March 14, 2009

          More Metaphors

          A few weeks ago, I was teaching a class on the history of translation theory. So many different metaphors were mentioned during our discussion of material about Sir John Denham and John Dryden. I will name some of them here.

        • Transfusion. In the sense of an alchemical reaction, transfusion was a fairly common metaphor some centuries ago, though perhaps the word today would make us think instead of a blood transfusion. In either case, the idea of infusing new spirit and new life into something applies.

        • Shell and kernel. Latham gets a across a similar idea (i.e. of preserving the general meaning if not the exact wording) with his comment "I used the freedome of a Translator, not tying myselfe to the tyranny of a Grammatical consruction, but breaking the shell into many peeces, was only carefull to preserve the Kernell safe and whole, from the violence of a wrong, or wrested Interpretation." (as quoted in Venuti's excellent The Translator's Invisibility).

        • Clothing. This is a very common metaphor. Rider (also cited in Venuti) used this metaphor: "Translations of Authors from one language to another, are like old garments turn'd into new fashions; in which though the stuffe be still the same, yet the die and trimming are altered, and in the making, here something added, there something cut away." In other words, you use the author's material but refashioned and reshod.

        • Tight-rope walker/dancer. In the introduction to his translation of Ovid's Epistles, Dryden wrote: "'Tis much like dancing on ropes with fettered legs. A man may shun a fall by using caution, but the gracefulness of motion is not to be expected, and when we have said the best of it, 'tis but a foolish task; for no sober man would put himself into a danger for the applause of escaping without breaking his neck."
        • Tuesday, March 10, 2009

          Books from Finland

          Books from Finland is a publication about, well, books from Finland. They've recently stopped publishing the magazine in print and have now gone over to web-only. Check out the site.

          Friday, March 06, 2009

          Visiting Libraries

          I have already mentioned how much I like the smell of books, but I don't think I've written about the other senses involved in a visit to the library. There are some libraries that are just so stunning that it is hard to believe you are allowed to sit there and partake of the books, the building, and the atmosphere. I certainly would like to visit the libraries pictured here at some point.

          Sunday, March 01, 2009

          In Praise of Nerdiness

          On a recent trip to Austria, I attended a reading with two friends and afterwards, we met up with several more of their acquaintances at a bar. It transpired that all six of us around the table were translators. Over drinks, we proceeded to discuss language, authors, translation, the translation industry, translation studies, having inter-lingual relationships, and much more. It was supremely nerdy, but in a great way, and I had a lot of fun.

          Sometimes, when I complain about the poor English on signs or in articles or when I enthusiastically mention plans for learning another language, friends tease me for being too much of a dorky linguaphile. Once in awhile, it can be wonderful to hang out with other word nerds, gleefully chatting about all aspects of language and translation.

          Wednesday, February 25, 2009

          Translation and the Economy

          Lots of translators have mentioned being hit by the downturn in the economy. It makes sense -- if customers are going to cut corners somewhere, they'll often do it by skimping on quality translation (or editing or writing). As it is, many clients grumble about the supposedly high prices that a good translator charges, so this is a good excuse for them to find cheaper translators (often in far-away countries where the costs of living are much lower but where people may not be experienced with the source or target languages).

          I rarely do work for agencies, but I am still listed in several agency databases from the early stages of my career, when I did take on such work. For this reason, I have received several emails in recent times from agencies. These messages subtly offer the following message: Times are bad, so lower your prices or you won't get work from us anymore. Agencies don't pay translators that well anyway, and it saddens me to think about all the ways agencies and direct clients are finding ways of not paying translators what they are worth.

          Personally, I am not lowering my prices. My services are worth just as much, if not more, as they were a year ago. I hope my colleagues will consider keeping their prices the same, too, so that clients won't start taking us for granted. They get what they pay for and they should be willing to pay well for good translators, financial depression or not.

          Friday, February 20, 2009

          A Round-Up of Articles

          Time for another round-up of articles.

          First, an article on apostrophe usage, which three different people sent me this article; that’s how well-known my obsession with apostrophes is!

          Next, a piece by Lawrence Venuti, who is always interesting to read.

          An article on spelling.

          Then an article about translated literature in Sweden.

          Finally, here is some interesting reading on the income of literary translators and related issues.

          Sunday, February 15, 2009

          Translators as Readers

          I like to think I’m always a fairly close reader, but I’ve noticed over the years that I seem to get more out of a text when I’m translating it. That’s not really surprising, considering how translators have to pay close attention to every aspect of a text in terms of both meaning and form, but it does make me wonder how translators develop such good reading skills and whether this can be taught, and also whether translators might in some situations make better critics than those who don’t work with language in the same way (obviously, some writers, too, may be good critics, but there are plenty of people who write book reviews but do not seem to have much writing or translating experience themselves).

          Tuesday, February 10, 2009

          Tim Ferriss on Learning Languages

          Someone keeps recommending Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Workweek to me, but I just haven’t had time for it yet (maybe I should outsource the reading to someone else!). I have, however, had some time to look at his blog. Some of his posts on learning languages are pretty interesting.

          Check out his advice this post on learning any language in three months, and this one on learning languages in an hour, and finally this post on reactivating previously known languages. What do you think of his advice?

          Thursday, February 05, 2009

          A Translator’s Diary

          Erik Andersson’s published diary, called Översättarens anmärkningar, from his work doing a new translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to Swedish in 2002-2005 reveals his concerns and thoughts about a variety of topics regarding Tolkien’s classic text. It is very interesting to read about Mr. Andersson’s experiences translating this book. Some entries, all he writes is how many words he translated that day, or he discusses the physical pain that can come from sitting by your computer all day, but most of the time, he explores the challenges involved in crafting a fresh translation of a well-known text.

          Some of his most interesting passages are in reference to names. Tolkien clearly spent a lot of time choosing the names, and other features of the text, and he even wrote a list of instructions for his translators. Also, Mr. Andersson had the additional complication that there was an already existing translation of the book, including the names, and Tolkien fans had strong opinions about what should be retained in the new translation and why. Mr. Andersson explains the problem of translating names as follows:

          Tolkien has had certain ideas for the names, but he wouldn’t choose a name that didn’t have euphony. From the euphonic, one can always rationalise to the meaning, but the question is whether the process can go in reverse. Can I go from the meaning and rationalise to the euphony? (Here are all translation problems in a nutshell.) (20-1, my translation)

          I think Mr. Andersson’s book offers a lot of insight into the translation process and thus would be of interest to translators themselves, Tolkien enthusiasts, and others who would like to learn about what it means to translate literature. As of now, it’s only in Swedish, but perhaps it will be translated, and maybe the translator of Mr. Andersson’s work will write an accompanying book about the challenges of translating Översättarens anmärkningar.

          Saturday, January 31, 2009

          Babylon Websites

          Last year, I was asked to try out the Babylon dictionary and translation services. I always feel a bit guilty when I am invited to review something and then don't like it as much as I had hoped I would.

          The dictionary provides quite a bit of information for each word, though only a couple of translations (to Irish and Welsh for each of the words I chose -- not quite the most useful languages). And the translation software didn't work at all from English to Swedish in my experience. It kept offering me translations to a Cyrillic language for some reason. Spanish, Norwegian, and Danish worked somewhat better, especially the Spanish.

          In sum, I'd say the dictionary is pretty good for language-learners while the translation software definitely needs improvement.

          Monday, January 26, 2009

          Grammar Mistakes

          Unfortunately, there are many common grammar and usage errors in English. This BBC article explores twenty such errors, while Paul Brians' book and website list many more.

          What are your particular grammar and usage peeves? Personally, I strongly dislike the incorrect usage of apostrophes and I also don't like when "a lot" is written as one word. But there are many more that annoy me -- and I see them very often in my line of work.

          Thursday, January 22, 2009

          The Five Things Tag

          Erika Dreifus tagged me on 23 December and I actually wrote this up right away, but since I had other posts planned, it is a month later that I am posting this.

          What were you doing five years ago (December 2003)?

          1. Living in Helsingborg, Sweden.
          2. Trying to adjust to life in Sweden, even after having already spent 2.5 years there.
          3.Teaching English at a variety of schools around southern Sweden, and thus spending a lot of time commuting.
          4. Translating, editing, and writing (much like I do today).
          5. Working towards an MFA in fiction.

          What were five things on your list for today?

          1. Finish a book review.
          2. Write a draft of an article based on some of my research.
          3. Try to get rid of my terrible back pain.
          4. Attempt to find the holiday presents I had hidden and then forgot where I hid them!
          5. Get organized for my trip to Chicago to visit my family (as I post this, I am now back from said trip!).

          What are five snacks you enjoy?

          1. Dark chocolate.
          2. My grandmother’s noodle kugel and cookies (which I have now enjoyed in Chicago!).
          3. Matzoh spread with peanut butter or sunflower seed butter.
          4. Plantain chips.
          5. Fruit, especially bananas and apples.

          What are five things you'd do if you were a billionaire?

          1. Charity would be the number one way I’d spend the money, with a particular emphasis on charities related to education/literacy, to medical research, and to providing food, clean water, and a source of livelihoods to people.
          2. I would want to make sure my relatives and friends had enough money for living expenses, education, and other necessities, as well as for some special treats.
          3. I’d travel more, including more frequent trips to visit relatives. My trips would also include lots of time spent at museums and at interesting restaurants.
          4. I’d like to have one permanent house/apartment that I’d do up very nicely, with a wonderful kitchen where I could happily cook and bake and also a library with lots of lovely books.
          5. Like Erika, I’ve long fantasized about starting a publishing company. In my case, I’d like one that focused on literary translations to English. While running it, I’d also continue my own translation work, as well as my research, writing, and editing. So having money would not necessarily buy me time!

          What are five jobs you've had?

          1. Translator, writer, and editor (okay, so I’ve had these same jobs for a long time!).
          2. Acquisitions editor at a publishing company (although I got paid minimum wage for that!).
          3. Teaching a writing workshop at a senior citizens’ home.
          4. Tutor in Latin and math.
          5. One summer I worked as a temp while also studying and that included work at a candy exhibition. The smell of sugar was truly sickening after a few hours.

          Who are five people you want to tag?

          1. Eric Dickens.
          2. Andrew Shields.
          3. Ola Wikander. (And now with a blog in English, too!)
          4. Simon Ager.
          5. Chad Post.