HOME             ABOUT             REVIEWS             BOOK LISTS             CONTACT             LINKS


Monday, 18 October 2010

Event Summary and Info: International Translation Day

It seems like forever since I attended the International Translation Day conference at Free the Word in Farringdon. In reality it was just over two weeks ago. I have been under the weather hence the general lack of blogging since this event.

The ordinary course of my working life does not bring me into the field of translation or translated literature. So why then was I attending a conference in which I was one of the few people in the audience who knew nothing about it? Because my fair readers, I am trying to change that! I am planning a project - Young Cultural Creators - the theme is literature in translation. I will be working with twelve students across the 8 - 12 year old age range. Our aims are to use literature as a stimulus for creativity. We will also be getting out of school and into local creative spaces - i.e. museums, libraries, archives, galleries. Exciting stuff!

Who chose the theme for said project? Moi! Why did I want to explore the theme of translation? Because children should have access to literature from other cultures and thus enrich their own.

So I attended the conference and in the evening was joined by the lovely Caroline from Portrait of a Woman. The final seminar was hosted by Book Trust and was the launch of National Children's Book Week (a post about that another time perhaps).

So these are some of the things that came out of a day full of seminars and from the perspective of someone who knew nothing about the translation industry.

Translated Literature is important because:
  • We want to be able to read great books from around the world
  • It enables us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves
  • It is a process of cooperation
  • In a world of discord, conflict and anxiety literature can cross this divide and encourage unity and understanding
English Pen - the organisation who set up the conference - have working on a Global Translation Initiative to identify some of the key problem areas in the translated literature industry. They conducted an international survey and the findings are still being analysed but they gave a short summary of their initial interpretations. Firstly, the biggest barrier to the publication of translated literature is the cost. 77% of the respondents cited cost as being the problem.

There was also a huge issue of perception that readers are not interested in reading translated literature. Of course, this is a fallacy. I am interested in translated literature. Remember The Unit! That was such an amazing book.  Caroline is a champion of translated literature and Steig Larsson has taken the best seller list by storm. I conclude that this myth about perception is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are many organisations in the UK working to change attitudes towards translated fiction. In London there are lots of projects with universities and schools to try to encourage students to continue studying a language into GCSE, A Level and First Degrees. One of the largest problems in England is that studying a language is optional and so very few students choose to study it further.

Some of the actitvites / ideas being used to promote translation in schools are:
  • Language Ambassasors
  • Interpreting Workshops
  • Film Festivals
  • Subtitling activities
  • Manga Workshops
  • Cultural references in Video Games
  • Bringing Translation Professionals in to host talks/ workshops
  • Parents telling stories in cultural heritage languages and using these for translation
There are certainly lots of ideas to start thinking about here. One of the things that came out of the Book Trust panel was that translation is two fold. The first level being the translation of the words. The second being the translation of culture. This is definitely something I will be taking with me into the planning for Young Cultural Creators.

And finally, Caroline and I discussed between ourselves the fact that there is such an emphasis on translating "literary fiction" for children. Why can't it be just great stories that all children will enjoy? Why does it have to be literary? By adding this word into the field of translation are we doing a disservice to our young people? Should they only be allowed to read translated fiction if it is going to be of the highest literary merit? Because yes they will read books like this but they more often than not will choose an addictive page turner any day of the week.

It's interesting,  no?!

Have a read of Caroline's post here

Links to organisations working in the translated literature field:
English pen
Literature Across Frontiers
Winged Chariot
Outside In
Free the World
British Centre for Literary Translation
Book Trust


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

This is WONDERFUL, Becky! I totally love your plan with the children and I so agree with you, literature from all over the world is very important. I feel very strongly about this, especially since I translate myself. Not books yet, just official or scientific texts, but I'm getting into the area of translating literature (fingers crossed!), so yes, I really feel this.

I especially like the questions you asked in the final paragraph of your post. Frankly, mostly everyone, not just kids, will want to read books they can enjoy, not books that are on a "100 Classics to Read Before You Die" list. Besides, the classics are already translated in most countries (at least the classics of the Anglo-Saxon origin, and very old classics), so why not translate books that are currently "it" and interest people? Writers benefit from their translated works being sold, too, not just readers. Contemporary literature has to be supported this way. And it's great that this program includes literature that's not of Anglo-Saxon origin. I mean, I love and respect English literature. Actually, I mostly read books by British and American authors these days (and technically speaking, it's all foreign literature to me), but there are many, many great authors out there that don't write in English and have to be spotlighted, for example Carlos Ruiz Zafon (he was the first one that popped into my head, hehe).

Oh, I kind of went into my babbling mode, sorry.:) Just...great post, definitely!:) I wish you good luck and a lot of fun with your project!

Nayuleska said...


I'm totally with you on translating books. I read books in other languages when I can (electronic dictionaries are my friend). I agree with all your points made here. So much can be learned about other cultures. I read Manga in both English and Japanese (with a dictionary) - knowing a culture helps understand why certain concepts are translated/written about in books.

brizmus said...

Fabulous post!
I agree that translated literature is super important, and I find that, in school, we really don't read enough of it.
And I think a great way to inspire children to read books from other cultures would be to have, as you said, non-literary books translated!

Your project sounds fabulous - good luck and enjoy!

Becky said...

Irena, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree we all want to read great books and so we should be able to access good translations not just for literary fiction. Why there is such a mis-perception is beyond me!

Nayu, ah yes! Manga is incredibly popular. Why is it affordable to translate Manga and not novels? Anyone?

Brizmus, spot on! In my educational experiences I was never once set a text that was translated. What is wrong with the English curriculum people?!