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
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
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:
Literature Across Frontiers
Free the World
British Centre for Literary Translation