Monday, 20 October 2014

Applications open for European Society for Translation Studies Event Grant

EST Translation Studies Event Grant

The EST Translation Studies Event Grant is awarded annually to help finance Translation Studies events (conferences, symposia, guest lectures, courses, exhibitions). It may be used to cover a wide range of documented expenses such as bursaries, travel, accommodation, or preparation of conference materials.

Deadline: January 31, 2015

Amount: Up to 1000 euros

Rules and procedures
  1. At least one member of the organizing or scientific committee must be a paid-up member of the European Society for Translation Studies.
  2. The funds have to support a Translation Studies event. This may include symposia, courses, visits of keynote speakers, etc.
  3. Applications should explain the circumstances under which the request is made and include details about the specific use of the sum requested.
  4. The Event Grant Committee will conduct an evaluation of each application on the basis of: a) the needs demonstrated in the application, b) the importance of the event for the Translation Studies community, and c) compliance of the event with the EST’s general philosophy of making Translation Studies accessible to all.
  5. The sum granted will be transferred to the applicant’s account after invoices and/or receipts have been received.
  6. Applications should be sent by email to the Chair of the Event Grant Committee, Magdalena Bartłomiejczyk: magdalenabartlomiejczyk[at] Reception will be acknowledged.
  7. The deadline for submitting applications for 2015 is January 31, 2015. The decision of the Committee will be announced at the beginning of March. The grant may thus be requested for events that are planned for between March 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Oldies but goodies

It's fifty-five years old, but I still really like this description of what good translation feels like:
If [the translator] does see and hear clearly and fully, he (sic) will hold the original poem in a sort of colloidal suspension in his mind – I mean a fluid state in which the syntax, all the rigid features of the original dissolve, and yet its movements and inner structures persist and operate. It is out of this that he must make another poem that will speak, or sing, with his own voice’
Jackson Mathews, 'Third Thoughts on Translating Poetry', in Reuben Brower (ed. ) On Translation, Harvard University Press, 1959, pp.66-77

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Thoughts on preparing a PhD application

The next round of Doctoral Training Partnership funding is coming up, and it's made me think about what makes a good PhD application. Over the years I have seen a lot of PhD enquiries and applications, and it occurs to me that it might be helpful to outline what my expectations of a competitive  application in my field are. I must emphasise that these are just my personal opinions, and are not representative of any institution or organisation, but I hope they may be helpful for readers out there considering applying for a PhD, and particularly for PhD funding, in the arts and humanities.

The thing I can't emphasise enough is groundwork. The PhD application is not the place to submit your initial idea; once you have an idea, you should get appropriate academic feedback on it and begin approaching your chosen institution(s) to scope out supervision possibilities. This should be done *well in advance* (by well in advance, I mean months in advance) of any application, particularly where funding deadlines are at issue. A good literature review takes time to develop; for archival projects, you might find yourself visiting archives to establish the availability of appropriate primary material - and so on.

Turning your topic into a proposal
What's going to be new about your project? The literature review is an important step in pinning this down. What's been written about the topic? Where is the gap in knowledge that this work can address? What theoretical framework/methodology will you use/draw on/develop? Why is this an appropriate framework/methodology? Your prospective supervisor will look with interest at the bibliography following your research proposal - do you mention the key theorists? Are you familiar with the relevant debates? Where's the evidence of critical thinking in your proposal?

Where are you going to get your data from? Sometimes, a PhD project comes not from the research question, but the other way around, from the discovery of a source of data which invites analysis - the research question might then be a function of what you can usefully ask about that data.

Your own preparation for doctoral work
Your application will include details about your academic and professional background. A good PhD application explains how this project proposal builds on your existing strengths. It should show that you have enough familiarity with the general field to be reasonably confident about the claims or hypotheses outlined in your proposal. Is there appropriate evidence of the language competence, if any, needed to do the research?

You don't have to have all the research training in advance; good PhD programmes will make training available to you, but you need to have an appropriate background in the subject. And you don't have to answer your research question(s) before you've even begun the PhD, but you do need to be able to show in the proposal that the questions are worth asking, and can be answered within the schema of work that you propose.

Managing your application(s)
One of the things which helps to make a good narrative for a PhD application is a judicious choice of institution. Have you selected an appropriate institution? Do they have the right research strengths? Are they able to supervise in your language pair(s)? Can you tell a good story, not just about how you are the right person to do this project, but about how this is the right place for you to do it?
Have you checked the requirements for the application at your chosen institution(s)? Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Attention to detail
Have you formatted and proofread your application carefully, using clear headers and consistent referencing conventions? Check that you've done all this, then proofread it again.

A lot of funding for PhDs in the UK has deadlines in December or January for the following autumn; for the spring 2015 round I'd start approaching institutions very soon.

Useful Links
There are lots of more or less helpful webpages out there with advice about applying for PhDs. I thought this one and this one had pretty useful guidance.

Translators' notes

I've long thought that there's not enough writing out there by translators about specific knotty problems in texts. You can track them down sometimes in the prefaces of books, and there's always one's own experience to draw on, but one can never have too many examples to hand of real problems which have come up in authentic translation contexts, especially in a translation class with seven language pairs represented.

So I was delighted when the Translators Association's excellent journal In Other Words added an 'in brief' section where translators discuss fascinating questions such as how to translate 'del rancho de la chingada' in Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villalobos' Down the Rabbit Hole (Rosalind Harvey in issue 39) or the kind of relationship known as a 'Bratkartoffelverhältnis' (Anthea Bell in issue 40, on translating Eugen Ruge's In Times of Fading Light).

And now I am very very pleased to see that there's a new wordpress community, Brouillon, dedicated to the same thing - short pieces by translators about very specific words and phrases that proved a problem in translation, and how they got solved. So far, all the posts are, predictably enough, about fiction translation but it seems to be open to all sorts of translation (screen translation, anyone?).

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Doctoral funding available from the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership

The University of Bristol is a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded SouthWest and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (SW&W DTP).

The DTP consortium, which consists of eight universities, will award more than 50 scholarships for students commencing doctoral research in 2015-16. 
Applications can be made to the DTP after 26 November 2014. The closing date for applications is 12 January 2015
If you wish to undertake doctoral studies at the University of Bristol, and wish to be considered for a DTP scholarship, please make contact with your potential supervisor at Bristol as soon as possible. Candidates are welcome to submit proposals in any field of the arts and humanities with supervision expertise in the University of Bristol. 
The University of Bristol offers supervision in a range of translation studies fields including translation history, literary translation, screen translation, adaptation, interpreting and theatre translation/performance. Languages include Chinese, Czech, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Candidates should contact Dr Carol O'Sullivan in the first instance. For projects in drama translation and performance, please contact Dr Katja Krebs.

The University of Bristol also expects to be in a position to offer a number of its own postgraduate research scholarships to outstanding applicants. Students who apply for a DTP scholarship based at Bristol will also be automatically considered for a University of Bristol scholarship. An application for a place on the PGR programme at the University of Bristol can be made at any time, but only those applications received before 12 January 2015 will be considered for a UoB scholarship.  For more details of PGR funding opportunities at the University of Bristol see

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happy St. Jerome's Day: untranslatable words

You get those little 'untranslatable words' meme going round at intervals. I'm always a bit suspicious - though I did like the word 'poronkusema' which is apparently, according to the interwebs, a distance of about 7.5km in Finland, equal to how far a reindeer can travel without stopping to urinate. 

But what about words which are untranslatable not because they mean something so specific, but because they mean so many things? My favourite (if, OK, fictional) example is Flann O'Brien's panegyric on the meanings of the Irish verb 'cur' [to put]:
There is scarcely a single word in the Irish (barring, possibly, Sasanach) that is simple and explicit. Apart from words with endless shades of cognate meaning, there are many with so complete a spectrum of graduated ambiguity that each of them can be made to express two directly contrary meanings, as well as a plethora of intermediate concepts that have no bearing on either. And all this strictly within the linguistic field. Superimpose on all that the miasma of ironic usage, poetic licence, oxymoron, plamás, Celtic evasion, Irish bullery and Paddy Whackery, and it a safe bet that you will find yourself very far from home. Here is an example copied from Dinneen and from more authentic sources known only to my little self:

Cur, g. curtha and cuirthe, m.—act of putting, sending, sowing, raining, discussing, burying, vomiting, hammering into the ground, throwing through the air, rejecting, shooting, the setting or clamp in a rick of turf, selling, addressing, the crown of cast-iron buttons which have been made bright by contact with cliff-faces, the stench of congealing badger's suet, the luminance of glue-lice, a noise made in an empty house by an unauthorised person, a heron's boil, a leprachaun's denture, a sheep-biscuit, the act of inflating hare's offal with a bicycle pump, a leak in a spirit level, the whine of a sewage farm windmill, a corncrake's clapper, the scum on the eye of a senile ram, a dustman's dumpling, a beetle's faggot, the act of loading every rift with ore, a dumb man's curse, a blasket, a 'kur', a fiddler's occupational disease, a fairy godmother's father, a hawk's vertigo, the art of predicting past events, a wooden coat, a custard-mincer, a blue-bottle's 'farm', a gravy flask, a timber-mine, a toy craw, a porridge-mill, a fair-day donnybrook with nothing barred, a stoat's stomach-pump, a broken—
But what is the use? One could go on and on without reaching anywhere in particular.
                                                 (from Flann O'Brien, The Best of Myles, pp.278-279)

Myles na Gopaleen is joking (I think) but in a very nice 2012 article called "Honor Thine Author" (paywalled) the translator Fiona Elliot puts in a plea to her authors not to use the German word aufheben because 
What English verb could match “aufheben,” meaning to pick something up from the floor, to save something up for later, to close a meeting, to terminate a siege, to remove restrictions, to cancel or annul, to repeal or revoke, to compensate, neutralize, offset, or elevate? (Actually, at the latest count there are forty-seven separate translations for it online at
         (Fiona Elliott, "Honor Thine Author". Art in Translation 4:1 (2012), pp.89-98)

Happy St. Jerome's Day!