Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Translation Readings at the Poetry Café, London

From the Translators Association newsletter, and perhaps of interest to some of you in or near London. Features some very well-known translators.

Forthcoming events in the Poetry in Translation series organised by member Sebastian Hayes and held at the Poetry Cafe, Betterton Street, London WC2 at 7.30pm:

Wed 21 April - George Szirtes on 'Poems of Foreignness and Belonging'
Wed 28 April - George Gomori presents some Hungarian poets
Wed 26 May - Camden Mews Translation Group: Polly Clarke (Enzensberger), Graham Mummery (René Char), Ruth Ingram (Mascha Kaleko)
Wed 23 June - Pushkin Society: Robert Chandler, Stanley Mitchell, Antony Wood.
Wed 28 July - Camden Mews: French and German poets.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

job sites, placements and stuff

A few more placement and jobs ideas for those of you graduating this summer (see the jobs, careers in translation and work placement tags for older entries).

Try the keywords 'translation' and 'translator' on or The agency Synonyme are advertising for more experienced translators with an existing specialism to join their team. They ask for a translation test as well as an application form - the texts are under the 'Translator Zone' tag. Worth looking at! Other interesting resources there too.

The company SDL in Sheffield offers six-month placements to students whose *first language* is French, German, Italian, Dutch, European Spanish, Latin American Spanish or European Portuguese. They also have a jobsearch site with more internships advertised: go to their homepage and click on 'careers'.

Journal of Italian Translation

Italianists might like to check out the Journal of Italian Translation. It publishes English-Italian-English translations of dialect literature and poetry and looks full of goodness. My favourite bit so far is the 'dueling translators' feature. In each issue readers are invited to submit their own translation of a set text and have the possibility of publication and odious comparison! Why not give it a go... :)

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Welcome to the Sticks

I've just (finally) been to see Welcome to the Sticks, aka Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, the big hit French comedy of 2008, which came round again for one showing at Boathouse No. 6 (gratifyingly full of people who laughed a lot). Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis is your average fish-out-of-water comedy with a lorra lorra heart, and some fiendishly challenging play on accents and dialect for a translator. The subtitles, credited to Michael Katims of Titra, were a joy - in fact, if anything they probably made the film better. Worth a whole new Oscar category for subtitling? I think so. Will the remake with Will Smith be an equally thoughtful - oh, why bother (facepalm) /o\

translators on translating 3

I have come across some more good translator interviews recently. A subtitler and web translator for Maori television has some useful things to say about the web translator's skill set. Chris Andrews, the translator of Roberto Bolaño and others, is interviewed for The Quarterly Conversation here and is well worth reading. In fact do browse through The Quarterly Conversation because it has lots of wonderful posts, reviews and interviews on translation.

The recent intense media interest in Google Translate has generated some interesting responses by translators. David Bellos, translator of Perec and other vertiginously difficult French writers, suggests in the New York Times that literary translators may be the only translators to remain indispensable in the age of GT. Lynne Bowker of the University of Ottawa thinks that MT and TM tools have the potential to interact with the creativity of literary translators. Basically, the range of skills required of professional translators and the need for flexibility are only going to increase. Plan to store your eggs in more than one basket!

Translating (:) the gap between imagination and reality

It's nearly Easter so time for graduating translation students to be thinking about the Future. Just came across a really good presentation (link available here) on breaking into the translating and interpreting industry and getting past the catch-22 of needing experience to get experience. The presentation is about the US environment but if you replace the ATA with the ITI or Chartered Institute of Linguists the message is very similar. The presentation talks about the gap between the dreams of graduating translators and the reality. It has some really useful tips and suggestions about marketing yourself, networking and being realistic about your skills. Check out the Very Good and Very Bad CV examples!

For German speakers, a nice short radio piece about the gap between the perception and the reality of the translation profession. The details of the original radio broadcast are here. Link found on the excellent blog Musings from an overworked translator.

doctoral workshop on translation and conflict, Copenhagen

There's a doctoral training workshop in Copenhagen on 31 May for research students working on translation and conflict. The workshop is with Mona Baker. Participation and meals are free to PhD students. Travel and accommodation costs are not covered. More information here. The course is worth a number of ECTS to participants.

Friday, 26 March 2010

PHD studentship at Queen's University Belfast

To all of you due to complete your MAs soon, this looks like a great opportunity for aspiring translation researchers:

Call for applications: PhD Bursary in Translation Studies
Queen's Universary, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Deadline: 15 May 2010

Applications are invited for a full three-year PhD studentship in
Translation Studies. The successful candidate will enroll in Queen’s
University Belfast, and will receive joint supervision from Professors
David Johnston (Queen’s University) and Lawrence Venuti (Temple University).

Area of study: The proposed area of research will consider translation
as an interpretive act. It will be on a topic located within literary or
cultural studies, and its focus should be on a particular aspect or
aspects of what are broadly termed humanistic texts – anthropology,
drama, film, history, life-writing, philosophy, poetry, prose fiction,
religion, travel writing etc.

Eligibility: The award is open to UK nationals, or those who fulfil UK
residence criteria. The successful candidate will be expected to reside
mainly in Belfast for the duration of the studentship. Teaching
opportunities will be available. It is expected that the successful
candidate will embark upon his or her programme of research in September 2010.

Applicants should have completed or be about to complete an MA in
Translation Studies, and should include full details of their
programme(s) of study in their CV.

Method of application: Please send a full CV and a 500-700 word project proposal to David Johnston and Lawrence Venuti. Email applications are acceptable, and should be sent to both addresses: d.johnston at; lvenuti at Applications will be assessed as they arrive. Final closing date: 15 May 2010.

Further details may be obtained by writing to d.johnston at

Monday, 22 March 2010

bursaries for literary translation summer school

Quick update on the British Centre for Literary Translation Summer School. For those of you with literary interests, the BCLT is offering a number of partial bursaries to attend. For translators working from Japanese to English there are also full bursaries sponsored by the Nippon Foundation. The Japanese bursaries also seem to include funding for travel. More information about all bursaries here.

attention to detail

Just reflecting on the importance of attention to detail for translators. Interpreting, of course, is about the expedient rapid solution rather than the painstaking search for the ideal. But a little more ideal would be good sometimes:

I hope this brings a smile to your Monday.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

freelance and other job links

Thought some of the following may be of interest. The Metropolitan Police are advertising for freelance translators with English and one or more of: Bengali, Cantonese, Danish, Estonian, Georgian, Gujarati, Korean, Norwegian, Punjabi, Slovak, Slovene, Swedish, Tamil and Thai. For translators who already have some experience; do read the requirements carefully. There's a useful-looking job page at the Polyglot Blog which might be worth keeping an eye on. For jobs in North America see this page. See the jobs tag on this blog for further ideas.

In-house job opportunity for French native speaker

Hi all,
This advertisement may be of interest to French native speakers out there. A two-year fixed-term in-house contract for a translator from English and one of: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish or Russian into French at the ITU in Geneva.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Translation Slam and other literary tidbits

I like the idea of a translation slam - see here for head-to-head, specially commissioned competing translations of Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Persian and English poems. Lots more goodies at the PEN translation site including an interesting email correspondence between the translators Anthea Bell and Doris Orgel.
For those of you with unpublished translations in the drawer, a new literary translation journal from Australia, the AALITRA Review, with a distinguished international editorial board, is accepting submissions. Unusually and pleasingly, submissions are published in both languages.

more translation prizewinners

Hi all, just thought that you might like a reminder about the winners of Three Percent's Best Translated Book Awards. Next up is the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, one of the flagship literary awards which recognises translation and writing together. In cash. Two, count them, *two* opportunities to make good on that new year's resolution to Read More Translations.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

poems about translation 2

In honour of the day that's in it, here's a further instalment in our occasional 'poems about translation' series. Some of you may be familiar with the ninth-century Irish poem about a scholar/translator and his cat, found in the margins of a Latin manuscript. The translation I know best is the one by Robin Flower printed here, but there are others here and here (where you will also find the Irish text).

I and Pangur Bán my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

A very happy St. Patrick's Day to all our students and other readers of this blog.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Literary translation summer school, Norwich, July 2010

The announcement just came round on Edwin Gentzler's email bulletin that registration is open for the British Centre for Literary Translation Summer School. The Summer School will run from 18-24 July, 2010 at the University of East Anglia. Details on the BCLT website: This is an event that Portsmouth students have really enjoyed in the past. The Summer School is basically a week-long workshop with a writer and an experienced literary translator. This year's line-up of writers and translators from Austria, Canada, China, Italy, Japan and Mexico includes 'winners of the Adalbert von
Chamisso Prize, the Akutagawa Prize, the Goethe Medal and the
Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, as well as some who have been
shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Best First Book, the
Ingeborg Bachmann Award, and the Jelf First Novel Award. One of our
authors has had her work adapted for film by directors such as Zhang
Yimou and has co-written scripts with Ang Lee'.

According to the email, the 2010 workshops are as follows:
Chinese to English: author Yan Geling, working with translator Nicky Harman
English to Italian: author Jeremy Page, working with translator Giuliana
French to English: author Alain Farah, working with translator Adriana
German to English: author Gabriele Petricek, working with translator Lyn
Japanese to English: author Yoko Tawada, working with translator
Margaret Mitsutani
Spanish to English: author Brenda Lozano, working with translator Anne

The keynote lecture will be given by James St Andre of the University of
Manchester, on the topic of ‘From matchmaker and waiter to conductor and
master-chef: Metaphors we translators live by’. This lecture is free
and open to the public.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

cartoons about translation

This gem is from a very cute blog with cartoons about translation ( with much appreciation!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

some good links

Just came across the Polyglot Blog, a useful-looking blog with lots of links and resources. See the Lost in Babel resources site and an excellent response to the question 'What does it take to become a freelance translator?' I get asked a lot how many words a translator can translate in a day: the answer is here.

French-English translation prize, deadline 1 April 2010

Some of you may be interested in the latest round of the French Translation Prize run by the Institut français. It's open to all unpublished translators resident in the UK. First prize is a weekend in Paris and publication. Entries by post only (!). More information, rules, and copies of the two set texts for this year's competition can be found at the French Book News site.
Good luck to any of you who give it a go!

Friday, 5 March 2010

translation spats and spittings

They do seem to lead rich and full lives over at the Poetry Foundation. Among other goodies, this vivacious exchange on their blog Harriet about procedural translation, in which posters got very aerated about 'conceptual' translation, whether it should exist, what Benjamin said and what translation is anyway. Apparently there is only one sort of translation and everything else is wrong and false and shouldn't be allowed.

Elsewhere, a sharp riposte by Michael Hofmann to a letter picking holes in his translations of Gottfried Benn. The translation under fire is of Benn's 'Was schlimm ist':

Wenn man kein Englisch kann,
von einem guten englischen Kriminalroman zu hören,
der nicht ins Deutsche übersetzt ist.

Bei Hitze ein Bier sehn,
das man nicht bezahlen kann.

Einen neuen Gedanken haben,
den man nicht in einem Hölderlinvers einwickeln kann,
wie es die Professoren tun.

Nachts auf Reisen Wellen schlagen hören
und sich sagen, daß sie das immer tun.

Sehr schlimm: eingeladen sein,
wenn zu Hause die Räume stiller,
der Café besser
und keine Unterhaltung nötig ist.

Am schlimmsten:
nicht im Sommer sterben,
wenn alles hell ist
und die Erde für Spaten leicht.

Why not make your own mind up: were these the Wrong Words? Or was it a case of Wrong Wreviewing? Hofmann's translation is here for your enjoyful comparement. More Benn here; more Hofmann translations here.

Art of Translation

More Friday frivolity. By serendipitous chance today I came across the fabulous work of an American artist called Nina Katchadourian. Her work intersects with translation in wonderful ways. She's a translator's daughter, so this is probably not a coincidence (something to bear in mind, all you translators out there with daughters). She has translated rocks, parsed the secret language of bookshelves and facilitated the speech of popcorn. Her translation projects address questions of resemblance, identity and imitation. As someone who grew up in a bicultural household and in an Ireland where accent and identity were everyday issues, I really like her project 'Accent Elimination', of which you can see a clip here:

I ask myself how one would subtitle this...
My favourite project of all, though, is the one where she gets a bunch of United Nations translators and interpreters to imitate birdsong, apparently not on the basis of listening to recordings but by reading other people's graphic and syllabic representations of what the birdsong sounded like. There's a good article about her work here (needs flash enabled). Enjoy.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

paying for translation and interpreting

Pro-bono translation and interpreting work isn't necessarily bad. Can be done well and professionally, can be useful for the translators/interpreters and their clients. When it's for a worthy cause I think it's a positive thing. But I'm perturbed by the assumption that translation and interpreting aren't worth spending money on, and that money spent on translation and interpreting is somehow wasted in a way which money spent on electricity, or lawyers, or equipment isn't. This is an assumption to which the Telegraph seems sadly prone (see here, here or here). And I just came across an call from Dorset County Council for volunteer interpreters for the Olympic sailing events which will be held there in 2012. Grand, and probably a useful experience for the volunteer interpreters involved, but I hope it doesn't herald a more generalised expectation that language support for the Olympics can be provided on a voluntary basis.
And here's hoping that the organisers of the Olympics don't put too much of their faith in automated translation technologies either. I was looking at a new site called Meedan, which offers an alternative source of news translation between Arabic and English. The site uses MT technologies supported by human translators and editors. It looks like a thoughtful and well-designed project and generates interesting reading, but the software (IBM TransBrowser) used to translate external content gives pretty uneven results. Try clicking on the grey 'English Translation' button against any story to make your own mind up.