Friday, 29 October 2010

Translation Research Summer School 2011

Graduate students early in their PhD or thinking about doing a PhD might be interested in the 2011 Translation Research Summer School. Next year's summer school takes place from 27 June - 8 July 2011 at the University of Manchester:

The Translation Research Summer School (TRSS) is a joint initiative of three British universities and the Hong Kong Baptist University. Every year TRSS organizes summer schools in the UK and in Hong Kong, offering intensive research training in translation and intercultural studies for prospective researchers in the field.

Specialist theme for TRSS UK 2011: Agency in Translation and Interpreting

Other modules include:
* Theoretical Approaches to Translation Studies
* Research Methods in Translation Studies
* Research Design & Dynamics

The Summer School syllabus is delivered through lectures, seminars and small-group tutorials by core TRSS staff from the partner institutions (University of Manchester, University of Edinburgh, University College London and Hong Kong Baptist University) and invited colleages.

TRSS UK 2011 is delighted to announce that its guest lecture will be delivered by Professor Hélène Buzelin, University of Montreal. Professor Buzelin will also offer a research methodology seminar and tutorials.

Applicants to the Summer School should normally hold the degree of Master of Arts or equivalent, in a relevant subject, should be proficient in English and should either have started or be actively considering research in translation and/or intercultural studies.

Registration fees: 975 GBP for sponsored students, 680 GBP for self-funded students.
Early application deadline: 15 January 2011 (to facilitate funding/visa applications)
Second application deadline: 30 April 2011

More details on course content and application procedures can be found on the Translation Research Summer School website at

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Stephen Fry on language

An impassioned plea for more fun and less pedantry in language use, by the living national treasure Stephen Fry:

Something to bear in mind the next time you catch yourself tsk-ing over an apostrophe. Unless, of course, it's in one of your own translations...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Translation events in New York

Readers in New York may be interested in a couple of upcoming events at the Center for Translation Studies at Barnard.  There's a nice-looking conference on literature and music, and there's also this intriguing event:

Translation as Performance from Español into English: A multimedia demonstration

Thursday, November 18, 2010, 6-8 p.m.
James Room, 4th floor, Barnard Hall

A text is usually translated in isolation. At this event, however, two translators will encounter a text in performance — rendering it from Spanish into English in real-time, as it is projected on adjacent screens. The audience will thus be able to experience the act of translation at first hand, comparing the choices made by either translator in the “alchemical” transformation of a text from one language into another. Marko Miletich (Hunter College) will act as moderator. Refreshments will be served.

translation traineeships in the European institutions

Some of our readers may be interested in these paid translation traineeships in the European Parliament. There are also unpaid translation traineeships. Please note the eligibility conditions. This is a different scheme from the translation traineeships at the Directorate-General for Translation of the European Commission.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Jabbering wockily

Thanks again to Charlotte T. for this link to a wonderful site collecting translations of Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky'. Why is it that impossible texts galvanise so many translators into having a go (some of them, like Henri Parisot, more than once)? Thoughts on any of these translations, or the many further translations which aren't included, or your own translations, should the humour take you, are very welcome in the comments...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

words accepted and rejected

Just saw a nice piece in the Economist about the use of borrowed words and phrases from other languages: when to translate? When not to translate?

There's also a silly piece in the Telegraph about the words that didn't make it into the OED but sit, rejected, in a vault somewhere slowly sliding into obsolescence - or not? The 'nudenda' and the 'nonversation' may never make it out of the vault, but I'd like to put in a good word for 'freegans' and for 'earworms'. I got an earworm only just the other day. What did we call it, anyway, when we heard a song without noticing on the radio and then went around singing it all day? If anybody can think of a better word for it than earworm I will be very surprised.

North-West Translators Network

Readers in the north-west of England may be interested in the North-West Translators Network. The Network runs a series of training and other events for members. Membership is (I think) free for students.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

jobs with the United Nations (UNESCO, FAO, etc.)

This job at UNESCO might be of interest to readers translating from Arabic and French into English: Other jobs with translation are advertised at including this job in Washington for an experienced Spanish to English translator/project manager; this job for a French native speaker translator/reviser in Rome at the FAO; this post for Arabic field interpreters/translators in Jordan.

Monday, 18 October 2010

registration open for Portsmouth translation conference, 6 November

Dear all,

Registration is now open for the tenth international Portsmouth translation conference which will be held on Saturday 6 November in Park Building. This year's theme is 'Word, Image, Text...?' Translating Multimodalities'.

Translation is all about the written word, but in our media environment words carry only part of meaning. In comics, videogames, instruction manuals, films and on the web words interact with still and moving images, diagrams, music, typography and page layout. These meaning-making strategies are used for promotional, political, expressive and informative purposes which must be understood and accounted for by translators.
The tenth annual Portsmouth translation conference brings together scholars, translators and students for a day of talks and workshops. Workshop topics include videogame localisation, subtitling gestures, drama translation and comics.
For more information see our website at The conference is supported by the National Network for Translation, an initiative of Routes into Languages. Registration is free for teachers at Key Stages 3-4 and A-level and undergraduates. Do feel free to pass on this link to friends and colleagues who might be interested.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

job opportunities at thebigword

Some of you may be interested in in-house employment opportunities at thebigword, a large and growing translation service provider. More details of freelance opportunities with the company here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

dodgy translations

The internet is chockers with snapshots of poorly translated signs, some of which we have turned into dinky translation exercises over at the Routes into Languages page. This one was so good I couldn't resist:

suckling room @ musashikoyama

(The image is copyright and thanks to TR4NSLATOR, aka Jed Schmidt, over on Flickr.)

So apparently accurate, and yet so tragically wrong...

volunteer translation/project management opportunity

Hi all,

For those of you looking for good volunteer translation opportunities, I have just been told about an organisation called the Rosetta Foundation, based in Ireland, who are looking for volunteer translators and project managers. The organisation's slogan is 'Relieve poverty, support healthcare, develop education and promote justice through access to information and knowledge across the languages of the world.' The CEO is a linguist and translator trainer who believes that
Access to information in my language is a human right that does not require a business case. As localisers and translators, it is our duty to ensure that this right is realized for all. We can no longer allow the localisation decision to be taken exclusively based on short-term financial return on investment. Access to information is as vital to people’s health, their freedom and their economic well-being as access to clean water, food and medicine.

PhD research funding, Hong Kong

Students seeking PhD research funding may be interested in the Hong Kong Fellowship Scheme. Translation is one of the subjects covered.

'The Research Grants Council of Hong Kong has launched a second round of the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme. The scheme aims to attract international research postgraduate students to Hong Kong’s best research institutions.
The fellowship provides a monthly stipend of US$2,600 and a conference and research related travel allowance of approximately US$1,300 per year for a period of three years. Study awards for 135 PhD students will commence in the 2011/12 academic year. The deadline to make your application is 1 December 2010.
More information about the Scheme can be found at
Ms Terry Chau, Education Partnerships Manager, British Council Hong Kong
terry.chau at
+852 2913 5113

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Mr Johnson's Dictionary

Many thanks to Isabella Z. for flagging up the presence on Google Books of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary - the first great English dictionary. It could be a valuable resource if you find yourself working with historical texts or with archaic vocabulary (or even just for pure delight in words). Google Books has the original 1766 edition and also later editions, including this one from the 1830s. They seem to be available to download as well.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Horse nonsense: Dante in Leicestershire

For all the recent research into translators' habitus, sociological approaches to translation and the like, I feel we have neglected a crucial area of the field (pre-emptive apologies are in order for a really awful pun). This was a bit of an epiphany, caused by reading a review in the Leicestershire Advertiser of 1 April 1854 of Ichabod C. Wright's translation of Dante, published by Henry Bohn. The review captivated me from line one:
We have often thought it strange that an acquaintance with Italian literature, either in the original or in translation, should be so extremely limited in Leicestershire.
The reviewer goes on to wonder at the neglect of Dante in the native county of the great (though unsung) translator I.C.Wright and attempts to remedy this by a deeply appreciative review of 'his exquisite translation' through which 'we first arrived at a full estimate of the force, and truth, and beauty of the Divina Comedia [sic]:
Mr. Wright has placed Dante in an English dress that is worthy of Italy's best and brightest bard. Rightly discarding that verbum pro verbo translation which Byron attempted in Pulci, Mr. Wright confines himself to a faithful transfusion of his author's spirit into his production; yet, so accurately is this accomplished, that we do not believe the whole volume contains a single passage in which violence is done to the sense of the original.
It is not until the footnotes of the review that we gain valuable insight into the translation context within which Wright elaborated his 'harmonious and consistent versification'. Here we are told that
the amiable and excellent translator of Dante is in the habit occasionally of recreating from his literary toils by joining the sports of the field. We well remember, shortly after the first appearance of his translation, in a run with the Quorn Hounds, he was for a time impounded in a quagmire, or ravine, when some wit - it might have been the late Lord Alvanley but we think it was Mr. Bruce C___pb_ll - perpetrated a triple pun on the subject:
There's Dante writin' Purgatorio!
There's Dante, right in Purgatorio!
There's 'Dante Wright' in Purgatorio!

The translator is further said to have a strong personal resemblance to the picture of the great Italian bard.
Perhaps it is worth thinking more deeply about the implications of the recent hunting ban for translation in the United Kingdom? 

Monday, 11 October 2010

2012 EU English-language translation competition

For those of you who have been living on Mars and have missed this summer's competition for English mother-tongue translators for the EU institutions, there is a rumour that there will be another similar competition in 2012.
If you are able to translate from at least two official EU languages into native-standard English and are interested in a varied, interesting, challenging and well-paid position as an EU institution translator, this may be of interest. You must also hold an EU passport to be eligible.

updated list of open access Translation Studies journals

I have updated the list of open access Translation Studies journals from a few months back with some new titles culled from the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

volunteer for Oxfam

From the website of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, an invitation to those of you with a keen eye for detail:

Oxfam GB - volunteer proofreaders.

If you are an experienced translator and would like to volunteer to proofread documents for publication around their programme and advocacy work, Oxfam would like to hear from you.

Languages required are: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.

Please contact the translations team: translations at

Saturday, 9 October 2010

10:10:10: Translating by Numbers

In honour of the date that's in it, I have been thinking about the translation of numbers. We tend to think of numbers as invariant in a way which words aren't. In About Translation, Peter Newmark omits numbers from the set of phenomena which are culturally contingent, observing that 'figures, standard units, parts of the body, general features of nature, are universal', although 'many ecological features, as well as objects of common use, are culturally modified' (1991, p.115). Newmark is not alone; it even happens that agencies or clients ask for numbers to be deducted from the word count of a text on the basis that they don't need translation and therefore shouldn't be paid for. But are numbers really as easily transferable as all that? (Yes, that would be a rhetorical question).

Scales are certainly culturally bound, whether temperature (Fahrenheit, Centigrade/Celsius, Kelvin); weights (imperial and metric, tons and tonnes, ounces and grammes), measures (miles, kilometres, metres, furlongs, poles, perches, fathoms, yards, feet, inches, hands), areas (hectares, acres), currencies (guineas, pounds, shillings, groats, pence), volumes (pints, litres, gills, fluid ounces, gallons, quarts). Does one translate the numbers exactly or round them up or down? Well, it depends on what the number is doing. Here in Bon cop, bad cop a Québécois lab technician translates from metric, with due irony, for his colleague from Ontario, played by Colm Feore (click on the image to enlarge):

Some numbers have different cultural weight – compare 'sweet sixteen' and 'quinceañera'. Someone who is 'dressed up to the nines' in English could be 'tiré à quatre épingles' in French, or even 'sur son trente-et-un'. 'Otto giorni' and 'quindici giorni' in Italian are conventionally translated in English by 'a week' and 'a fortnight'. Even within a language, numbers may need translating – the first floor of a building in the UK is the second storey in the US. Some quarts are more equal than others. Sometimes it depends what end you count from: somebody who is in their twentieth year is in fact nineteen. An easy slip to make working from Italian to English is with centuries: the 'ottocento' [short for milleottocento] is the nineteenth century, not the eighteenth.

Numbers are formatted in different ways. The point which separates whole integers from fractions of an integer in English is a comma in languages such as Italian or Russian. The comma which separates thousands from hundreds in English is a point in Italian. Telephone numbers may be formatted in groups of two, three or more letters. Telephone numbers may need localising for a new environment, e.g. by adding or removing international dialling codes. For more on the translation of telephone numbers see this very good post on translationmusings.

Numbers may have a different rhetorical force: something that is 'tuppenny-ha'penny' or 'ten a penny' or 'two-bit' in English might be 'da quattro soldi' in Italian. The sound of the number may even be important. The fourth stanza of Rimbaud's poem 'Le bateau ivre' [The Drunken Boat] reads:
La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes.
Plus léger qu'un bouchon j'ai dansé sur les flots
Qu'on appelle rouleurs éternels de victimes,
Dix nuits, sans regretter l'oeil niais des falots !
In Oliver Bernard's 1962 translation the verse reads:
The storm made bliss of my sea-borne awakenings.
Lighter than a cork, I danced on the waves
Which men call eternal rollers of victims,
For ten nights, without once missing the foolish eye of the harbor lights!
Samuel Beckett's translation of the verse, completed in Paris in 1932, reads:
I started awake to tempestuous hallowings.
Nine nights I danced like a cork on the billows, I danced
On the breakers, sacrificial, for ever and ever,
And the crass eye of the lanterns was expunged.
The poem has been translated many times and we could allow ourselves to be distracted by many different renderings, but let's just look at the 'dix nuits' in the fourth line. Bernard translates 'ten nights', as would most people. But sound is important in this poem (listen here for an audio recording of the French poem). For Beckett the assonance of 'dix nuits' can best be rendered by the serendipity of 'nine nights' – a decision in which he is followed by another Irishman, Derek Mahon, whose translation of the poem was published in 1991. 'Nine nights' gets two for the price of one: not only an assonance but also an alliteration. 'Ten nights' has neither. For more on Beckett's soundplay in this translation see Kathleen Shields' analysis here (warning for large file size).  Ironically, the fee Beckett received for the translation was also subject to a certain artistic licence; although he asked Edward Titus for a thousand (old) francs, the final fee was only seven hundred (Collected Poems, p.177). Plus ça change.

In Dezső Kosztolányi's 1933 vignette 'The Kleptomaniac Translator' an indigent kleptomaniac writer gets one last chance in the form of a commission to translate the pulp novel The Mysterious Castle of Count Vitsislav. Unfortunately, his kleptomania affects even unto his translation. The narrator is abruptly summoned by the outraged publisher. After a sleepless night poring over the manuscript and comparing it to the English original, he thinks he finally understands what happened. (Please note that I'm translating here from the French translation by Péter Adám and Maurice Regnault. Hungarian scholars kindly skip this bit):
The first line of the English original went like this: The old castle, which had survived so many storms, shone from all its thirty-six windows. The ballroom up on the first floor blazed with light from four crystal chandeliers… The Hungarian translation said: 'The old castle, which had survived so many storms, shone from all its twelve windows. The ballroom up on the first floor blazed with light from its two crystal chandeliers…' My eyes widened and I went on reading. On page three, the English novelist had written: 'Count Vitsislav smiled ironically, took out a fat wallet and threw them the requested amount, one thousand five hundred pounds sterling…' The Hungarian writer had translated as follows: 'Count Vitsislav took out his wallet and threw them the requested amount, one hundred and fifty pounds sterling…' I felt a touch of dread which, alas, over the next few minutes became a sad certainty. […] In the end I established that in his madness our comrade had, in the course of his translation, expropriated at the expense of the English original, wrongfully and without authorisation: 1,579,251 pounds sterling, 177 gold rings, 947 pearl necklaces, 181 fob watches, 309 pairs of earrings, 435 suitcases, not to mention houses, woodland and pastureland, ducal and baronial castles and other flotsam and jetsam, handkerchiefs, toothpicks and folderols which would be too long, and perhaps unproductive, to enumerate.
Kosztolányi's is a witty parable about the association between translation and loss. As the kleptomaniac translator proceeds through the text, "[m]ost of the time, unbeknownst to anyone, objects of value simply disappeared." Ironically, some of those objects of value seem to be an attempt to lend the pulp mystery story, described as "something fit only for the bin" a degree of distinction, but "[o]f the carpets, the chests and the silver destined to raise the literary tone of the English original, there was no trace in the Hungarian text. […] The worst thing, for me, that which confirmed his bad faith and cravenness, was the way in which he so often replaced precious stones and metals with base materials, rubbish, platinum with tinplate, gold with copper, diamonds with imitations or glass."

We know that if you want a good translation, you have to pay your translator properly. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. The right translator will take care of both the pennies and the pounds in a text. 

One last question. If the population of Pottsville County is 1280, as Jim Thompson's 1964 novel sustains,

what happened to the other five in Marcel Duhamel's 1966 French translation?
(Thanks to Sam in Paris for this one). Answers on a postcard please.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

magazines publishing translations

Just came across this very nice blog post listing magazines which publish literary translations of poetry or short fiction into English. The post has an Arabic emphasis, but many of the magazines accept translations from other languages too. Worth looking at if you're looking for a home for a Translation Project translation too.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

good advice for CVs

For all those of you looking for freelance work, a very nice piece today from Jill Sommer on how to put together a CV for translation agencies. Lots of useful points, such as the length of time spent by project managers reading the CVs (mere seconds, which means that the important information has to be easy to find) and the importance of including keywords for filesearching.