Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Poems about translation 11: Apollinaire, 'il pleut'

Today, not so much a poem about translation as a poem in translation, in honour of the filthy, filthy weather in Southsea, and in memory of a very fun seminar on textuality and textual scholarship in Manchester on Friday. 

Here is Apollinaire's concrete poem 'il pleut' and a non-concrete English translation by Roger Shattuck, with comments by Edward Hirsch, from the Poetry Foundation website. For a lovely animated version by Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino and Mary Ann Sullivan, with some facsimiles of the manuscript and early typescripts, see here. For someone's earnestly linear wikitranscription of the poems, see here. For a bilingual edition of Calligrammes, see

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lectureship in Chinese area studies and Chinese-English translation, Portsmouth

Lecturer in Chinese Area Studies & Mandarin Chinese-English Translation

University of Portsmouth - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School of Languages and Area Studies

Salary:  £31,798 - £34,745
Reference: 10003525
Closing date:  2nd December 2011

The School wishes to appoint a Lecturer to play a central role in the teaching and development of our East Asian Studies pathway and Chinese-English Translation Studies provision. S/he will be expected to teach on a range of course units at undergraduate level with a focus on East Asian Area Studies (with an initial focus on Chinese Area Studies) and Mandarin Chinese-English Translation at undergraduate level and possibly also postgraduate level. In addition, s/he will be expected to contribute to the development of the wider East Asian Studies area. Applicants will have proven experience of teaching in one or both areas, preferably at University level. The successful candidate should be fluent in English with a high level of language competence in Mandarin Chinese; will ideally possess a PhD (or be nearing completion) and be research and/or knowledge transfer-active. Experience of teaching international students is desirable. S/he will be expected to contribute to the School's and/or CEISR's profile in the East Asian and/or Translation Studies areas.

For further information or details of these positions, contact John Naysmith (Head of School), john.naysmith at port.ac.uk, 02392 846050 or Bob Gould (Divisional Coordinator, European & International Studies), bob.gould at port.ac.uk, 02392 846170.

To find out more about the University of Portsmouth and this role, visit www.port.ac.uk/vacancies and apply on-line. Alternatively telephone +44 (0)23 9284 3421. Please quote the reference number on all communications.

All applications for this position will be processed and conducted in compliance with UK legislation relevant at that time.

Friday, 25 November 2011

apprenticeships for translators

There's a nice piece on Sarah Dillon's blog There's something about translation on apprenticeships. I thought it might be of interest to those of our readers thinking about internships and work placements in translation.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

EN-AR volunteer translators sought, DESA (United Nations)

Seen on the Translation Studies Portal:

English to Arabic translation of news stories

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA)
The task to translate news stories and web content highlighting the work of UN DESA within fields such as sustainable development, poverty reduction, population issues, economic analysis, trade data and the monitoring of the MDGs, relates to the goal of UN DESA to make all this information accessible in the six official languages of the UN, thereby enabling the world community to make informed decisions.
UN DESA seeks 2 voluntary translators. Each volunteer would be asked to translate one story per week from English to Arabic. Deadline would be 2-3 days. To assist in the translation efforts and to ensure correct terminology, UN DESA will provide a link to the UN Multilingual Terminology Database. DESA/CIMS will divide the work between the two translators, so that the workload will be approximately one translation per week.
Number of volunteers: 2

UN DESA works to promote development for all, assisting countries in agenda-setting and decision-making with the goal of meeting their economic, social and environmental challenges. The Communications and Information Management Service manages the department’s website with the goal of having online information available in all six UN languages. The department now seeks volunteers to assist with translations of information from English to Arabic.

Region or country: Global
Development topic: Development advocacy and strategies
REQUIREMENTS: UN DESA seeks volunteers with high-level language skills in English and Arabic. The volunteer should enjoy writing, be meticulous, accurate and flexible. Experience from working with professional translations is very much welcomed.

Areas of expertise: Humanities
Languages: English, Arabic
Hours per week  1-5
Duration in weeks 24

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Google n-grams and translation

I recently came across Google N-grams, and found myself wondering whether they could be used for translation-related research.

As the user guide explains, Google N-grams is a tool which can be used to interrogate a corpus of Google Books spanning two centuries from 1800 to 2008. The corpus is rather large: 5.2 million books, which we are told constitutes roughly 4% of all the books ever published.

There are several different language corpora: British English, UK English, other English corpora, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew and Russian.  In another useful user guide to research using this tool, someone has christened the method 'culturomics' (not the loveliest word I have heard this year). (On the other hand, for a succession of completely lovely words, see this clip of Stephen Fry being delectable).

But I digress. One could begin by examining synonyms with different historical frequency. If we look up 'poetical' and 'poetic', for instance, the general English corpus (with a smoothing of 3) gives 1880 as the year where 'poetical' gives way in usage to 'poetic':

If we look up the same word pair in the British English corpus, we get a sense that 'poetical' hung on a bit longer in the UK, just about into the twentieth century, before being overtaken:

If we consider neologisms and when they entered the language, we learn that 'sniper' took off with the First World War:

'Translatress', on the other hand, gave it the old college try, but never really took off at all (cf. the very tiny numbers on the vertical axis):

This is a tool which encourages competition. Comparing the three great names of medieval Italian literature, the graph suggests that Petrarch was still Top Italian Poet at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but that some time after 1840 (which coincides with the general publication of Henry F. Cary's popularising translation The Vision in 1844), mentions of Dante get very much more frequent. His fame seems to peak around the turn of the twentieth century:

It would be interesting to track more carefully the appearance of the many translations of Dante and see how close a link there is with spikes on the chart.

The results for the three great Ancient tragedians, Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus, are even more fun. I always thought they went together like three things that always go together, but the Google Books data suggests that Aeschylus wasn't spoken of for praise or blame through the nineteenth century, despite intense interest in Ancient Greek literature. He begins to be mentioned more frequently from the turn of the century, until by 1940 the three dramatists are pretty much going hand in hand (though Euripides remains Top Tragedian).

Something to check against Peter France and Olive Classe, when time permits...

These are very crude readings, ignoring all sorts of important variables, but they seem to suggest that at the very least Google N-grams would provide some useful circumstantial data for translation history research, as well as language research more generally. I would be interested to hear from readers with suggestions of more fun searches to make in the corpus.

(c) Carol O'Sullivan, November 2011