Greatest Women in Translation: Allison Markin Powell

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Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Our interviewee today, Allison Markin Powell, was nominated by Ginny Takemori.

Allison Markin Powell

Image created with Canva. Picture credit: Jonathan Armstrong for The Documentist.

1. Japanese is your third language. How have you become a Japanese-to-English literary translator then, translating successful Japanese novels?

Well, where I grew up, it wasn’t until seventh grade that we had the opportunity to study another language, and at that time it was French (or nothing). But I loved learning French, so when I entered university I knew I would study at least one more language, and that turned out to be Japanese. I had been interested in literary translation from the time when I was assigned Le Petit Prince in high school, and ultimately I ran with it in Japanese. I think one of the reasons is that there are fewer Japanese literary translators, and fewer Japanese works that have been translated as well. That said, I feel there are greater challenges in bringing Japanese books into English than from Western languages.

I came to translation from a publishing perspective—I worked in various editorial departments where I learned how the industry works—in the U.S., that is—before I began translating books from Japanese. And now I translate all sorts of books—primarily fiction, but I work on nonfiction projects as well. This past summer, for instance, I’ve had the chance to translate a book on Zen and one on embroidery as well. It certainly keeps things interesting.

2. In this interview you gave to The Japan Times, you say, “I don’t really see the author as more or less of an authority on their book from a translation perspective.” Could you elaborate and explain what exactly you meant by that?

I believe that, once a work of literature is out there, it becomes something like the communal property of readers, open to infinite interpretations. Some of those interpretations may not have been intentional, yet they exist, for better or worse. When I translate something, I always try to convey the myriad possibilities that are incorporated in the original, rather than simply the version that I might prefer personally. It’s also been my experience that an author’s attitude toward their work shifts and changes, so that they may see things differently at one point from what they meant at the time it was written, especially as they mature as a writer or gain a more international audience—and that might change their answers to my questions.

3. In this interview you gave to PEN Atlas, you mention book titles are translated differently in the United States and in the United Kingdom. We hear a lot about different translations of movie titles, but I don’t think I have ever heard the same happened with book titles. Could you talk a bit about that, based on your experience with your own translations? Are the books themselves also translated differently for both markets? If so, how?

The first novel I translated by Hiromi Kawakami was published in the U.S. as The Briefcase, and then retitled as Strange Weather in Tokyo by the U.K. publisher. The Briefcase is a more literal translation of the original title in Japanese, and it was a rather oblique title at that. The author agreed to the change, and the book ended up being much more successful in the U.K. Last fall, it was reissued in the U.S. with the U.K. title and the U.K. cover as well. I think it was confusing for readers, and it’s hard to say how much of the book’s success has to do with the title and the cover—though some would say, “A lot!”—but it’s fair to say that a book’s packaging and presentation has a lot to do with how it is received. As for the text itself, I translate into American English, and the British publisher edits for context. I aim for neutral English, if there is such a thing, but inevitably certain details—like the register vs. the till or the trunk vs. the boot of a car—are adjusted for different markets.

4. As Ginny Tapley Takemori already told us about, you, she and Lucy North formed a collective called Strong Women, Soft Power, which is committed to promoting Japanese writers, in particular Japanese women writers who are being overlooked in translation. What’s your role in this collective? Has it shown any positive outcomes so far?

I don’t think I can overstate how positive it has been to be a member of Strong Women, Soft Power. As translators, our work is most often solitary and isolated. And yet, especially to those of us for whom it is a full-time occupation, the fact is that our work and practices affect one another, either in the form of setting precedents for the terms of our contracts or by the choices we make about which books we translate. The three of us—Lucy North, Ginny Tapley Takemori, and I—are equal members in the collective, and we work to support each other as much as we try to promote Japanese women writers. Our first endeavor was a reading we held during the London Book Fair in 2016; next we collaborated on an article for Literary Hub about ten Japanese books by women we’d love to see in English; then we planned a full-day symposium in Tokyo in 2017; and we have some exciting things on tap for the future. We really are stronger together, and the fact is that, rather than feel we are in competition with each other for the small number of books that are being translated from Japanese, working with each other has had the effect of creating more opportunities. It’s been very true for us that “A rising tide lifts all ships.” And the collective model is tremendously invigorating—we are inspired with ideas and to create new initiatives, especially when we know that we have the others’ support.

5. You have translated both women and men writers. Are there any differences or particularities in translating women versus men or are authors all the same, regardless of gender?

I have translated both women and men writers, including female protagonists written by male authors as well as male protagonists created by women authors. I wouldn’t say there are gendered differences in translating the work itself, beyond the fact that every writer is distinct. With each author, it’s necessary for me to feel comfortable and confident about capturing the voice and style of the piece that I’m translating. But as for how the work is received—or whether it is received at all—I do believe that there are imbalances between male and female authors. I have done some research, and recent data show that women writers in Japan currently maintain something close to parity within publishing in terms of prestige—the number of literary prizes won—and popularity—their representation on bestseller lists. But that equality does not appear in translation—little more than a quarter of the books translated from Japanese are by women—and I have yet to figure out why that is the case.

6. You have a website (which is a searchable database) where you showcase all existing literary works translated from Japanese into English, Japanese Literature in English. Besides this great initiative and the collective Strong Women, Soft Power, in which other ways are you engaged in promoting Japanese literature in translation?

My website has been sadly neglected lately, and I am eager to update the database with recent publications and found titles. Besides Strong Women, Soft Power, I am also a founding member of another collective, Cedilla & Co., and through that initiative I work closely with specific writers to bring their work into English and introduce them to English-language readers. Through my experience in book publishing, I have met many people who are champions of literature in translation, and that enables me to recommend and promote Japanese authors and books that may have been overlooked.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I am thrilled to nominate one of my Cedilla colleagues, Heather Cleary, translator from the Spanish.

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On speaking the client’s language (not the opposite)

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Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash

I changed my bank accounts – moved to another bank. There I was, at my new bank, signing the endless sheets of contract papers while the manager was explaining how they worked using banking jargon. Besides feeling extremely mad I was losing precious working hours because the manager did not have everything ready, as she said she would, I felt lost a couple of times because I did not understand the specific terms she used. And I felt embarrassed for having to ask her what they meant. When I finally understood, I started asking myself why she wouldn’t use another term, a more commonly-used one with exactly the same meaning.

I struggle to understand financial and banking operations. Whenever I have to deal with related matters, I postpone it to the last possible minute. And when I finally have to take the bulls by the horn, I feel bored and petrified I might do something wrong I may regret later. So why make my life easier and use lay terms if they can show off their banking expertise, right?

I use every single experience as a customer to learn how to deal with my own clients. If I like something, I try to adapt it to my translation business. If not, I reflect to see if I do the same with my clients and, if so, I immediately try to change it.

Do I want my client to feel the way I feel when I have to deal with things I don’t understand?

We should always keep in mind that if a client is coming to us it means they want their problem solved. It doesn’t matter how we do it and the terms we use to describe it. In order to win the client, we need to be as straightforward and clear as possible, and make them feel relieved their problem will be solved according to their needs, so they can go on and worry about other things. We should try to make their lives as easier as possible.

On this note, is it really that important that the client knows the difference between a translation and an interpreting service? Will it really change your entire life to “teach” the client that you are an interpreter, not a translator, for Pete’s sake? In Portuguese, we have different terms for translation into our mother tongue and into our B language (the latter is called versão). Do my Brazilian clients need to know this difference?

Let’s leave our ego aside for a moment and take the focus off us and make it on the client.

First and foremost, we are the language experts – the main reason we should be the ones to speak our client’s language, not the opposite. Secondly, we will be the ones to handle their (written/spoken) words – another reason we should be the ones to speak their language, not the opposite. Thirdly, don’t you just love when, as a client, the service provider truly understands you and doesn’t vomit jargons you don’t understand?

Listen to your client, instead of focusing on “educating” them or “teaching” them. Try to truly understand their needs and talk to them in a language they understand. Do your homework and research more information about them to get to know them even further and understand their language and their world. Always remember the client is king/queen.

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Ginny Takemori

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Did you know August is Women in Translation month? Learn more about the initiative here. And follow the hashtag #WITMonth on Twitter.

This month I talk to Ginny Takemori, nominated by our last interviewee, Nicky Smalley.

Welcome, Ginny!

Ginny Takemori

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1. Translators usually like to learn more about other translators’ beginnings. How was yours?

Well, I actually started out translating Spanish and Catalan. I approached a small agency in Barcelona, which took me on despite my lack of experience because they liked the way I tackled tricky designer-speak articles that their regular translators weren’t keen on. They basically taught me how to translate, editing my work and giving it back to me to learn from. Gradually the red ink on the page diminished as I got better. It was through translation that I got to know a literary agent who asked me to translate blurbs and promotional material, then suggested I write them myself from scratch, and eventually took me on as a foreign-rights agent. It was while working for her that I developed a fascination for Japanese language and literature, and decided to drop everything and enroll in SOAS in London to study Japanese with the long-term goal of translating Japanese literature into English.

2. And you have managed to achieve your goal. What advice would you give to translators who are thinking of venturing into another working language from scratch?

I suppose I’m living proof that it is possible to learn a new—and challenging— language as an adult. I should say though that I had learned several languages before this (French, German, Spanish, Catalan), and also the first few years of my life were spent in Tanzania, surrounded by people speaking Swahili as well as English. I think being exposed to more than one language at that critical, most formative time means a child already learns about different worlds, and even if they forget the language later (as I did), the ability to move between languages and worlds is already hardwired in their brain. Having said that, learning a new language as an adult requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Part-time language study was never going to be enough, so I dropped everything and enrolled on a challenging four year BA Honours course at SOAS, with year 2 at Waseda University in Tokyo, which had me living and breathing study for the duration (as well as working to support myself). All my study options were focused on courses that might be useful to me as a literary translator, including classical Japanese. After graduating I went back into publishing, this time as an editor at Kodansha International in Tokyo, where I could continue to improve my Japanese, learn about a different aspect of publishing, and also edit other literary translators, all of which has stood me in good stead as a translator too. Eventually I decided it was time to take the plunge as a freelancer again, and enrolled in a distance learning MA at Sheffield University to get me back into the study mode. The flexibility of the course enabled me to combine it with work, and the most important benefit of it to me was that it gave me the opportunity to focus on literary translation and get feedback from tutors, which was invaluable. At first most of my freelance work was as a literary editor, but little by little I started pushing the balance more towards translation, and now I only translate.

So my advice to translators would be to always have a clear goal in mind, and work hard towards it taking whatever opportunities present themselves along the way.

Also don’t be shy about trying to make your own opportunities: Kodansha wasn’t advertising for staff, but I found out the name of a senior editor there and wrote to him asking for work—and was quite amazed when he wrote back saying he needed another editor.

3. Could you tell us a bit about your latest translation, Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata?

Sayaka Murata is one of the most exciting young women writers in Japan, with an utterly unique voice. I’ve translated a number of her short stories before, but Convenience Store Woman is the first novel to come out in English. It won the prestigious Akutagawa Award before going on to be a runaway bestseller in Japan, with over 650,000 hardcover copies sold, and pocket book edition out soon. It has had an amazing reception from reviewers and readers alike in the US and the UK, and is rapidly becoming an international bestseller with translations into 22 languages. The narrative is from the hyperlogical perspective of a socially awkward 36-year-old woman who is still working in the same casual job in a convenience store that she took on while at university. Despite pressure from family and friends to either get married or start a career job, Keiko takes pride and satisfaction in excelling in her role in the store, which enables her to be a functioning member of society. Her deadpan observations and the disconnect between her thoughts and those of the people around her provide some laugh-out-loud moments, as well as a somewhat caustic look at how society functions and the pressure it places on individuals to fit in. She also has an eye for the grotesque, which can be both hilarious and very dark. My favourite review quote so far was from Dwight Garner in the New York Times: “One begins to spin through one’s Rolodex of loners, and wonder if Keiko is less like Dickens’s Miss Havisham and less like Babette in Isak Dinesen’s “Babette’s Feast” and perhaps more like Norman Bates, without the mommy issues.” He really nailed it!  I’m a huge fan of all Murata’s work and am looking forward to bringing more of it into English.

4. In your opinion and based on your experience, what are the challenges in translating Japanese into English? Do you mind giving a couple of examples based on your translations?

Japanese as a language is absolutely context based, whereas English and other European languages are largely grammar based. This means you often have to pin down details in the original that were intended to be ambiguous. To give you just one small example, there are several dozen words for the first person pronoun “I” which determine a lot about the person using it and their relationships with people around them, the level of formality and so forth—and often it is omitted altogether! English does not allow for the same level of ambiguity and you are often forced to pin down something that was meant to be left open-ended. I think this is true of everything I translate to some extent, but perhaps the most extreme example was my translation of a 1906 short story by Izumi Kyoka, who writes a bit like an impressionist painter. Mimicking the style would have been unreadable in English, so I decided to focus on aspects of the text that I could capture such as the very visual aspect with strong images.

Another problem is when you have words that simply don’t exist in English. In Convenience Store Woman, for example, you have the stock phrases used by store workers—these are absolutely formulaic, set out in the manual, and practiced daily. I decided to keep one of the phrases in Japanese—irasshaimasé—which anyone who comes to Japan will hear every time they go into a shop or a restaurant. It means, basically, “welcome,” but it would sound just too weird to translate it as that in English, and we really don’t have any equivalent. Store workers might call out hello, but not every time somebody comes into the store, so I decided it would be more natural to keep the Japanese word. Other phrases I came up with something more or less equivalent in English, keeping the formulaic feel, but making it sound more or less natural. “Yes madam, certainly madam,” and so forth.

The fact that Japanese people tend to call each other by their family names with “san” (or other title) can be a little difficult to handle in translation, since in English we do not use Mr./Mrs./Miss in the same way – it generally sounds very formal and stilted. I made the protagonist Miss Furukura to her coworkers in the store, since this emphasizes her status as a single woman, but otherwise generally tended to use her first name, Keiko (even when she was called Furukura in the original). I chose to call her coworker, who takes a more senior role, Mrs. Izumi to emphasise the difference between the two of them, although they are similar ages. For the man she ends up living with, we only know his last name, Shiraha, but it would sound very unnatural to have Keiko call him Mr. Shiraha, so I dropped any title for him (which I though suited his character anyway). I had to make similar decisions for all the characters in the book.

5. August is Women in Translation month, so why don’t you tell us more about the event you organized with two colleagues promoting Japanese women in translation, Strong Women, Soft Power?

This all started at the London Book Fair in 2016, when Allison Markin Powell, Lucy North, and I decided to take advantage of the fact that we were all attending (Allison from the US, me from Japan, Lucy from the UK) to organize a reading of our work. This was the beginnings of our collective, Strong Women, Soft Power. It coincided with a big get-together among translators of many different languages to discuss the poor representation of women authors from around the world in English translation, and ways in which we could improve this. When we crunched the numbers for Japanese literature, we were quite shocked to see how few women were making it into translation, especially given the prominence of women authors in Japan. We decided, therefore, to hold a symposium in Tokyo to address this issue, as well as to encourage increased collaboration between translators, and between translators and industry people to better promote literature in translation. The symposium was a great success, bringing together translators, academics, editors, rights managers, and agents together into the discussion. There are so many great Japanese women authors out there, and I think we will be seeing many more making it into translation from now on.

6. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I nominate Allison Markin Powell, who in addition to being a great translator herself has also been a dedicated advocate for translators generally, not least during her stint as co-Chair of the Pen Translation Committee.

Guest post: Organização e produtividade

Bem-vindos de volta à série de publicações convidadas! Neste mês, tenho a honra de receber um colega de trabalho, profissional incrível que muito ajudou os tradutores durante sua passagem pela Abrates como diretor e presidente e ser humano exemplar que tenho o orgulho de chamar de amigo.

Bem-vindo, William!

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Foto de Emma Matthews, disponível em Unsplash

Vamos conversar um pouquinho sobre produtividade, qualidade de vida e organização?

Responda rápido: se você tem um trabalho pequeno que, pela sua experiência, não deve demorar mais que duas horas para ser feito, com prazo de cinco dias para a entrega, quando você começará a cuidar desse serviço?

Se você disse: “Imediatamente, mas vou parar sempre que houver uma notificação de mensagem no computador ou no celular, afinal, tem tempo de sobra para terminar e esse trabalho nem é tão grande assim, já conheço bem o assunto que esse cliente traduz, enfim, não tenho motivos para me preocupar.” Não se sinta só e leia o artigo.

Se sua resposta foi: “Na manhã do último dia do prazo, eu abro o arquivo e traduzo, não quero acostumar mal o cliente entregando muito antes do prazo. Tradução não é disque-pizza, e o cliente não vai valorizar meu trabalho se eu entregar mais rápido, vai pensar que é fácil de fazer.” Saiba que muitos tradutores e outros profissionais autônomos também pensam exatamente assim. Novamente, não se sinta só, mas leia este artigo. Leia agora.

Se respondeu que começará imediatamente e entregará ainda hoje, você faz parte de uma minoria muito disciplinada. Mas continue lendo. Tenho algumas dicas para você também.

Por que protelamos? Você sabe que tem o que fazer, sabe que tem um prazo, tem ideia de quanto tempo pode demorar para fazer, mas assume a postura do “tá tranquilo, tá tudo certo, tenho tudo sob controle”. A resposta para essa pergunta, no meu caso, foi: isso acontece porque você não tem uma rotina organizada e perde o foco com frequência.

Ter uma rotina organizada é fundamental para que você esteja no controle não só do trabalho, mas de todo o seu tempo. Eu sei, eu sei, disso você já sabia, mas o problema é colocar em prática a organização, é se habituar a ter uma agenda, uma estratégia para definir prioridades e até para decidir o que não precisa de sua atenção e deve ser deixado de lado. Porque sim, há coisas que você pode deixar de fazer, e elas não causarão nenhum impacto negativo em sua vida. Durante o período em que trabalhei na Abrates, precisei aprender a me organizar para conseguir responder às muitas demandas da associação, às necessidades inerentes de nosso trabalho, como prospectar novos clientes, manter-me atualizado e, principalmente, dar atenção aos amigos e à família que, durante esse período, ainda me presenteou com meu primeiro neto.

Não foi fácil me organizar e melhorar o foco, mas foi menos difícil do que imaginei.

Algo muito importante que você precisa saber: ninguém se torna organizado de um dia para o outro, apenas lendo sobre o assunto ou simplesmente fazendo um curso. Organização é aprendizado e construção de hábitos. É um processo lento, mas sempre passível de melhoria. A definição que mais me agrada, tirada de alguns dos muitos livros e artigos que li, é: organização é um processo de redução e seleção. Você reduz a quantidade de eventos que realmente precisam de sua atenção e seleciona quais terão sua atenção com prioridade. Há muitas ferramentas para ajudar nesse processo. Tenho algumas dicas para quem quer começar a se organizar. Dicas simples, mas muito eficientes.

A primeira é: registre em que você gasta seu tempo. Você certamente ficará surpreso ao descobrir que desperdiça boa parte de seu tempo na frente do computador com coisas que não fazem parte de sua rotina de trabalho. Você pode fazer isso com papel e caneta ou instalar algum software que registre quais os programas, sites e outras atividades realizadas no computador e por quanto tempo. Se você usa Mac, minha sugestão é o Timing. Para PC, ouvi dizer que o Toggl é uma boa opção. Instale uma dessas ferramentas em seu computador e use-o normalmente por uma semana. Provavelmente, você descobrirá que redes sociais, mensageiros e e-mails são os vilões que mais roubam tempo dos profissionais freelancers. Você pode estar pensando: mas preciso “me desligar um pouquinho” para ser mais produtivo, ter uma válvula de escape… O problema é que essa válvula precisa estar bem regulada e só deve ser aberta nos momentos certos. No meu caso, o ideal é que essa válvula esteja em outro lugar, não no computador. Uma caminhada, uma conversa com o porteiro, uma série ou desenho animado na TV. Qualquer coisa que faça você se levantar da cadeira e se movimentar pode melhorar não só sua produtividade, mas também sua saúde.

A segunda dica é sobre definição de prioridades. Uma das ferramentas mais básicas e práticas para quem quer se organizar é a Matriz de Eisenhower. Creditada ao general e ex-presidente norte-americano Dwight Eisenhower, que precisava tomar decisões rápidas durante a Segunda Guerra, ela ajuda a definir em que colocar seus esforços, o que delegar, o que agendar e o que simplesmente não fazer. Recomendo começar sua jornada de organização por ela, pela facilidade e custo zero de implementação: papel e caneta resolvem a maioria dos casos. Um vídeo bem claro sobre esta ferramenta você encontra aqui.

Outra forma de se organizar é desenvolver fluxos de trabalho. Documente em uma lista a sequência de passos que você executa para realizar trabalhos com eficiência. Mesmo para aqueles trabalhos que você já faz de olhos fechados, escrever um fluxo de trabalho pode ajudar a perceber onde você está perdendo tempo e o que poderia melhorar. Além disso, você também pode perceber a oportunidade de automatizar algo em seu processo. Não se esqueça de que o computador deve trabalhar para você, e não o contrário.

Uma dica importantíssima que ignorei por muito tempo: dormir bem. É quase impossível manter o foco e ser organizado se você não dá a seu cérebro o descanso de que ele precisa. Desenvolva uma rotina para relaxar e se recuperar para o dia seguinte. Dormir sempre no mesmo horário faz com que seu corpo se prepare melhor e tenha mais facilidade para entrar no sono. O que fiz quando comecei a implementar essa rotina foi usar o despertador de forma inversa: colocava um alarme no meu celular para tocar às 22h30. Assim que ele tocava, eu começava a me preparar para dormir. Não foi preciso muito tempo para que isso se tornasse rotina. Claro, como dizem por aí: there’s an app for that! E você pode usá-los para monitorar e entender melhor seu sono. Atualmente, uso o Pillow, para iOS. Se você usa Android, ouvi boas recomendações do Sleep as Android, que oferece 14 dias de avaliação gratuita.

Para encerrar, três dicas rápidas:

  • E-mails são importantíssimos, mas também podem consumir boa parte de nosso tempo. Para manter o foco, desligue as notificações e defina um horário rígido para lidar com eles. Para alguns endereços para os quais você precisa responder rapidamente, crie notificações usando filtros.
  • Se você usa o Gmail, aprenda a usar filtros e respostas predeterminadas.
  • Descubra qual tipo de música melhora sua produtividade. Eu uso o Focus@Will, serviço que usa neurociência e realmente funciona para mim.

Há muitas ferramentas e métodos que prometem melhorar a produtividade e a organização. Não existe um método que funciona para todo mundo e você pode descobrir que parte de um funciona bem, parte de outro ajuda bastante, que você não suporta tal método… O ideal é testar e descobrir o que funciona para você. Organização e produtividade são pessoais.

Agradeço minha amiga Carol Alberoni por este convite e espero ter colaborado um pouco com sua produtividade e organização. Qualquer dúvida, estou à disposição.

Sobre o autor
William_AvatarWilliam Cassemiro tem 47 anos, é pai orgulhoso de duas filhas e avô-babão do Luquinhas. Foi diretor e presidente da Associação Brasileira de Tradutores e Intérpretes, Abrates, de 2014 a 2018, e participou ativamente da organização de cinco Congressos Internacionais da Abrates, com público médio de 600 participantes. Organizou diversos cursos pela associação, participou de congressos em outros países, palestrou no Brasil, Inglaterra e Uruguai. Sua primeira formação foi em Eletrônica, ramo em que atuou em grandes empresas de Tecnologia, como Xerox e SEMP Toshiba. É tradutor profissional de inglês para português, com Bacharelado em Letras pela Universidade de São Paulo. Na Abrates, considera seu maior feito a implementação do Programa de Mentoria da associação, que orienta tradutores e intérpretes em início de carreira.

Greatest Women in Translation: Nicky Smalley

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Image created by Érick Tonin

Welcome back to our amazing Greatest Women in Translation interview series, dear readers!

We’re already half-way through the year, huh? Hope everyone’s doing fine so far.

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Swedish and Norwegian translator Nicky Smalley, nominated by Jen Calleja.

 

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Image created with Canva

1. Being Brazilian myself, I cannot help it but start by asking about your English translation of Jogo Bonito, by Henrik Brandão Jönsson, a Swedish book about Brazilian football. What an interesting combination! Could you tell us a bit about your experience?

Ha! It was great! I’m not much of a football buff, but I spent some time living in Brazil a few years ago, and one of my best experiences while living in Rio was seeing Botafogo play Flamengo at the Maracanã. I speak some (very imperfect) Portuguese, so it felt like combining two of my interests – Sweden and Brazil – while learning a lot about football and its role in Brazilian society. Unfortunately, I have to admit to a terrible crime: the murder (or perhaps manslaughter, since there was no intention!) of a former Brazilian president – I mistakenly translated ‘avgå’ (to leave one’s job) as ‘to pass away’ (in Swedish ‘avlida’). I had some accomplices though – neither the author, editor, copy-editor nor the proofreader caught my mistake, so it ended up in the printed book, and only got discovered by a Brazilian journalist who was reviewing the book…

2. You currently live in London, but have previously lived in Berlin, Stockholm and Rio. How long did you live in Rio? How was your experience as a Swedish and Norwegian translator into English? Have you ever translated from Brazilian Portuguese?

I only lived in Rio for a few months – this was at the very beginning of my translation career, when I was working freelance, translating finance texts (oh how I hope I never have to translate another annual report!) for a big multinational. It seemed like the perfect excuse to go and hang out in a tropical country, to dance, to explore, and to drink amazing fruit juice every day! I was also studying Portuguese, which was amazing – I love the language, and it’s a dream to one day speak it really well, maybe even to the extent I could translate it, as there’s so much great writing in Portuguese.

3. Are you translating any book at the moment?

Ahhhhhh… there’s the rub! I should be dedicating all my free time to translating an incredible Swedish book called Eländet (working title ‘Wretchedness’) by Andrzej Tichý, one of my absolute favourite writers. I’ve done half of it, but I’m also expecting my first child, and so my priorities and energy levels are a little all over the place. You could say the human baby I’m nurturing has made it tough to make time for the word baby I’m nurturing!

4. Besides being a translator, you are Publicity, Marketing and Sales Manager for And Other Stories. What exactly does it entail?

Lots and lots of emails and building relationships, be that with authors, translators, journalists, sales reps, booksellers, other publishers, and most importantly, readers! It’s my responsibility to ensure that And Other Stories’ books get talked about in the wider world – in the media, in bookshops, online, in book groups, in homes! I love the books we publish, which makes my job easier, and it’s a really fun challenge to excite people about books that are outside of the mainstream. But my job is so hugely varied – there are certain yearly cycles, but every single day is completely different. I might be writing copy in the morning, pitching authors for interview by lunch, checking sales mid-afternoon, and administering our subscription scheme before home-time. I also work remotely (And Other Stories is based in Sheffield), so there’s lots of self-reliance, which is a skill I developed as a translator.

5. I loved this article you wrote on the reasons why we should read more women in translation! Since you love Swedish and Norwegian literature, what books from those languages, translated (preferably by women, why not?) or not, do you recommend?

Ooh, such a tricky question! My knowledge of Norwegian literature is not as extensive as I’d like (I’m only just starting to get into translating Norwegian (my first Norwegian book – An Unreliable Man, by Jostein Gaarder – is out this autumn with Weidenfeld & Nicholson). One recommendation I can most wholeheartedly give is for people to seek out Gunnhild Øyehaug. A collection of her short stories called Knots was published by FSG last year, and it’s truly excellent. The excellent Kari Dickson translated it, and you can be sure she did an excellent job.

As far as Swedish writers go, I lovelovelove Lina Wolff (coincidentally, she’s a writer we publish at And Other Stories). Working on her novel Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs (translated by Frank Perry) has been one of the highlights of my time in publishing – she’s really funny, as well as being razor-sharp and uncompromising in her criticism of the male canon we’ve all been brought up reading. I’m really looking forward to her next novel, The Polyglot Lovers, coming out next year in the wonderful Saskia Vogel’s translation – I’m expecting big things for it! When I first read it, I was laughing so much on the train that the man next to me stopped me reading and asked ‘Is it really that funny?’ I think he was jealous he couldn’t read it himself. Other Swedish loves of mine include Agnes Lidbeck, who’s written two novels, neither of which has been translated into English, despite my best efforts (she’s very much about the invisible and not-so-invisible tensions underlying relationships, something English-language publishers are often wary of, as they don’t see it as being that marketable in an English-language context).

I’m also a big fan of Mirja Unge’s short story collection It Was Just, Yesterday, which was published by Comma Press a few years back (another Kari Dickson delight!). I used to run a book club for contemporary Swedish fiction, and that was one of my favourites of the books we read. One of my all-time favourite books in Swedish is Kerstin Ekman’s Blackwater (translated by the great Joan Tate), which is a super-smart thriller set in rural northern Sweden – it’s creepy as hell, but also really gets under the skin of a very different way of life. Speaking of northern Sweden, another author I’d absolutely love to see translated into English (but who might well be untranslatable), is Stina Stoor, whose debut collection Bli som folk (literally ‘Be respectable’ or ‘Be like everyone else’ or something – the titles in itself is untranslatable!) transfixed me, but is such an astonishingly rich portrait, both linguistically and socially, of the kind of isolated community in Sweden’s far north where Stoor lives, that no one would go near it. It would just be too hard to effectively render its extraordinary dialectal voices, and without them, so much of the magic would be lost. Still, I think it’s nice sometimes, that a language gets to keep its writers to itself, because they’re just too special to be shared (at least I tell myself that – though if someone was brave enough to publish it, I’d leap at the chance to be the enabler of that project).

6. For your PhD in Scandinavian Studies at UCL, you wrote a thesis titled “Contemporary Urban Vernaculars in Rap, Literature and Translation, in Sweden and the UK.” Could you tell us more about it, since it sounds rather interesting?

Do I have to? Only (half-)joking.

I was researching the way in which the everyday language of contemporary cities (in particular London and Stockholm) is influenced by the multilingualism that characterizes them, and the way in which young people in particular use that multilingualism creatively – both in innovating the everyday language they speak to one another, and in codifying that informal language in creative forms like rap. In turn, I looked at the way contemporary writers take inspiration from that informal language, and the rapping that’s born out of it, to create literary representations of life in today’s cities. I also looked at how translators go about taking that writing into other languages – and found a lot of people trying really hard to create their own innovations in order to capture the innovative writing they were working with. It was fun, and the topic is fascinating, but I’m not a natural academic, so let’s just say my scholarly days are behind me!

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I nominate Ginny Tapley Takemori, a translator from Japanese, based outside Tokyo.

Tradução e interpretação: inclusão de palavra em palavra – Parte 2

Caso ainda não tenha lido a primeira parte, acesse-a aqui.

Ainda no primeiro dia de palestras do congresso, após o coffee break, participei da mesa-redonda do Programa de Mentoria da Abrates, Caminho das Pedras, do qual orgulhosamente já fui coordenadora e ajudei a criar. O Programa de Mentoria foi idealizado pelo William Cassemiro, quando ainda era diretor da Abrates, e lançado em março de 2016. Hoje, o Comitê de Administração é composto pelos seguintes coordenadores: Carolina Ventura, Gisley Ferreira, Lidio Rodrigues e Sidney Barros Junior (não presente na mesa-redonda por motivo de força maior). Também fizeram parte da mesa um par de mentora (Ana Julia Perrotti-Garcia) e mentorada (Priscila Osório Côrtes), que contaram como foi sua experiência no programa, e a Monica Reis, que também ajudou a criar o programa.

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Mesa-redonda sobre o Programa de Mentoria da Abrates

O Programa de Mentoria é totalmente voluntário e gratuito, mas exclusivo para associados da Abrates. O programa já ajudou 55 mentorados desde sua criação. No momento, há nove pares em andamento. Os requisitos para ser mentorado são: ter até dois anos de experiência como tradutor/intérprete ou, caso não tenha experiência, estar cursando o último ano de um curso de letras/tradução/interpretação. Os requisitos para ser mentor são: ter pelo menos cinco anos de experiência como tradutor/intérprete. A duração de cada programa é de seis meses, e as reuniões são realizadas da melhor forma decidida entre o par de mentor e mentorado (presencialmente, Skype, e-mail, WhatsApp, etc.). As fichas de inscrição são analisadas por todos os membros do Comitê de Administração, que decidem em comum acordo se o candidato é qualificado ou não para o programa e, caso seja aprovado, quem é o mentor mais adequado ao perfil dele. Após essa decisão, o mentor recebe a ficha do possível mentorado e decide se concorda com a escolha ou não. Cada par é acompanhado por um coordenador (membro do Comitê de Administração). As metas a serem abordadas no programa são basicamente traçadas por cada mentorado com a ajuda do mentor. No entanto, é importante ressaltar que o programa não visa ensinar como traduzir, mas orientar sobre os aspectos práticos do mercado, que normalmente não são abordados pelos cursos da área.

A mentora Ana Julia Perrotti-Garcia já participou de três ciclos e relatou sua experiência: “Ganhei três grandes amigos e colegas de profissão”.

Para mais informações, acesse a página do programa no site da Abrates (link acima). Também há mais detalhes sobre o programa nesta publicação do blog.

Após o almoço, foi a vez da minha primeira apresentação, “Nem só de tradução vive o tradutor: acabando com o endeusamento do trabalho em excesso”, sobre a qual falarei em uma publicação separada. Aguardem!

Em seguida, foi a vez de Mark Thompson, com a apresentação “Menos heavy, mais leve. Pense no leitor alvo!” Mark, cuja língua materna é o inglês, falou sobre versões de português para inglês feitas por tradutores não nativos. Segundo ele, os seguintes adjetivos, entre outros, são usados para descrever essas traduções: long-winded, verbose, wordy, prolix, repetitive. Como vez ou outra faço versões, gostei muito de algumas dicas e soluções que ele deu para alguns termos difíceis de serem traduzidos, como “elaborar” (draft, formulate, detail, write, outline, design, etc.), “destacar” (highlight, stress, mention, emphasize, underline, etc.) e “desembolso” (spending, spend, expenditure, etc.). Dica dele ao verter do português para o inglês: não reproduza o português religiosamente e evite repetições desnecessárias.

O sábado foi concluído com a apaixonante palestra da grande Alison Entrekin, tradutora literária do português para o inglês, “Oombarroom: a reconstrução de Grande Sertão em inglês”. Como o próprio nome da palestra diz, Alison está atualmente trabalhando em uma nova versão da grande obra de João Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas, para o inglês, com o apoio do Itaú Cultural. Australiana, Alison mora no Brasil há mais de 20 anos e nos deleita com um português perfeito: “É a primeira vez que falo para um público de tradutores”. Que honra! Segundo ela, além de ser um livro extenso, com cerca de 600 páginas, a densidade dele é ainda maior. Menciona Haroldo de Campos, que afirmou que traduzir Grande Sertão é um processo de transcriação no qual perde-se de um lado, mas ganha-se de outro, e no qual o grande protagonista é a língua. Quanto à sua imensa responsabilidade nesse longo projeto, Alison diz que “só” tem “que traduzir para um inglês universal e inexistente”. Baba de moça, não é? Tradutora de grandes obras da língua portuguesa, como Cidade de Deus, de Paulo Lins, Budapeste, de Chico Buarque, e Meu Pé de Laranja Lima, de José Mauro de Vasconcelos, Entrekin conseguiu nos encantar com seu amor pela língua portuguesa e o carinho e atenção que dedica não só a Grande Sertão: Veredas como a todas as obras que traduz. Ela é capaz de despertar o amor pela literatura e pela tradução literária até nos menos interessados.

Dica: a Alison já fez parte da série de entrevistas Greatest Women in Translation deste blog. Leia aqui.

No domingo, último dia do congresso, minha primeira palestra do dia foi “Novas ferramentas de auxílio à tradução e sua performance”, por Marcelo Fassina. Marcelo começou afirmando que MT (tradução automática) não é mais tendência, já é a realidade. Os clientes de serviços de linguagem, provedores de tecnologia, linguistas (nós) e LSPs (Language Service Providers) precisam trabalhar em conjunto nessa nova realidade tecnológica, segundo Fassina. Precisamos começar a abraçar as novas tecnologias e nos especializar cada vez mais. Lugares para bons profissionais sempre existirão no mercado, e a alta especialização será o que diferenciará os tradutores das máquinas. Além de diversidade e inclusão, eis aqui outra palavra que ouvi muito em todo o congresso: “especialização”.

Em seguida, assisti à palestra do Reginaldo Francisco e do Roney Belhassof, “Tradução saindo da torneira?” Criadores do projeto Win-Win, os dois falaram sobre a evolução e as tendências do mercado de tradução. Achei extremamente interessante e relevante a menção que fizeram a uma declaração publicada no site do congresso de 2013 da TAUS (tradução livre minha): “A tradução está se tornando um serviço de utilidade pública, como eletricidade, internet e água, que são serviços de que precisamos no dia a dia, sem os quais nos sentiríamos perdidos. Esses serviços estão sempre disponíveis, inclusive em tempo real, se necessário.” Segundo Reginaldo e Roney, a tradução faz parte do processo de construção cultural e linguística da humanidade.

Ainda não conhece o projeto Win-Win? Acesse o site (link acima) e saiba mais sobre essa iniciativa de democratização da tradução.

Infelizmente, tive que sair da apresentação dessa dupla dinâmica antes do término, pois, em seguida, foi minha segunda apresentação do congresso, “Gerenciamento e curadoria de redes sociais para tradutores”, sobre a qual também falarei em outra publicação separada em breve. Aguardem!

Neste ano, o encerramento do congresso foi antecipado, pois o Brasil estreou na Copa do Mundo contra a Suíça na parte da tarde. No entanto, além de exibir o jogo em um local dedicado especialmente aos torcedores, a Abrates também ofereceu palestras breves, estilo TedTalks, durante o jogo para aqueles que não são fãs de futebol.

Assim como a abertura, o encerramento também foi inovador e inclusivo, com uma palestra apresentada em Libras (Língua Brasileira de Sinais) e interpretada em português e inglês! A professora Marianne Stumpf, da UFSC (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina), deu um show de simpatia com a apresentação “Tradutores surdos: experiências em processos de tradução para Libras”. Fiquei impressionada com o tanto que a comunicação em Libras é bem mais rápida que a comunicação oral! Foi uma experiência incrível para sentirmos um pouco na pele como é ser surdo. Segundo a professora, a visibilidade do intérprete de Libras é maior que a do intérprete comum, tornando a estética e a vestimenta detalhes importantes, pois influenciam na interpretação. Ilustrando a diferença entre as línguas de sinais de diferentes países, Stumpf nos contou que, por exemplo, o sinal que fazemos com o dedo médio, que é uma ofensa aqui no Brasil, significa “férias” na língua internacional de sinais. O número total de alunos surdos no Brasil é de 5,7 milhões, desde a educação básica até cursos superiores.

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Marianne Stumpf. Crédito: Renato Beninatto.

Desde o congresso realizado em Belo Horizonte, em 2013 (que, aliás, foi o ano de criação deste blog), não perco uma edição. O congresso já teve um número recorde de participantes (quase 900, em 2015, em São Paulo), localizações diferentes (como a de Belo Horizonte), palestras memoráveis (abertura com Leandro Karnal, no ano passado, em São Paulo), mas essa edição foi linda! O William Cassemiro, que ocupou o cargo de presidente de 2016 a este ano, encerrou seu mandato e seu lindo trabalho na associação com chave de ouro. Deu um show de inclusão e lição de vida a todos nós com as palestras de abertura e de encerramento. A Abrates sempre é sinal de inovação. Foi a primeira a fornecer interpretação simultânea e de Libras em seus congressos. Agora inovou mais uma vez com dois palestrantes negros de abertura, um homem e uma mulher, e uma palestrante em Libras no encerramento. Tenho muito orgulho de ser membro de uma associação que se preocupa também com a humanidade, a diversidade e a inclusão.

Agora, quem assume o cargo de presidente por dois anos é o Ricardo Souza. E ele já disse que o próximo congresso, que será realizado no ano que vem (data a ser definida) em São Paulo, promete, pois, além de ser a 10ª edição, será o aniversário de 45 anos da Abrates. Mal posso esperar!

Não perca estes outros relatos:
O início, o fim e o e-mail, por Maíra Monteiro
Resumo do 1º dia do Congresso da ABRATES, por Rayza Ferreira (também há a 2ª e 3ª partes)
Diversidade e inclusão, pautas de toda profissão, por Carolina Walliter

Tradução e interpretação: inclusão de palavra em palavra – Parte 1

Nesse último fim de semana, de 15 a 17 de junho, foi realizado o 9º Congresso Internacional de Tradução e Interpretação da Abrates (Associação Brasileira de Tradutores e Intérpretes), no Rio de Janeiro. A localização não poderia ser melhor: Rio Othon Palace, hotel em frente à praia de Copacabana, cuja beleza nem o tempo ruim foi capaz de diminuir.

Eu e minha grande amiga Carolina Ventura, supercompanheira de aventuras e de profissão, chegamos já na quinta-feira, pois queríamos aproveitar para descansar um pouco antes do congresso e aproveitar a cidade. O tempo, como eu já disse, não ajudou muito, mas conseguimos pelos menos ir à Confeitaria Colombo comer torrada Petrópolis e nos encantar com sua beleza.

Na sexta-feira, aproveitei a tarde para gravar alguns episódios para o podcast TradTalk que, aliás, voltará com a segunda temporada no mês de julho. Aguardem! Conversei com a Ana Julia Perrotti-Garcia; a Liz e a Pati, da Ideal Translation; e o Fabiano Cid, da Ccaps. Todos bate-papos deliciosos! Mal posso esperar para vocês ouvirem/assistirem.

Com o tema “Tradução e interpretação: inclusão de palavra em palavra”, os keynotes de abertura, Petê Rissatti e Rane Souza, mostraram que o tema da inclusão e da diversidade seria o foco do congresso. Como disse Roney Belhassof no Twitter, “É emocionante estar em um congresso com dois keynote speakers negros. Um homem e uma mulher.” Não deveria nos causar estranheza (boa, nesse caso), mas como disse o próprio Petê, embora estejamos em pleno 2018, infelizmente, ainda é necessário discutir alguns tópicos. Petê é negro, gay e candomblecista e fala com conhecimento de causa. Segundo ele, não temos o direito de dar nossa opinião sobre o lugar de fala alheio, mas podemos, sim, falar segundo o nosso ponto de vista, de forma empática. Concordo com ele quando diz que traduzir e interpretar são atos de empatia. Consequentemente, todo tradutor/intérprete precisa ser empático e entender o outro. E, para sermos empáticos, precisamos nos livrar dos preconceitos. Petê, tradutor literário, encerra sua emocionante fala exigindo respeito: “Não dá pra continuar do jeito que está. Nós temos pressa!”

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Petê Rissatti

Tanto no encerramento da fala do Petê quanto no início da fala de Rane Souza, também tradutora, Marielle Franco é mencionada. Rane, por sua vez, nos mostrou números e fatos da história negra no Brasil. Embora seja falado em minoria, 56% da população brasileira é negra/parda. Infelizmente, não há dados específicos sobre o mercado da tradução, mas no Jogo do Privilégio, proposto por ela, pudemos ver que não há representatividade. Entre os cerca de dez voluntários, apenas dois eram negros. O propósito do jogo, criado pelo Instituto Identidade do Brasil, é mostrar como a desigualdade racial afeta todos os aspectos da vida dos negros. A princípio, muita gente, inclusive eu, acreditou que o jogo não funcionaria; afinal de contas, quem estava lá, querendo ou não, teve uma realidade de vida diversa. No entanto, o jogo foi chocante e emocionou a nós todos. Uma coisa é ouvirmos falar sobre desigualdade racial; outra coisa é vermos ou sermos expostos, de alguma forma, às consequências dela. Por fim Rane nos disse: “Sou perseguida por policiais TODOS os dias em lojas e estabelecimentos comerciais!”

Assim como na hora, agora fiquei novamente sem ação (e com lágrimas nos olhos) após relembrar essa frase impactante. Eu, em toda a minha brancura, jamais saberei na pele o que é isso. No entanto, fico feliz em sentir, com ela, com o Petê, com a tragédia da Marielle Franco, com meus amigos. Ao chorar ouvindo relatos desse tipo, dou-me conta de que sou humana, que sinto as dores dos meus iguais, que respeito o lugar de fala alheio e só posso tentar entender, embora saiba que jamais serei capaz de saber de fato como é. Isso é um sinal de que estou no caminho certo e que é meu dever como ser humano ajudar meus iguais.

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Rane Souza

Fazendo uma ponte com a fala de abertura do William Cassemiro, presidente anterior da Abrates, Rane encerra ressaltando que precisamos estimular a profissionalização do nosso mercado em todos os sentidos, inclusive para os negros. O que podemos fazer? Observar nossas próprias práticas e aumentar a representatividade. O negro se sente mais à vontade sendo traduzido/interpretado por outro negro.

Após toda essa carga emocional e inclusiva da abertura, o primeiro dia de palestras começou, para mim, também com chave de ouro com a apresentação da Aline Tomasuolo, com o título “O método Starbucks aplicado ao mundo da tradução”. A Aline foi mentorada do Programa de Mentoria da Abrates, na época em que eu ainda era coordenadora, e me deixou impressionada com sua evolução profissional. Apresentação visualmente impecável, conteúdo extremamente relevante, detalhes que fizeram a diferença. Ela aplicou em sua apresentação e comprovou, com isso, que também aplica sua fala na prática: padronização de qualidade e personalização do atendimento. Aline disse que, segundo a Adobe, no futuro, as pessoas não comprarão mais produtos, mas experiências. Eu acredito que isso já seja verdade. Pense nos serviços que você usa, nos produtos que consome. A padronização e a personalização aumentam a valorização do mercado de tradução. Um cliente encantado resulta em fidelização e divulgação. Como tradutores, precisamos assumir nossa identidade. As palavras têm poder. Não “fazemos” tradução, somos tradutores! Além disso, devemos manter um canal de comunicação aberto e claro com os clientes, informando sobre disponibilidades/indisponibilidades, e descobrir a preferência de cada um deles. Com isso, nossa própria humanidade acaba sendo um diferencial nos serviços que prestamos no atual mundo tecnológico.

A segunda palestra à qual assisti foi “O método Harvard de negociação para tradutores e intérpretes”, por Claudio Pereira. Uma das principais dicas do Claudio foi que, em uma negociação, devemos focar no problema, não nas pessoas. Segundo ele, devemos ter critérios objetivos e diferentes opções. Precisamos entender o cliente, nos preparar e vender o serviço antes de informar o preço: mostrando os valores que serão agregados com ele. Devemos nos comunicar com segurança e passar segurança para o cliente, descobrir pontos em comum/conflitantes: o que o cliente sabe sobre nós e vice-versa é relevante em uma negociação. Devemos ser criativos e pensar em diferentes formas de satisfação mútua.

Como vocês podem ver, não cheguei nem na hora do almoço do primeiro dia ainda e já teve muita coisa legal! Como ainda tenho muita coisa interessante para passar para vocês, deixarei para uma segunda publicação, em breve, não se preocupem. Fiquem ligados!

Greatest Women in Translation: Jen Calleja

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Created by Érick Tonin.

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month’s interviewee is Jen Calleja, British writer and literary translator, nominated by Rosalind Harvey.

Welcome, Jen!

Jen Calleja

Created with Canva. Picture credit: Robin Christian.

1. You’re about to conclude your residency at the British Library (you are their first Translator in Residence). How was the experience?

I feel really happy with what I managed to do at the BL one day a week for a year during the residency – it actually took a year to believe and appreciate that I had got this residency.

I held open forums with staff about the languages they used at work, wrote poetry based on the poet-translator Michael Hamburger’s archive, created and led a weekend creative masterclass for writers and translators, and organized and chaired three panel discussions, and some other things.

Coming from a DIY music and grassroots activism background has informed my compulsion to demystify translation and empower people to try translating who may not have thought it was – as a thing or as a practice – ‘for them’. I tried to always envision an audience comprised of the generally interested but monolingual person, multilingual people who have never explored translation and/or haven’t seen multilingualism celebrated and nourished in the UK setting, and those interested in literature but who didn’t necessarily have any knowledge of translation.

I am indeed in a phase of concluding – and a new resident is starting this month – but my residency has actually been extended to match the new resident’s day-and-a-half-a-week allowance, enabled by the Institute for Modern Languages Research joining the BL and the Arts and Humanities Research Council as a third partner for the residency going forward. I’ll use the time to mentor the new resident, write some more Hamburger poems and complete a video project. Oh, and create a movement performance. And maybe something else.

2. What’s your story with the German language?

Well, I often get asked if there’s any family collection, but I just always liked the way German was put together and sounded, and the way it expressed things. My dad’s Maltese but my brother and I weren’t brought up with Maltese or Italian, only English, but it’s probably why I ended up going into languages.

I studied it at GCSE and A-Level – along with French – and actually ended up being the only student doing any language at my school post-GCSE, which was a bit of a lonely and disheartening experience. They actually wanted to cancel languages that year but there weren’t any other local colleges that could take me. My teachers were overworked and they tried their best, but a mixture of our lack of motivation ended up with me passing with a B in German and C in French at A-level.

A former student at my school who had gone on to study modern languages and had then moved to Munich came to visit teachers and we were introduced and she casually said that if I ever wanted to spend some time in Germany I could come and live with her. Literally two months after finishing my A-levels I moved to Munich. I lived with her for two weeks, a morose and clueless 18 year old, then was a terrible au pair, then got a nice office job as an editor and typist working predominantly in English. When I got there I realized that a B-grade A-level in German was useless, my German was awful. I ended up living there for eighteen months, got my own place, got a social life – I started going to gigs three or four times a week – started seeing a guy there, and my German obviously got better.

I then moved to London to take up a place studying Media and Modern Literature with Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, but in my second year I missed the German language so decided to read German literature in my spare time (I’d read only English literature in Munich). The first book was Bernhard Schlink’s Der Vorleser (The Reader) and it took me about a year to get through it. By the time I finished my degree I knew I wanted to specialize in German so did a Masters in German Language, Culture and History at UCL taking courses in German art and literature, and also took a life-changing course in Translation Theory and Practice, which I ended up specializing in for my dissertation.
I graduated in 2012 and got my first book translation job – a YA book – while finishing my MA because a friend remembered me saying I wanted to translate German literature and told a friend of a friend who needed someone to translate a book.

I would say I’ve learned how to translate literature on the job, literally by doing it. I’m now on books 11 and 12.

3. You are such a diverse professional: writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry; literary translator; columnist for literature in translation; editor; co-director and trainer; and last by not least musician! I’m curious, just like Rosalind, who nominated you, how do you juggle everything “with such aplomb,” according to her words?

Ha, it’s nice of her to say, and it’s a question I get asked quite often. I suppose I started by doing everything I wanted to do (writing, reading German lit, starting a band) when I was about nineteen to see what I liked the most – but then I didn’t want to compromise so ended up doing everything, and each thing is important to me. I like always having one foot in and one foot out of things – different ‘scenes’ and expertise such as poetry, music, translation – because it helps me keep perspective and view things from the outside. I just have a compulsion to do it all, and I know other people who have similar lives. Each thing also informs the other thing. Not an average day, but a day I’ve actually had was when I had to be at the BBC at 8 in the morning to speak on live TV about the anti-harassment campaign I help coordinate, then go to the British Library to send some residency emails and finish a sample translation, and then I got picked up to go on tour for a couple of days. I would say it’s getting harder to deal with the lack of balance and the stress though – something’s going to have to give this year I think.

4. Do you think that being a writer helps as a translator? If so, how?

I started as a writer – I’ve been writing stories and poems since I was about 17 – and I approach translating as a storyteller passing on someone’s story the best way I can. To me the processes are extremely similar. As a writer you’re used to trying out different words and sentences to see what works best, and you do the same thing when translating. Every sentence starts with ‘how would I say this if I had to say it immediately’ and then you go from there to make it fit in the context, make it fit the voice and the tone, while making sure the intention and vital information behind that line or word isn’t lost. There’s really just one additional starting layer – the original text! I’m also aware of what’s happening in writing and poetry and can see connections and threads leading from German literature into English literature and vice versa. Being a big reader in the language you’re translating into is so vital – after all, you’re creating something that has to fit within the English literature context.

5. You voluntarily coordinate the Good Night Out campaign, an organization that tackles harassment in the night-time economy. That seems quite interesting and fitting for this series (being it focused on women). Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Good Night Out was founded by someone I knew from the DIY music scene called Bryony Beynon and then two years ago she brought on a few people to help run it. We’re now a community interest company and are all Directors. We train staff in pubs, student unions, clubs (bar staff, managers, door staff, cloakroom staff and glass collectors, everyone!) how to handle disclosures of harassment – predominantly sexual harassment, but importantly how this also intersects with racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism etc. We know that anyone can be harassed on a night out, but statistically it will be women and those who identify as LGBTQ+ who are harassed the most. Staff aren’t usually trained in how to react or handle this kind of situation, so we want them to feel comfortable to handle it professionally and calmly and that someone who has been harassed isn’t left feeling even worse after reporting it. Belief is the biggest issue, and not taking it seriously enough – a lot of the time people try to brush it off because they don’t know what to say or do, and because we don’t take it seriously as a society.

Harassment is everyone’s problem.

I give training and train new trainers, plus act as a spokeswoman and coordinate a couple of our partnerships. I’d like to work on getting literary venues and event spaces involved.

6. According to your website, you are “keen to mentor emerging writers and translators from less privileged backgrounds, those who haven’t attended university, or are the first in their family to attend university.” That is very kind and thoughtful of you! How does your translator mentoring work?

As soon as I felt like I had knowledge to pass on I wanted to mentor, and wanted to try and do it as part of the BL residency but didn’t have time. Then I was offered to be a mentor for the British Council’s Translation Fellowship, and also received a translation mentee via Goldsmiths Alumni services after I signed up to be a mentor. We know from the great research and data gathering people in the literary scene and publishing sector have been doing that. The literary world we inhabit is disproportionately white and middle-class, and I’d like to help more people basically like me – I was the first person in my family to go to university, I’m from a working-class background with Maltese and Anglo-Irish parents – and from various and non-traditional walks of life help getting into literary translation and writing. I tend to give around five hours of my time so the mentee can pick my brains, see some of my reader reports, learn some do’s and don’ts, and so we can discuss one of their sample translations and edit it together if they like. I’d like to do more in the future.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’d like to nominate Nicky Smalley, translator from (mainly) Swedish and publicist for publisher And Other Stories. She is not only a translator but someone who works tirelessly to promote literature in translation and has been super involved in AoS’s Year of Publishing Women – which has for them been a big year of publishing women in translation. She also mentored for the British Council and I’m always happy to see her at events and out and about.

Greatest Women in Translation: Rosalind Harvey

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Our last interviewee, Anna Holmwood, nominated Rosalind Harvey.

Welcome, Rosalind!

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1. You translate from Spanish into English and have translated literature from different Hispanic countries. How are they different among each other, including in terms of translation?

The various Spanishes around the world are pretty different from each other, and between Latin American countries the difference can be even greater than between Latin American and Iberian Spanish. Not only in terms of pronunciation, which varies wildly, but also vocabulary and grammar. I fell head over heels with Spanish as an undergraduate student on my year abroad in Peru, and the Spanish spoken there is usually described as one of the clearest and easiest for beginners (luckily for me!); while I was there I spoke very little English, even began dreaming in Spanish, and I’ve also spent time in Ecuador, Argentina and Colombia so, for me, the rhythms and cadences of Latin American Spanish are still the ones I respond most strongly to. In terms of translation, I always feel more drawn to Latin American writers because I feel closer to the culture and way of speaking, although I have translated two Spanish authors so far. In the end though, as long as I respond personally to a text and am able to have access to the author when translating (this is why I haven’t to date worked on any dead authors!), it doesn’t really matter to me where the text is from.

2. You created, along with theater group Coney, a real-world translation game called Wordkeys. Can you tell us about it?

In 2011 I was the first translator in residence at the Free Word Centre in London, and my remit was to demystify literary translation by developing a programme of public events around the practice. I programmed a few talks and more conventional activities, but I knew from the start that I wanted to do something that would take people out into the street and talking to strangers, because this is where real-world translation happens, and it is something that all of us engage in every day, very often without realizing it. I approached Coney because they had done work for an organization my then-boyfriend was involved with, Guerilla Science, which puts on fun, wacky events about science for the general public. Coney’s members all have theatre backgrounds and they’ve developed what you might call ‘real-world’ games for adults, people who have forgotten to or no longer have the chance to play in their lives, and playfulness is such an important aspect of literary translation, as well as performance, so it was a perfect fit. The game works like this: there are two teams who uncover clues hidden around an outside space, clues written in a foreign language which they have to translate, and then at the end there’s a shared activity the teams have to perform together. It’s easier to explain by watching a video!

3. In this interview you gave to Free Word, you said that “[a]s translators, we can stand up for ourselves more,” and gave a few examples of what we can do, such as “try and demand the recommended rates.” What recommended rates do you refer to? In Brazil, our union, Sintra, has a table of recommended rates for different translation services, but I’m not aware of any other.

‘Recommended’ is actually not quite the right word. In the UK we are lucky to have the Translators Association, a subgroup of the Society of Authors, and every year its committee meets to discuss what (due to legal reasons) we have to call the ‘observed rate’. Currently this is £95 per thousand words for prose, and £1.10 per line of poetry with a minimum of £35 per poem. A different approach is often taken with illustrated children’s books or graphic novels, but the general gist is that this is roughly the amount that certain UK publishers have been observed to pay to translators. This doesn’t mean that it’s the recommended rate, nor that it is an amount that all publishers will pay (unfortunately!), but is meant to be a minimum, and indeed English PEN will only fund books in translation where the publisher has agreed that they will pay the translator this minimum. We also need to take into account that this rate, aside from being a per-word figure, will often include any time taken to look over edits, any time taken to promote the book. Ultimately, I think it’s important that we recognize that our work is work, that it takes time and effort, and that, unless you are a student (in which case, working for free can be a useful way to gain experience), you should be properly remunerated for it.

4. You teach Modern Spanish Language; Language, Text and Identity; and Translation: Methods and Practice at University of Warwick. What are some important advice you give to your students who are about to enter the translation market?

Read voraciously, figure out what you like to read and who in the UK is publishing that kind of work, put yourself in situations where you will be around other translators to share knowledge, follow closely what is happening in the literary arena in the country whose language you will be working from (ie keeping abreast of literary prizes and finding out who your favourite authors’ favourite authors are), try to gain at least a basic understanding of how the publishing industry works… and don’t give up the day job!

5. You are chair and co-founder of the Emerging Translators Network, an email-based peer-to-peer support group for early-career literary translators working into English (primarily). Could you tell us more about it?

The ETN was founded by myself, Anna Holmwood (your previous interviewee) and Jamie Lee Searle, who translates from German, in 2011, when we half-jokingly described ourselves as ‘the forgotten child stars of literary translation’ – we had all had one book out, which had received a nice amount of attention, and we weren’t sure what to do next to ride the momentum. The world of an early-career literary translator still felt a little disjointed back then: people with one less book than us under their belt were unable to join the Translators Association (you can only join once you have a contract) and so to connect themselves to other working translators; we would all occasionally bump into each other by chance at a a book fair or a launch, but it wasn’t very organized or formal. We wanted to create a friendly space for people at that stage of their career to come together and share experience, advice and good practice, and so we set up a Google Group and started adding members. It quickly grew into this brilliant online community of practitioners talking about a whole range of issues: really practical, nuts-and-bolts things as well as esoteric discussions of semi-colon use. We held a sell-out conference in 2014, and now have over 1,000 members, and I think it’s safe to say that it has changed the landscape of literary translation in that it’s made it easier for what has traditionally been a very disparate group of shy professionals into a group with far more visibility, a louder voice, and an idea of what our shared goals are. I’m very proud of what we achieved, and I’d like to say thank you to all of our members for making the community as wonderful as it is!

6. How do you juggle translation work with teaching?

The short answer is, I don’t! (weeps gently). No, but seriously: it’s not easy, but without the day job I wouldn’t be able to survive, and I think it’s really important to talk about that, about the money side of things. Before I got into teaching I worked for around 10 years as a freelance translator alongside various other things (bookselling, being a university receptionist, private Spanish tutoring, and working in a Chinese furniture shop), and for most of that time I struggled financially. I was building up my career, but I was cash poor and time poor! Now I’m cash-comfortable but time-destitute, and my goal for the near future is to develop a balance so that I can translate one book a year in the holidays, when teaching stops and I have time to focus, and I think that will keep me satisfied – along with shoehorning as much literature into my translation classes as I can get away with. What’s also nice now is that I can use my own translations in lessons, something the students often find valuable as a book is such a tangible thing compare to an obscure academic paper, and it means they’re able to see the link between what they’re studying and a way they might use their skills in the future. It’s always fun to get them to critique my own translations to start a discussion about how no translation (or original!) is ever perfect and it’s such a subjective process, which is particularly valuable in an age when education can be far too focused on right or wrong answers and ease of measurability and results.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next Great Woman in Translation.

I’d like to nominate Jen Calleja, who is a translator from the German, editor, poet, current translator in residence at the British Library, a member of the band Sauna Youth, and an ambassador for the Good night out …. – partly because I admire the way she brings feminism/activism into her work, but mainly, if I’m honest, it’s because I want to know how the hell she finds time to do all the creative things she does with such aplomb!

Practical tips for translating and publishing Greek documents

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Translating a medical document from other languages is hard enough without having to deal with a complex one like Greek. Although the grammar is logical, Greek is still one of the most complex languages to translate; especially if it’s your first time.

Of all the European languages, Greek poses a number of unique challenges during translation and desktop publishing. Even though many medical devices and drug companies face these challenges with Greek documents, there are straight-forward solutions to overcoming them.

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All-caps styles

The Challenge:

Operating manuals frequently make use of an all-caps style for titles within the body of the text. The table of contents (TOC) might be set up to combine an initial cap followed by lowercase letters. In other words, the title “OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS” would be listed in the TOC as “Operating Instructions.”

This technique works well in many languages. In Greek, however, there are certain letters (accented vowels, e.g., Ü Ý Þ ß ü   and the final sigma “ò”) that do not automatically map to the appropriate capital letter. For instance, the final sigma maps to a bullet point when the “all caps” style is applied.

The result is that to make the all-caps titles appear correctly, editors must manipulate the TOC manually, i.e., replace the bullet with a capital sigma. In the case of larger manuals, where the TOC can run for a dozen pages or more, a full day of work would be required to perform the revision.

Suggested Solution:

The all-caps style should not be used in IFUs or manuals that will be localized into Greek. Instead, develop Greek-specific templates and styles that provide for appropriate capitalization of titles.

Text expansion

The Challenge:

When translated from English, Greek text typically expands by 30 percent and, depending on the translator, often more than that. As text length increases, so does the need for more desktop publishing time:

  • Greek hyphenation dictionaries do not exist, requiring the manual hyphenation of formatted text.
  • If the source templates were designed without text expansion in mind, quite a bit of work may be needed to prepare the master pages for Greek text.
  • Given the larger number of pages, a Greek document will require more time for fixing reflowing text and for proofreading formatted pages.

Suggested Solution:

Carefully review your source-language templates to ensure that the longer Greek document reflows with a minimum of manual rework.

 Fine-tuning index entries

The Challenge:

The “code pages” used by Greek operating systems are different from those used by Roman languages. This means that many applications or parts of applications cannot “read” Greek text and display it as gobbledygook.

An example of this limitation is the Marker editing tool in Adobe FrameMaker, which cannot display Greek text, even though the Greek manual itself displays just fine. As a result, not even the simplest of index errors can be repaired by a desktop publishing specialist working on an English operating system.

Suggested Solution:

To ensure the accuracy of the index, the production process needs to account for the time needed by Greek linguists to review and fine-tune index entries and the compiled index on Greek operating systems.

Alpha-sorted elements

The Challenge:

Another challenge that is related to code-page conflicts concerns alpha-sorted elements, e.g., footnotes with alpha designations, alpha-sorted lists, and the index. An English operating system provides A-Z alpha sorts, not Alpha-Omega sorts as required in Greek.

The result is that any automatically generated alpha sorts in the body need to be manually overridden in Greek documents, an additional and potentially time-consuming task. In the index, reference pages must be revised to ensure that the index sorts as necessary.

Suggested Solution:

Where possible, replace alpha-sorted lists and footnotes with numbered lists and footnotes; this will reduce the cost of manual rework and thus improve the overall quality of the documentation.

Translating Greek Medical Documents Requires Patience!

Greek is an inflected language, which means that the words change to convey meaning. Whereas the English language depends solely on word order to convey meaning, Greek relies on changes to the words themselves in order to make sense.

The publishing of Greek documentation presents a handful of unique challenges. However, with careful planning and the development of Greek-specific process steps, it is possible to hold down Greek publication costs and produce high-quality deliverables.

About the author
otd_logoOn The Dot Translations is a New York-based firm that offers translation services in every language. You can contact us 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. Our translators have specialized fields, they get the job done fast without compromising our high quality standards.