All posts by evavalvo

“Is there Something in the Air?” A Playful Antivirus, an Amazing Tribute to Translation

March 2020: During the very first days of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy, a health care institution in Milan asked renowned children’s author Roberto Piumini to write something for youngsters that addressed the topic. This gave rise to a children’s rhyme that spoke about the Coronavirus in a gentle, lighthearted and caring manner. 

After being posted on Facebook, the poem instantly spread and quickly went viral. So viral, in fact, that Italian translators’ associations STRADE and AITI together with CEATL (Conseil Européen des Associations de Traducteurs Littéraires), and FIT (International Federation of Translators), decided to expand the project on a global scale by launching the initiative, joyfully embraced by the BCBF (Bologna Children’s Bookfair), of translating the poem into a variety of different languages. 

Over forty translators from all over the world enthusiastically volunteered to take part in the project, which formed a playful carousel of languages (English, French, Spanish, Galician, Catalan, Basque, Ladin, German, Russian, Dutch, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, Greek, Danish, Lithuanian, Afrikaans, Lesotho, Tshivenda, Kalanga, Hebrew, Polish, Slovenian, Croatian, Finnish, Turkish, Chinese, Arabic, Slovak, Hungarian, Quichua, Georgian) to be read and listened to. The BCBF also published an audio or video lecture of the translations and a short biography of the translators. 

This linguistic merry-go-round is a virtuous example of best practices because of the synergy created between translators, translators’ associations from all over the world and an international children bookfair like BCBF. 

And is a good example of the healing power of words, which thanks to the author and the translators involved, entered homes during a period of social isolation that was difficult for both children and adults.

As Roberto Piumini writes: 

Words are presents, words are seeds,

they’re gifts that we have plenty of

and if they’re good they’re all we need,

when we’re apart, to grow our love.

Last but not least, the project demonstrates the delicate and enriching cultural and social function of translators in connecting different languages and different ways of living and thinking. As translator Mulalo Takalani member of SATI (South African Translators’ Institute) wrote: «I am so happy to be part of the team for the translation of “Is There Something In The Air” into my language Tshivenda, it puts Tshivenda language on the map».

Have a look at the BCBF’s Fairtales magazine.

Down the Rabbit Hole: Working (and Surviving) as a Translator of Children’s Books

In 2020 and 2021, bookfairs were cancelled due to the global corona pandemic. Many panels took place virtually such as this international roundtable about the working conditions of children’s literature translators.

The speakers – CEATL and FIT representatives, child lit translators from the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, France, Germany and Italy ­– talked about what it means to translate books for children, reminding the audience that is as difficult as translating adult literature. They illustrated the working conditions in the different countries as well as the Ceatl Code of Good Practices or Hexalogue and the Guidelines for Fair Contracts.

The invitation to an international children’s bookfair like Bologna was an important opportunity to explain what child lit translators do, give them more visibility and, as FIT president Kevin Quirk said: “stand up for our rights.”

Ode to Translators of Children’s Literature

On this most momentous day
Let bells peal and flagpoles sway.
Let’s raise our gazes and sing the praises
Of literary translators in every way.

For you are the ones who make thousands of choices
While lending your readers your very clear voices
Reflecting the cadence and the tone
Of utterances soppy or dry to the bone.

Whether it’s text or speech, you do your best
Ask any one of us; it’s always a test
Of your envious strengths as you work your magic
On texts highly serious or even most tragic.

Whether it’s trashy non-fiction
Or literary greats,
You create understanding
You’re truly outstanding!

You deserve to be praised
You deserve to be proud!
You deserve a poem to be read out loud!

© Kevin Quirk, FIT President

A New Translation Residency in Slovenia (SUCCESS STORY)

A success story from Slovenia about the newly-established translation residency “Sovretov kabinet” ‒ “Sovre’s study” (Dol pri Hrastniku, Slovenia) run by the Slovenian Association of Literary Translators (DSKP).

In 2019, Marko Funkl, the newly-elected mayor of the Municipality of Hrastnik, offered DSKP a small renovated flat in the town of Dol pri Hrastniku to be used as a translation residency. The mayor himself has a background in translation and is very active in promoting culture in his municipality. Moreover, the Municipality of Hrastnik is the birth place of a renowned Slovenian classicist, Anton Sovre, after whom our best literary translation prize—the Sovre Prize—has been named. The local public library also bears his name.

The agreement between the municipality and our association has been that we can use the flat rent-free as long as we refurbish it ourselves and do the general maintenance work. Most of the furniture we bought new, some we received as donation from our members, and the mattress was donated by a local company that sells bedding and mattresses. At 48.45 m2, the flat has a living room and a bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small storage room. There are a post office, a shop, a restaurant, a café, and a bus station  close by, as well as a little cultural gem: the Zmajeva luknja (Dragon’s den) antiquarian bookshop, run by the Rast Association.  It is a hub for literature aficionados and culture lovers in general. The local public library has donated a transferable membership card for our residents, as did the local public transport company.

The residency program was launched in 2020 and, because of to the COVID pandemic, it welcomed its first residents in June 2021. It is open to translators of literary, humanities and social sciences texts who have published at least two book-length translations. In selecting candidates, priority is given to translators translating from Slovenian, whose translation project will help promote Slovenian literature and humanities abroad. The purpose of the residency is to facilitate independent translation projects by individuals. Successful applicants commit to participating in at least one cultural event organised by DSKP. DSKP provides for their accommodation, a flat rate for travel expenses amounting to EUR 200 and an EUR 200 fee for participating in 1-2 events organised by DSKP.

A New Consultancy Programme for Literary Translators Working with Catalan (SUCCESS STORY)

The Association of Catalan Language Writers (AELC), in collaboration with the Ramon Lull Institute, has inaugurated a new innovative consultancy programme that will match literary translators working in the same language pair, one of which is Catalan, with the aim of improving the quality of translations from Catalan in other languages and vice versa.

Participants will benefit from the insight and the expertise of a peer and qualified native speaker of their source language throughout their work on their translation project. In addition, the programme seeks to build an international network of professional translators working with Catalan.

The hope is that this new experimental scheme will be picked up by other cultural institutions that support literary translations, helping not just improving the quality of translated literature but also develop collaborative communities of literary translators. 

For more information on the programme itself, as well as on how to apply, please visit: 

https://www.escriptors.cat/noticia/projecte-consultoria-traductors and

https://www.ceatl.eu/new-consultancy-programme-for-literary-translations-from-catalan 

A literary translator in your neighborhood (SUCCESS STORY)

A success story from DHKP in Croatia.

Starting from the fact that at least 80% of all books published in Croatia are created by translating from foreign languages, the Association of Croatian Literary Translators (DHKP) has designed the project „Literary Translator in your neighborhood” so that readers can get to know the authors of those translations, people responsible for their joy of reading.

As part of the project, from February to July of 2018 DHKP organized several meetings of literary translators with readers in some informal city environments: in the city park behind the library in Dugave, in the mountain hut Puntijarka on Sljeme, at the Oncology Ward of the Children’s Hospital , in Bookar’s bookstore and in famous cafes Lusso and Kinoteka…

On those occasions, our translators read a clip from some of their translations and concisely presented the work to the audience with whom they talked about their vocation.

Meetings were moderated and prepared by Ana Badurina and Ursula Burger.

The goal of this project was to familiarize our citizens, in their neighbourhood,with the work of literary translators, to increase its visibility in the local community and in media. In addition, DHKP initiated this project as a step to those potential readers to whom it does not reach through conventional literary events.

On the Oncology Ward of the Children’s Hospital there were 5-7 children who were free at the time and did not receive any therapy. They were at different stages of their illness, so some just smiled or were very serious, others took part. We talked about the book “The Storm Whale” by Benjy Davies. One of the girls even read it in English (because she grew up in America), and we talked about their favorite animals and pets they have at home.

Some children arrived during the meeting, they were also accompanied by their parents.

After the discussion on the picture book, read by Vanda in Croatian and then ih English, we made a whale and continued a more informal conversation. A girl who was attached to infusions, and initially was terribly serious, began to rejoice and smile. We believe that, with our visit, we brought some joy and hope. The leader of Hospital School expressed interest to continue the meetings this year.

Conclusion: The project “Literary translator in your neighborhood” proved to be a valuable project that allowed literary translators to speak in a variety of environments in front of a diverse audience. Also, the project was very well advertised and attracted media and attention of public to literary translation. The project was reviewed on several occasions by various portals and newspapers and the Facebook announcements were submitted to the DHKP website. In the forthcoming period, it would be interesting to connect with the libraries of Zagreb and in cooperation with them to try to organize literary events in some of the smaller districts of Zagreb and its surroundings.

The #namethetranslator campaigns (SUCCESS STORY)

There is a tendency amongst reviewers and marketers of translated works to “forget” to mention the name of the translator. An author’s name is their brand, and failure to properly credit any author lessens their ability to make a living from their work. In most contries, this is also a breach of copyright law. 

A number of translators associations therefore have constant or recurring campaigns to raise the awareness of this among newspapers, reviewers and publishers, and encourage them prominently display the name of the translator when mentioning, selling or reviewing books. 

#namethetranslator is an ongoing Twitter campaign by TA (UK) to ensure the contribution of translators is recognised.

ACE Traductores (Spain) also runs a similar twitter campaign,#quiéntraduce (who translates).

The Danish web-zine Babelfisken (The Babelfish) has since 2017 published a list of omissions, under the heading: Oversætteren, der blev væk (The translator that vanished). It is simply a list, with no additional comments.

NO and NFFO (Norway) in 2017 did a survey of newspapers and literary magazines, publishers’ websites and book clubs to check whether or to which extent the translator was credited. The findings, published on the associations’ websites, were somewhat depressing, and resulted in the “Og oversett er …” campaign, which was continued throughout 2018.

ATLF (France) also did a survey of publishers’ websites, in order to make sure translators are mentioned. They checked the websites of all those publishers who publish translated books (that was a lot of work) and noted the addresses of all those who didn’t mention the translators. Then they sent them a letter, insisting on the legal obligation, but also on the fact that if the translator is not mentioned on their website, chances are s/he won’t be on Amazon, blogs, wikipedia etc. either. The results were pretty good. For about a third of them, it was an oversight, it just hadn’t crossed their minds (sigh). Some were a bit harder to convince. A few didn’t answer or got angry, for some reason.

Translators’ Encyclopedias (SUCCESS STORY)

Translators have played an important role in introducing literary styles, and in some cases, forming a literary language, yet we tend to know little of the translators who actually wrote the books in the target language, and they are rarely taken seriously as part of the national literary history. Individual translators remain in obscurity even today.

Hence “the encyclopedia movement”, which seeks to bring individual translators’ contribution to national literature into the light by publishing translators’ biographies. The movement started with the Swedish translators’ encyclopedia launched in 2009, a project undertaken at Södertörns högskola under the leaderships of Lars Kleberg. In recent years similar projects have been started in Germany, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The encyclopedias consist mostly of individual translators’ biographies, in addition to selected thematic articles on topics such as translation from particular languages or cultures, of certains genres or types of literature, or of specific authors or works such as Shakespeare or the Bible.

While both the Swedish and German are established by academic institutions, the Danish and Norwegian ones are run by the translators’ associations. Articles are written by academics, translators, journalists and other free lance writers.

Residential seminars (SUCCESS STORY)

In literary translation mentoring and lifelong learning it is important to distinguish between the teaching of beginners and professional, peer-to-peer mentoring.
There should be scientific criteria for the marking of students’ work, such as the use of an assessment grid showing different levels of error and attainment (eg. errors of anachronism, of rhythm etc.).

PETRA-E

The PETRA-E Framework of Reference for lifelong education in Literary Translation maps the competences of literary translators and levels in the acquisition of those competences. It is based on the experiences of translators and trainers and has been developed for teaching and learning purposes. I aims to help teachers and institutes to create tools and programs to acquire these competences. For students, the Framework helps to detect ‘gaps’ in their training and education.

The Framework consists of five levels (from breakthrough to expert) and eight competences (translating, linguistic, textual, heuristic, literary-cultural, professional, evaluative and research ones) all of which are described in detail. To each level a certain mastery of each competence is assumed.

The Framework is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Bulgarian.

Peer learning, residential seminars and Stammtisch

British Centre for Literary Translation Summer School – University of East Anglia (UK)

The annual BCLT Summer School brings together writers and translators for an intensive, one-week, residential programme of hands-on translation and creative writing practice.

For most language-specific workshops, groups have the unique opportunity to work on a collaborative translation with both the author in residence and the workshop leader. For translators working from any other languages there are two multilingual workshops, one for prose and one for theatre. These are designed for translators working from any language into English. 

All workshops are designed to encourage collaboration and peer learning in a small group setting (maximum of 10-12 translators in a group).

During the week, the workshops are complemented by creative writing workshops for all participants and also plenary sessions, such as publishing panels and lectures.

Warwick Translates – Summer School at the University of Warwick (UK)

Warwick Translates offers the opportunity to translate texts across the literary genres into English, working with leading professional translators. Groups will be limited to a maximum of 20 students. The course is taught in an all-day workshop environment using a variety of texts including non-fiction (essays, journalism, academic) and fiction (poetry, fantasy, children’s literature and crime writing etc.). There are plenty of opportunities for networking with publishers, agents, Warwick staff and one another.

ViceVersa – peer-to-peer residential seminars

ViceVersa is a bilingual, peer-to-peer residential seminar for literary translators, which has been successfully carried out with translators working with several language combinations.

The ViceVersa Programme an international programme for the continuous training of literary translators working to and from German, was set up by Deutscher Übersetzerfonds and Robert Bosch Stiftung in 2011.

In 2015 a similar programme involving translators to and from Italian was established under the name of Laboratorio Italiano by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and Translation House Looren. Such workshops are a unique opportunity for literary translators to meet their colleagues and tackle translation issues together in a constructive and friendly way.

Usually they have from 10 to 12 participants all working with the same couple of languages, half of them in one way and half in the other, meeting for a week. Each participant has the opportunity to present and discuss a three-page extract from one of their current
translation projects and ask for inputs from the colleagues to solve translation problems.

The aim of such workshops is not to evaluate a translator’s job, but rather to encourage lively discussion among colleagues based on actual practice.

AITI (Italy) continuing professional development

Continuing professional development is recognised to be essential for translators.

As to art. 7 of AITI Statute and art. 11 of Deontological code, each member has the duty to keep updated, study and learn as part of her/his professional development and growth, no matter the age.

The Association has established a three years programme with a detailed grid of reference to get a minimum number of credits. If an ordinary member failed in getting the minimum number of credits, he or she will be temporarily downgraded to the aggregate category for the following three years. 

Members send their documentation to the national Commission for Training and Learning through a simple, automatic form.

Members who have an institutional, active role in the Association will get credits for their work.

https://aiti.org/sites/default/files/utenti/tabella_crediti_formativi_2017_2019.pdf
https://aiti.org/sites/default/files/utenti/tabella_crediti_formativi_per_prova_di_idoneita_pfc_2017-2019.pdf
https://aiti.org/sites/default/files/utenti/pfc__guida_acquisizione_crediti_formati…ua_gennaio_2017.doc_-_documenti_google.pdf

The Translators’ Stammtisch: professional talks around the table (SUCCESS STORY)

Many of CEATL’s member associations hold regular meetings (the third Friday of every month, for example) to discuss matters relating to the profession – working conditions, contracts and so on; to share information about publishers and fees; or to talk about translation matters. The term ‘Stammtisch’ refers to the table reserved for regular customers in German pubs.

StammtischMeeting in given place regularly (for example the third Friday of every month) to discuss matters pertaining to profession – working conditions, contracts etc. ; share information on publishers and fees; or talk about translation matters. 
“TableT”Translators meet and discuss different issues concerning the profession, organised per language combinations and topics; participants bring food and drinks. Organised by AITI and Strade at Laboratorio Formentini in Milan, Italy
TranslabLanguage-specific roundtable
Translation surgeriesTranslators meet to discuss problems they have encountered in translation from any language
Group
therapy
Group therapy for literary translators at the Christmas Book Fair in Catalonia. This is a public event. Participants always start by: “My name is NN., and I am a translator.” They then go on to present a specific translation problem, which is subsequently solved by the other participants – or the audience.

Groundbreaking agreement between Strade and independent publishers in Italy (SUCCESS STORY)

On 3rd April 2016 a groundbreaking document was signed between ODEI (the Italian Observatory of Independent Publishers), STRADE (the Italian Union of Translators working in the publishing industry), and the SLC-CGIL (Italian Union of Communication Workers, which STRADE is joining to represent translators). These associations signed a code of practice for a fair relationship between publishers and translators. The code provides a series of guidelines: ‘Five Points for a Fair, Legal and Transparent Translation Contract’.

It was the first contractual agreement between an association of publishers and an association of literary translators in Italy. By signing it, publishers commit to respect all provisions of Italian copyright law and, in particular, to adopt only contracts of the type established and regulated by the law (‘Contratto di edizione’) in order to fully respect the rights of translators as authors. In addition, the document affirms that contracts must not only be legal but also fair. This is important because, due to the inequality of bargaining power between individual translators and publishers, many translation contracts, even though they formally respect the law, are weighted in favour of the publisher.

Unfair contractual practices not only jeopardize the actual protection of translators’ rights and their social role, but they also put at risk the proper functioning of the publishing system, which relies on collaboration between the various figures involved. This is why ODEI, STRADE and SLC-CGIL, who share the goal of building a pluralistic, ethical and economically sound publishing system, have established good contractual practices as a central pillar in their collaboration.

ODEI was later replaced by ADEI (Association of Independent Publishers), which continued the dialogue with STRADE. The code of practice is to be found in English, French and Portuguese translation on STRADE’s website.