Category Archives: Visibility

“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 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.