Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More translated literature wins awards

This time it is Latin America - and I need a new reading list!!

From Daily News:

Latin American literature got a high spot at last Thursday’s first Best Translated Book Awards.

Although the top prize for best fiction went to Attila Bartis’ "Tranquility" (Archipelago Books), translated from Hungarian to English by Imre Goldstein, the two finalists were Latin American novels.

Chilean Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous "2666" (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux), translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer, and "Senselessness" (New Directions), by Salvadoran Horacio Castellanos Moya and translated by Katherine Silver, were among the final three.

The event highlighted the domino effect of translations of Bolaño — starting with "The Savage Detectives" released in 2007 — which put the spotlight on contemporary Spanish-language literature.

"It always helps us when a writer has that kind of impact because it opens the door for everybody," said host Francisco Goldman, a journalist and author of Guatemalan descent.

"Translation of Spanish-language literature is leading the way of this whole translation boom we’re seeing right now."

Bolaño’s last novel, "2666," was originally published in Spanish in 2004 and centers on the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez. The author died in 2003.

"Senselessness" is the first of Castellanos Moya’s novels to be translated into English.

Only 160 pages long, it’s the story of a freelance journalist hired to edit a Catholic Church report on the military massacres of indigenous people in an unnamed Central American nation. The author, who was born in Honduras, uses gruesome details and humor to describe the events.

The 2009 Best Translated Book Awards were presented at Melville House Books of DUMBO, Brooklyn.

They are the brainchild of Three Percent, a University of Rochester online blog and resource for reviews that takes its name from the fact that only 3% of books published in the U.S. are translations — and of those, only .7% are literary fiction or poetry.

Takashi Hiraide’s "For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut" (New Directions), translated from Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu, won for best translated poetry book.

"A translation is a new thing," said Chad Post, director of Three Percent and Open letter, a translation press. "It’s not just taking [the original work] and putting it in a new language. It’s about finding the spirit of that book and making it its own entity."

The awards, which will become an annual event, are presented to the translator and publisher for works published the previous year.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The English Not Producing Enough Interpreters

From BBC:

The European Commission has launched a recruitment drive for native English speakers, predicting a serious shortage of interpreters.

The demand for mother-tongue English translators is fuelled by the fact that it has replaced French as the "lingua franca" of the EU's civil service.

EU bodies risk losing about half of their English-language interpreters in the next 10 years, the commission says.

It says English-speaking countries are not producing enough linguists.

Many native-English linguists were recruited from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s after the UK and the Irish Republic joined the EU.

But the commission says that as they reach retirement age they are not being replaced at the same rate.

The commission says it is looking to recruit about 300 English "native speaker conference interpreters" within the next 10 years.

It acknowledges that it faces competition from UN bodies for top linguists.

"There is a tangible deficit in the number of English booth interpreters available... at peak times," it says.

EU institutions employ an army of interpreters to cope with the needs of the 27-nation bloc.

The European Parliament alone employs up to 1,000 interpreters for its full sessions. With 506 possible language combinations the interpreters often work via a third, or "relay", language, such as English.

The EU has put a video clip describing the role on the YouTube video-sharing website, to interest young English speakers in interpreting.

The commission says there is also a shortage of Romanian, Latvian and Maltese interpreters.

Commenting on the commission statement on Thursday, Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth deplored the decline in language skills in the UK.

"The lack of fresh graduates with adequate language skills is a great concern and reflects years of declining importance of foreign languages in our schools...

"Hundreds of future linguists are not being given the start in our schools that they need. Great talent is being allowed to slip through the educational net and the results will be felt in our economy," he said.

No Appeal For Translation

From the ABC:

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan have lost an appeal at the United Nations-backed genocide tribunal underway in Cambodia to have his case-file translated into French.

Khieu Samphan and his legal team had argued that French was one of the court's three official languages, and that if the associated documents were not available in that language, he would not receive a fair trial.

The appeal was lodged with the tribunal late last year, with Khieu Samphan's French lawyer, Jacques Verges, arguing that less than 3 percent of the 60,000-page case file had been translated into French.

However Judge Prak Kimsan, the head of the tribunal's pre-trial chamber, ruled the appeal was inadmissible because the court's rules do not provide for appeals relating to translation issues.

One Name - 50 people?

Dublin - The mystery of Ireland's worst immigrant driver, a Pole logged on the police computer as Prawo Jazdy for more than 50 motoring offences, has been solved, local media reported on Friday.

Prawo Jazdy seemed to repeatedly get tickets after being stopped by traffic personnel throughout the country for a range of motoring offences.

It appeared that to keep one step ahead of the authorities, the Polish motor menace gave a different address every time he was stopped.

Finally the vital clue emerged that brought Prawo's motoring mayhem to an end: Police realised Prawo Jazdy means driving licence in Polish.

An internal police memo from a member of the police traffic division leaked to The Irish Times newspaper says that it had come to his attention that colleagues inspecting Polish driving licences were noting Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder's name.

"Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence," the memo said.

The policeman found that computer system had created Prawo "as a person with over 50 identities".

A police spokesperson told reporters that as soon as the misreading of the licences had been discovered "the matter was rectified very quickly". - AFP

Book on translation theory wins Sheikh Zayed Book Award

Abu Dhabi, 22nd Feb. 2009 (WAM) -- Secretary General of Sheikh Zayed Book Award Rashed Al Oraimi announced Saturday winners in two categories, arts and translation for the 2009 Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

The award for best translated book is granted to Dr. Sa'ad Abdulaziz Maslouh, Professor of Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts / Kuwait, for his book "Translation theory: contemporary trends" for the interpreter's ability of transcending from a simple "transfer" of knowledge and technology to a broader framework that encompass science,culture and novelty.

"This valuable work adds a new prospect in translation/interpretation by investigating the correlation between comparative literature and linguistics; an approach that has been studied in the western academic world three decades ago whilst lacked attention in the Arabic universities.

The book provides the reader with insight into the nature of translation, language and communication across cultures. The book includes five new approaches and explores strengths and weaknesses of each. It was highly commended by the selection committee" said Al Oraimi.

Lending their voices so nothing gets lost in translation

An interesting insight into community interpreting in the USA. Oh, and please read the comments at the end of the article!

Charles Sheldon took a seat outside Medford Municipal Court Thursday morning and waited to become someone's voice.

Sheldon, 77, has worked as a state-certified interpreter for Jackson County courts for 23 years. He is one of several freelance interpreters working daily to bridge language barriers across the Rogue Valley.

Freelance interpreters remain on-call for government and private businesses when they need help communicating with non-English speakers, primarily Jackson County's growing Hispanic population. According to 2007 figures by the U.S. Census Bureau, 8.7 percent of the county's residents are of Hispanic or Latino origin.

The basic description of the job is to accompany a non-English speaking person to a doctor's appointment or a criminal trial and translate verbally what is being said by everyone involved.

Sounds easy enough. Right?

An interpreter has to communicate in real time as the events in the courtroom are unfolding. It requires quick thinking and the ability to wrap your tongue around "legalese" in two languages simultaneously.

"It can be exhausting to interpret for long periods of time," Sheldon said. "Often during trials, more than one interpreter will be inside the courtroom to spell each other."

Sheldon works primarily out of Medford Municipal Court, which deals with minor infractions such as speeding tickets within the city and various code violations.

Sheldon said his services are required about 50 percent of the time. He usually meets with the person scheduled to appear for a few minutes before he or she enters the courtroom. He goes over a few details surrounding the case, which may make it easier to interpret complex terminology during a swift-moving trial.

Sometimes, though, the terminology is not so complex.

"You have to say exactly what a person says, to the word," Sheldon said. "That means if someone curses or swears at the judge, you have to say that."

On Thursday, no Hispanic defendants appeared on the docket, but Sheldon stayed for 20 minutes after court began.

"Just in case," he said.

The old days

There was a time when few gave interpreting much thought.

Sheldon remembers when interpreters did not require formal certification before stepping into a courtroom.

"It was a very loose arrangement," he said. "Sometimes defendants would just bring a friend along to interpret."

Most Oregon interpreters are freelance workers who make themselves more marketable by achieving certification in their chosen language.

Rebecca Segura, who owns Segura Language Services based in Medford, said the tests to become certified are rigorous.

"The written tests are very difficult," Segura said. "After passing it, you have to take an oral exam that is just as hard."

Sheldon, who grew up speaking Spanish in Southern California and has done missionary work in Costa Rica, admitted he did not pass the legal-interpreting test the first time.

Oregon employees 100 certified interpreters proficient in languages ranging from Russian to Vietnamese. Interpreters are paid $32.50 per hour, according to the Oregon Department of Justice Web site.

Spanish interpreters make up the bulk of the program, according to Court Interpreter Services Program Manager Kelly Mills.

The need for Spanish interpreters in the court system remains strong, though the numbers of interpreters hired recently have not spiked, Mills said.

"The majority of cases today do not go to trial," she said. "They more often than not reach plea deals."

State-certified interpreters must pass a code of ethics test before they are allowed to serve the public.
The job often puts those in need in a vulnerable position, as they are at the mercy of their interpreter. There have been reports of interpreters bilking clients out of money.

On Feb. 14, The Oregonian reported that court interpreter Phuong Anh Ly, who worked in the Portland area, was arrested for embezzling money from Vietnamese-speaking clients. She was on the lam for stealing the identity of a client when she worked in a medical clinic.

"You are held to a high standard in this work," Sheldon said. "The justice system relies on that."

Something different every day

There is no typical day for a freelance interpreter. The job requires the ability to switch gears to meet challenges in a wide range of situations.

An interpreter can spend the morning at a trial and then accompany an Occupational Safety and Health Administration official to a construction site to interview workers to see whether the company is following state labor-safety laws.

The interpreter could then end the afternoon at a doctor's office with a non-English-speaking patient who faces cancer surgery.

Medical interpreting remains a highly valued skill in the community, and often is traumatic for the interpreter as well as a patient who receives bad news from a doctor.

Natalie Stawsky, 43, has worked as an interpreter since 1994. She started as a journalist with a Spanish radio show in Los Angeles. She then discovered the need for medical interpreters and decided to give it a try.

Stawsky works as a yoga therapist at the Rasa Center for Yoga and Wellness on State Street in Medford. She has a Spanish-speaking woman in one of her yoga classes who benefits from Stawsky's ability to communicate in her native language.

"I started interpreting for fun," Stawsky said. "Translating keeps your mind sharp."

When interpreting for medical clients, Stawsky said she endeavors to build a level of trust with patients, as many are nervous going into a doctor's visit.

Job can be stressful

The job can be tough, especially when an interpreter has to communicate bad news. Stawsky has been in situations when a doctor has told a patient he has a terminal disease. She also has worked as a 9-1-1 operator and been part of some extremely stressful calls.

"I have had to take breaks from interpreting because of these situations," she said. "As an interpreter you cannot say to the person, 'I am so sorry for what I have to tell you' and then say what the doctor said. You have to say exactly what the doctor says without putting yourself into the conversation. It can be hard."

Some of Stawsky's most trying jobs involved debtors seeking to collect money from poor families.

"Those calls are probably the most stressful," she said. "Debtors can be very harsh."

Neither Stawsky nor Sheldon give a thought to a client's immigration status. It is not for them to decide who is allowed to remain in the country or whether someone is committing an illegal act, they said.

The service does have unexpected rewards. Stawsky has interpreted for women who are in the midst of childbirth.

"I have had several babies named after me," she said. "Which is funny because some of the time I only dealt with these people on the phone and have never met them."

"Oh, he doesn't speak English!"

It takes an English-only-speaker to do something like this in public :-)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Michael Feingold On Translating Brecht

From Press Telegraph, Long Beach CA:

Q. A Google search turns up a director who criticizes your translation, comparing it unfavorably with the 1952 translation of the Threepenny Opera by Marc Blitzstein. How do you respond?

A. Most people have only vague notions of what's involved in translation. They don't know either the original language or the musical score. The fellow you quote is dealing in generalities and doesn't really say much about why Blitzstein's translation might or might not be preferable to mine. Blitzstein was a very great artist in his own way; what he did was right for his time, and a lot of it is still effective. But a lot of it has less to do with Brecht and Weill than one might wish. There's an additional problem in that Brecht loved to rework, and developed big disagreements with Weill, as many composer-writer teams do, about the shape of the work. Later versions published by Brecht have often been produced by people who mistakenly thought they were performing the work as seen in Berlin in 1928. The two estates specifically commissioned me to translate the original 1928 version.

Q. Do you incorporate Brecht's theories and instructions designed to keep the audience at a distance and teach them his social lessons rather than involving them in the characters?

A. Brecht's theories are mostly a matter for directors and actors to use in approaching the work. I translated his stage directions as I found them. The really hard part was capturing his poetry. Brecht was an extraordinary writer; it's possible to say that people put up with his theories for the sake of his poetry. Theory isn't really very important in art - it's something for academics to jaw over.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Welsh Getting No Justice

RED-FACED Whitehall bosses are spending £4m upgrading a new courts IT system – because it can’t translate documents into Welsh.

But despite the whole project taking more than a decade to develop it was not programmed to send out summonses in Welsh, as courts are required to do by law. The Ministry of Justice has been translating summonses manually on request since Libra was introduced, and will continue to do so until the problem is fixed in September. However, the ministry has yet to sign the contracts for the upgrade work, and admits the £4m cost is only an estimate.

The case puts the Government’s notorious record on IT projects back in the spotlight – even the defective Libra project was seven years late and £260m over budget.

(Sort of like Queensland's SmartCard venture. It still doesn't know the Exhibition Station exists!)

A classic case of "Computer Says No" in the not-so-little Britain?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Asylum-seeker language test under scrutiny

ABSTRACT: "Language tests in immigration contexts typically perform a gate-keeping role in decisions about whether an applicant should be granted residence or citizenship in a new country. In refugee contexts, so-called language tests or language analyses also play a gate-keeping role, but a more ambitious one; namely that of providing answers to questions concerning the genuineness or honesty of asylum seekers' claims about their origins, whether national, regional, or ethnic. That is, the way that an asylum seeker speaks in an interview with immigration officials is analysed or assessed to help in the determination of whether to accept this person's claims about their origins. It is this assessment of language that is the subject of this article, in which I will explain the methods used and then highlight some problems that have been addressed by linguists. The acronym LADO is used to refer to such “language analysis” used for the determination of origin, but it should be understood that much of the “language analysis” in this area appears quite superficial"

Thus starts Dr Diana Eades article in the latest issue of Language Assessment Quarterly, warning that it is anything but scientific. "[They] are based on several folk linguistic views about the way people should speak that aren't borne out by the research on how language works," says Eades. A common or 'folk' view is that there is a one-to-one correspondence between nationality and language, but this is not true.

First, with widespread migration, there are immigrant groups in most countries who speak different languages. For example, Turkish in Germany, Vietnamese in Australia and Urdu in Afghanistan.

Second, national borders do not always coincide with linguistic borders. For example, a number of languages are spoken by indigenous people in Afghanistan as well as in neighbouring countries, including Dari (Farsi), one of the two national languages. In cases we have considered, members of the Hazara ethnic community from Afghanistan speak a variety of Dari which is also spoken in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran; Urdu, which is the official language of Pakistan, is also spoken by some communities of speakers in Afghanistan.

Many people believe that a person's national or ethnic identity can be determined by the use of a particular word or the way it is pronounced. But this is not necessarily true, because of two factors: language spread and linguistic change. Eades says that there are lot of subtleties in the way language works that makes this job not as easy as it would seem. There is language morphing and language leakage, for example, which means that there is nothing really called an "authentic" language for a particular area.

Not to mention that only trained linguists can provide some insight into the probable origins of a person. Many commercial companies being hired by governments (read the Swedish Eqvator) to analyse language are offering it as some kind of scientific fix that is relatively easy. "The department just sends off a cassette recording and some money and then they get back one of these one and a half page reports." The companies often use the judgement of native speakers who don't have linguistic training and have a narrow view of how the asylum speaker should speak. "It's equivalent to saying that because someone used the US term 'elevator' instead of 'lift', they are not from Australia, That's the level that these reports are operating on."

Eqvator and its notorious "language analysis" have been discussed since 2002. Tim McNamara, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Melbourne, published a paper in 2003 called "Linguistic Identification in the Determination of Nationality", in which he revealed that Eqvator, a privatised offshoot of the Swedish Immigration Board, carried out the language analysis relied on by the Australian government in determining whether it owes protection obligations to asylum seekers who arrive here without documentation. The work is done by interpreters, often themselves former asylum seekers, and others with varying but undisclosed degrees of linguistic training. The work of Eqvator has been the subject of ongoing criticism by linguists in Scandinavia. Professor Ruth Schmidt from Oslo University pointed to a number of problems with two Eqvator ' language tests' which she examined in 1997. She found that neither of them contained any scientifically recorded data for pronunciation or grammatical features, nor did they contain an adequate description of the language situation in the country from which the speaker claimed to come.

If this had been a simple linguistic discussion, that would be fine. But refugees are being refoulled back home to death and torture, because they happened to pronounce one word in 15 minutes of an interview in a language perceived as not their own!

Writing us out of the job??

I heard it somewhere just a few months ago: translation agencies, squeezed by a diminishing market in the recession, will opt into selling their clients technology instead of translators. And you thought that Machine Translation was bad? Think again, it saves us time. But we used to be able to make extra money editing, typesetting, DTPing.

"TransPerfect has provided translation services for various divisions of Arch Chemicals for over 4 years. Through the expanded relationship, Arch Chemicals will also implement TransPerfect's GlobalLink GMS technology platform which will automate many of the manual and labor-intensive tasks associated with procuring translation services. GlobalLink technology may be either installed or hosted; Arch will implement GlobalLink's hosted solution, which enables the company to benefit from drastically reduced project management time, more cost-savings from enhanced leveraging of previous translations, and faster time-to-market for translated content, all through a secure and intuitive web interface. "

This "leveraging of previous translations" simply means that they will be writing less in simpler English, unify the terminology, and produce information in a way that will not necessitate the presence of a human translator.

According to John Hott of Arch Chemicals' global Regulatory Affairs department, "Based on our longstanding relationship with TransPerfect, we knew they would provide our company with exceptional service and translation quality. By centralizing our translation projects with TransPerfect and implementing their GlobalLink technology, we will now also benefit from more consistent terminology and more efficient project management."

Oh yeah. Meanwhile, TP will try to offload the REAL translations, in hundreds of thousands of words, at some peanut rates and incredible deadlines. Simply because they think humans are part of the GlobalLink, too. Kegs. Bytes. Zeros and ones.

More carnage for translators

Translating religious texts has often been wrought with danger for the translator. William Tyndale's was the first English translation to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to take advantage of the new medium of print, which allowed for its wide distribution. In 1535, Tyndale was arrested, jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year, tried for heresy and burnt at the stake. Most well known for his translation of the Bible, Tyndale was an active writer and translator. Not only did Tyndale's works focus on the way in which religion should be carried out, but were also greatly keyed towards the political arena. He wrote, "They have ordained that no man shall look on the Scripture, until he be noselled in heathen learning eight or nine years and armed with false principles, with which he is clean shut out of the understanding of the Scripture."

Five centuries later, very little has changed.

In 2007, Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai, a spokesman for the attorney general, helped print 1,000 copies of an Afghan language translation of the Quran. Some of the men of the mosque said the book would be useful to Afghans who didn't know Arabic, so they took up a collection for printing.

Because the translation did not have the original Arabic verses of the Quran, Islamic clerics accused Zalmai of breaking Shariah law by modifying the holy book. Many clerics rejected the book because it did not include the original Arabic verses alongside the translation. It's a particularly sensitive detail for Muslims, who regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and a mistranslation could warp God's word. The clerics said Zalmai, a stocky 54-year-old spokesman for the attorney general, was trying to anoint himself as a prophet. They said his book was trying to replace the Quran, not offer a simple translation.

Zalmai has been in prison for more than a year, along with cleric Qari Mushtaq Ahmad of the Kabul mosque, who asked him to reprint the translation.

Last year, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh also faced execution for allegedly distributing literature questioning the role of women's rights in Islam that was deemed insulting to the faith.

Under the universal right of freedom of religious expression and even the Constitution of Afghanistan, these men violated no law in translating the Quran as they did.

A little bit of common sense would tell us that if you believed God to be omnipotent, then you'd have to believe that you were a tad above omnipotence to be able to "warp God's words" by translating them into another language. Besides, even if Zalmai and his crew had put the Arabic text alongside their translation, the average Afghan would have no clue whether theirs was a faithful rendering of the text, since they cannot read Arabic. Besides, one would have thought the Almighty to be able to smite the translator outright, and not need the support of rather ignorant clerics for that!

Reminds me of the translation by Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, who cause a furore in 2007 by translating the notorious 4:34 verse to mean "send away" instead of "to beat" (we are talking domestic violence here). The discussion of the verse by Dr. Bakhtiar can be found here. Mohammad Ashraf, the the head of one of Canada's leading Muslim organizations said he would not permit Bahktiar's translation to be sold in the bookstore of the Islamic Society of North America (Canada). His logic? "This woman-friendly translation will be out of line and will not fly too far," he says. "Women have been given a very good place in Islam."


NZTC Doing Well

In case you are asking why I am writing a sales pitch for a Kiwi company - I know Liz Seymour. She brought 4 of her staff to the AUSIT Biennial Conference last November, and is a very nice person to talk to. My comments are in brackets.

The Dominion Post yesterday was quoting Liz as saying that "export's success is anyone's language", and followed it with some interesting data: 60 per cent of NZTC's 1500 clients are based overseas, mainly in Europe, Asia and North America (nota bene: NOT IN AUSTRALIA). The centre has 32 staff in Wellington, marketing representatives in Auckland and Melbourne and 1000 contractors worldwide. Its annual revenue is less than $10 million; it translates into more than 70 languages and specialises in high-end technical translation, which can include localising software for exporters and translating user manuals and promotional materials for medical equipment companies.

In-demand languages include Maori and Pacific languages, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese. Now being in-demand does not mean they are expensive - apparently the most costly are Maori, Niuean and Amharic, an Ethiopian language, at $85 per 100 words translated, while French, Dutch and German are cheapest at $40 per 100 words.

Ms Seymour says translation trends follow the economic fortunes of countries.
If a country was economically strong and exporting many goods, demand for translation of its language would be strong (so we shall see a dearth in translating from English, now that the USA has capsized belly up). The addition of eastern European countries to the European Union has increased demand for translation in those languages (but they don't pay well!). New immigrants coming in, such as Somalis, also create new demand (again, no money in this - community translating is cheap, and public service will be the first to cut translation out of its budgets with recession). The centre is yet to see recession-wary firms reduce translation services. "Some companies have been asking if we can do more work. They want to boost sales and marketing efforts overseas." (Not what I am hearing from Europe).

Good luck, Liz!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

If You Thought the Tax Office Could Kill..

..then you have seen nothing yet! For some, being killed because of taxation is a real threat.

Form D/4a from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance is sending waves of anxiety through the community of Iraqis who work as linguists, translators and interpreters for the U.S. military in Iraq. For the “terps,” as many U.S. troops and diplomats call them, the form is a prelude to a disaster. Unless their identities are kept a closely guarded secret, they fear, they and their families will be hunted by insurgents, militias and death squads — many of whom are tied to or work for the Iraqi government — for collaborating with the U.S. military.

It is not the first time in history that interpreters are perceived as traitors to their own country. La Malinche, was born the daughter of a cacique during the rule of the Aztecs in the early 1500s. As the daughter of a cacique, she was considered part of the noble class and allowed the opportunity to attend school. She was sold into slavery, eventually ending up in the hands of Hernan Cortes and the Spaniards during their conquest of the Aztecs. As an interpreter. One could argue that without Doña Marina serving as his interpreter and enabling him to communicate with the Indians, Cortes may not have been able to defeat the Aztecs, or at the very least, not as readily. Several accounts indicate that La Malinche was also responsible for foiling more than one Aztec plan to attack Cortes and the Spanish army. Her various roles as interpreter, Cortes’ mistress, and informant, led to the less desirable labeling of her as “La Chingada” (not a very polite term) by modern Mexicans. Understandably, many Mexicans regard La Malinche as a traitor. Her role as an interpreter has often been sullied by this perception. She has become the embodiment of the famous saying “Traduttore, traidore.”

The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Translation Studies, edited by Mona Baker and Kirsten Malmkjaer, says this: "In the colonial context, we find translators and interpreters, but particularly interpreters, taking on an amazing range of responsibilities which go far beyond linguistic mediation. Interpreters in the colonial context acted as guides, explorers, diplomats, ambassadors and advisers on Indian and local affairs; that is why they were sometimes branded as traitors, because they were indispensable to the colonial authorities".

In his article "Interpreters in conflict zones: what are the real issues?" , AIIC member Eduardo Kahane talks about "US army, NATO, the UN peace keeping forces, the European Union, ministries of foreign affairs, journalists and humanitarian and development NGOs like Médecins du Monde" as well as major companies who use interpreters in areas of conflict: "It does not occur to these organisations to use professionals because a makeshift arrangement with locals is cheaper than taking on the financial responsibility of offering proper pay and conditions, danger money, and life, invalidity and sickness insurance. This is a cost of conflict and war that nobody has quantified because it is not paid in money, but with the lives and sacrifice of local interpreters (their lives are apparently not worth much) and the lives of their families, who likewise bear the brunt of conflict. We must not forget that once the occupying forces and humanitarian agencies have left, the interpreters are vulnerable and without protection because their previous activity marks them out for the warring factions as traitors to the cause or collaborators with their employers or the enemy. "

Over 200 interpreters died in Afghanistan in just 2006. "Using people suffering economic hardship, who are badly informed and not properly covered for the risks they run when working (often kidnapping and death) is similar in more ways than one to using human shields in war, something that has been defined and strictly banned by the Geneva Conventions."

Anyone there listening????

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Idiomatic African and not so idiomatic translations..

From Cape Town with love - some comments on how the very idiomatic expressions in isiXhosa are being translated in mass media into English by less than qualified translators:

isiXhosa: Mabayeke ukuthakatha nga bo mama nabo gogo bethu ku ma-TV ngenjongo zokufumana amavoti
What it really means: people must stop abusing the elderly for political gains
English translation - painfully literal: they are using old women for witchcraft

isiXhosa: Sithe masize apha sizokhahlela oo Kumkani
What it really means: We are here to salute our kings
English translation: the ANC is here to kick the chiefs into line

Sesotho: "Dikgetho tsena etlaba ntwa ya dibono"
What it really means: "These elections are going to be hotly contested
English translation: "This shall be a war of the buttocks".

Zulu: "Siyobona ukuthi iyozala nkomoni" -
What it really means: "We anticipate the real outcome"
English translation: "We shall see the type of cow it will give birth to".

Sepedi: "Kgankga oja nkgawane" -
What it really means: "It's a challenging situation"
English translation: "Kgankga is eating the smaller one".

Comical it is not.. even in comics

What does Bill Jemas know about Biblical Hebrew? So he has a Juris Doctor from Harvard. And he brought Marvel Comics back from the dead by rejuvenating Superman. Great achievement, indeed, for a JD.

But to rejuvenate the Book of Gensis though a new translation that reminds one of sci-fi sounds like so much postmodernist crap, that one wonders if anything in this world remains at all sacred. Listen to this:

The King James version: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and Earth."

Jemas' verbatim translation reads: "‘in principles conceive powers-that-be unto the heaven and unto the earth.”

Did he use Babelfish, or mescalin? He calls this a Freeware Bible, and even presents his point of view as regards the translation: "The translation data comes right from traditional translations and their annotations, from articles and books by respected Biblical scholars, and from other concordances (Bible dictionaries). I can not promise that the database is perfectly accurate and all-inclusive. But I can say it comes from reputable sources and that I did my best to be objective in deciding what to include and exclude, so that you can come to your own understanding of the original ideas.." So you can come to your understanding? Geez, most people can't understand the news they read in the daily paper, or a manual on how to start a video player. And Jemas expects them to have the erudition to use a concordance to decide on the best translation of a long dead language? Even modern Jews disagree on that, and agree to disagree.

Then comes the "methodology" that would make any educator aghast: "The first step in the translation process is to read the ancient scripture one word at a time and try to figure out which modern words best represent the ancient ones. " READ ONE WORD AT A TIME? Now we are in the domain of R2D2? I wonder what reading Homer, or the Vedas, or maybe the American Constitution one word at a time do to our comprehension and the unity of the text!

I am sure Billy Graham and the Chief Rabbinate will be highly impressed with the new work.. but any chances that it will be part of a curriculum at any seminary is extremely low. Unless Yoda starts one.

Corona (Queens, NY) City Council Elections Tend to Become Anal

The perpetual error in Spanish that seems to beleaguer English-speakers. An election campaign poster for a Council candidate in Corona, Queens, NY. In English and Spanish. Años and anos..
"Solamente e los 15 años..." a few years without a tilde makes you into a multiplicity of backside openings, or whatever.. Might be helpful in a City Council to be more.. err.. open...