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Two German events

Last minute notice about two German-related events in Bath!

Tonight (19 April), Bath German Society is hosting a talk on Brecht als Lyriker. The speaker is Dr Hartmut Logemann, professor of Mathematics at Bath University. The venue is Manvers St Baptist Church Hall.  Doors open at 7.30 p.m. for coffee and German conversation, the lecture will start at 8.15 p.m.

My colleague, Cherry Shelton-Mills, has organised an event at the Bath Royal Scientific and Institution (BRSLI). It is open to professional translators working with German as one of their languages. More information and contact details are available here.

Calling would-be linguists

Graduates with degrees in languages are in great demand so this event will help you to think about pursuing a career using your skills.  The Careers in Languages Day on Saturday 28 January (and again on Saturday 12 February) held at the University of Westminster, London, sounds like a good place to find out about the options open to you.

Check out this link for all the details you need - and contact the organisers direct. Have fun!

Training to be a translator/interpreter - advance planning

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In these days of economic depression, the news bulletins are full of doom and gloom about the paucity of jobs available for school-leavers and new graduates. It seems to be more vital than ever to start thinking about your future career as early as you possibly can.

In my view, it is never a waste of time to explore lots of options. Obviously, eventually you will have to narrow down the search but by casting your net wide at the outset you will expose yourself to lots of opportunities that may not have otherwise occurred to you. If as a native speaker of English you also speak a foreign language or two, there are lots of opportunities. One seminar at this year's Language Show (to be held at Earl's Court, London from 15-17 October) is entitled: Shortage of linguists - the EU and the UN need you.

Judging from the rest of the programme of seminars which has just been released, there are plenty of options available to job-seekers who can offer languages as one of their main skills.  Presentations will be held on recruitment to the European Parliament, working at the European Court of Justice, GCHQ, the European Commission and working as a conference interpreter. There is also a seminar about voluntary roles using your languages at the Olympics to be held in London in 2012.

There are also seminars for teachers of languages, learners of English as a Foreign or Second Language and learners of foreign languages. All this information under one roof over the course of a weekend!


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Danton's Death

Last weekend, I made a trip to London to see a production of Danton's Death by Georg Büchner at the Olivier Theatre.  The play was, of course, in translation, and I was pleased to see that the translators, Jane Fry and Simon Scardifield, were given a credit in the programme for the literal translation of the work.  

I was curious to know exactly what was meant by "literal translation". As the play was billed as "a new version by Howard Brenton", I imagine that the translators produced a faithful translation (but not necessarily word-for-word translation of the original text) which Brenton then used as the base from which to develop his adaptation. He had quite a task on his hands for he had taken a text written by a young German in 1835 which had the French Revolution as its theme. Brenton wanted to bring it to an English-speaking 21st century audience in London. It is hardly surprising that he had to adapt it a little!

This process of producing a translation targeted at a specific readership - such as a particular age group, income bracket or area of interest - is sometimes called "transcreation" in the translation industry. Transcreation involves translating the original text and then adapting it appropriately to make it relevant for the foreign readership. Sometimes this may require a few tweaks here and there, on other occasions, it may require a substantial reworking of the original text. I find, with one of my specialisms being Marketing, that I often have to produce transcreations to ensure that a German document is suitable for the British/English-speaking market.

Was Howard Brenton's transcreation of Danton's Death worth seeing? I think it has made something of an impression on me as I've been humming the Marseillaise for the past few days! It is not an evening of light entertainment (the clue is in the title) but it is certainly an absorbing one. Danton is played excellently by one of this country's most versatile actors, Toby Stephens, and I loved Elliot Levey's interpretation of the incorruptible Revolutionary purist. And the final scene is worth the ticket price alone. Breath taking.

Reviews of the play can be read here in The Independent, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. Interestingly, two of these reviewers complain that this version is too pared down. For me, such criticism just demonstrates how difficult the task of transcreation is. Overtranslation or undertranslation - and everyone has their view on where the line should be drawn!

 If you are interested in seeing the play, it is running until October 14.

Summer's End

For many in the UK today's Late Summer Bank Holiday marks the end of summer (not in Scotland where the holiday is a couple of weeks earlier).  Schools start back this week and the rhythm of life resumes a familiar pattern. The long light evenings are drawing in and will soon be a distant memory.

Sommerboken written in Swedish by the Finnish writer, Tove Jansson, and translated into English by Thomas Teal with the title The Summer Book is a delightful depiction of a young girl, Sophia aged 6, and her elderly grandmother, living on a tiny island for a summer.


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For months, they live an idyllic life, pottering around their small kingdom, planting seeds, watching the sea and the weather, and doing very little that they do not wish to do. Each is at the stage of life where the days are endless in a positive way: for Sophia the long, long school-free days stretch ahead and for her grandmother the days of diurnal duties and drudgery are over and she can more or less please herself how she spends the time she has left.

Grandmother is a bit of a free spirit, unconstrained by convention, and often happy to indulge in childlike pursuits. Sophia is wise beyond her years, thinking of her grandmother's constraints of age (her walking stick and dizzy spells) and together they pass the days seemingly without one eye on the clock, or worrying about what should be achieved.

By August, the days are drawing in and they make preparations to leave the island and start to put things away for the winter. Grandmother worries that people might land on the island and not know where essential things are kept. "A little later, she started worrying about the stovepipe and put up a sign: "Don't close the damper. It might rust shut. If it doesn't draw, there may be a bird's nest in the chimney - later on in the spring, that is."

This epitomises the innocence and generosity that run through the story evoking all that is perfect about summer.  It evokes that yearning in all of us that we seek to find on our summer holidays - the endless days of lightness and freedom.

Although I have been translating professionally for nearly 10 years now, I sometimes still take translation of literature for granted.  Had it not been for Thomas Teal's expertise in Swedish and English, this novel would have been a delight I would never have enjoyed. It is a charming read and perhaps one I may revisit in depths of winter to remind me of what is to come next year.


Wonderful clients


Over the ten years that I have been translating, I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful people.  I shall jealously guard the names of my favourite clients but I can tell you why I like them so much.

  • They include me in the project planning process
  • They check my availability
  • They book me well in advance
  • We discuss the purpose of the project together
  • We establish the target audience
  • We consider the appropriate language register
  • We build in slippage time for unforeseen problems
  • There is time to discuss knotty problems - such as obscure terminology
  • There is ample time for thorough proofreading
  • Result: an excellent product
When translators meet together, half their conversation is spent reciting the horror stories where only some (or none!) of the above points are taken into account leaving the poor translators feeling completely stressed out simply because their vital role has been included at the very last minute. Perhaps a subject for another post!

Welcome to my translation blog!

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News from TrànslationWörks, Bath, 7 August 2009


What exactly can you expect from my blog at TrànslationWörks?


I aim to celebrate the world of translation and translators. With good intentions and a bit of luck, I hope to raise the profile of the profession and foreign languages in general.  I have a feeling that the subjects covered will cover a wide range of topics and thoughts; some will be serious and others perhaps a little frivolous.

I'm looking forward to the journey and hope to share some of it with existing colleagues - and meet some new ones along the way, too!