Reading Translations

Reading Translations

Most of us in the translation and publishing industry have heard of Ann Morgan and her Reading the World project. In 2012, she read 196 books in translation, one from each independent country in the world: one book from Swaziland, one from Argentina, and so on. Her initiative received much praise and attention. Last week, she wrote an article for the Financial Times reporting that the amount of foreign literature translated into English is about 4.5% (slightly more than the often quoted 3%).  Morgan states that it’s still difficult to track the development of book translations, but that it’s a promising sign that a relatively high number of foreign authors such as Jo Nesbo (Norway) and Elena Ferrante (Italy) are bestsellers in Anglophone countries. We’ll continue to follow Ann Morgan’s work,  and if you’re interested in reading translations, here’s Ann’s top ten: Albania – Ismail Kadare Broken April Canada – Nicole Brossard Mauve Desert Czech Republic – Bohumil Hrabal Too Loud a Solitude Mongolia – Galsan Tschinag The Blue Sky Myanmar – Nu Nu Yi Smile as they Bow Pakistan – Jamil Ahmad The Wandering Falcon Serbia – Srdjan Valjarevic Lake Como (limited availability) Sierra Leone – Ismael Beah A Long Way Gone Tajikistan – Andrei Volos Hurramabad Togo – Tete-Michel Kpomassie An African in Greenland See more about Ann Morgan’s project here: In the U.S., Ann Morgan’s book The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe will be available in May...
Translate this Book

Translate this Book

Book translations open up worlds, cultures, connections. They spread information across linguistic borders, which empowers people, they improve understanding and bring people together. The financial crisis and structural problems within the publishing industry have put a strain on book publishing in general and book translation specifically – partially because it can be relatively costly and time consuming. Only about three procent of books in the United States are translations (if you care about increasing this number, check out the 3% initiative from literary translation promoter and publisher Chad Post). An overview made by English PEN, a global literary network, shows a promising list of recent and upcoming translations in 2015. What does it take for us to translate more books? Mostly, it’s willing and daring publishers and self-publishers, government grants, non profit initiatives, technology platforms, international cooperations between publishers, marketing savvy authors, internationally-minded authors, professional translators, editors and project managers, and, of course, curious readers. Get excited about the power of translation and watch writer Chris Bliss’ TED Talk: Comedy is...
Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Last Saturday, my colleague Koert van der Scheer and I visited the Frankfurt Book Fair – the biggest book fair in the world – in just one day (we caught an early train from Utrecht). We met with content distributers, content producers, people who are developing new content platforms, self-publishers and, of course, publishers. Many countries showed off their best books, from Macedonia to New Zealand and beyond. We loved the positive vibe, the cultural exchanges and we were impressed by the beautiful stands of, for example, Thailand: And this was Iran’s massive stand: There was a lot of activity at Russia’s stand: This year, in contrast to previous years, a bigger section of the Book Fair was reserved for self-publishers. Here are a four self-publishers sharing their experiences with a large, interested crowd: We were amazed by the amount of translation grants made available by national governments. At this moment, we are compiling a list of countries that showed great interest in promoting their authors abroad and supporting this with grant possibilities. It is our goal to actively help publishers and self-publishers finance quality translations. Translation is the best way to spread valuable cultural content and to connect people across linguistic...
Making or Breaking a Translation

Making or Breaking a Translation

Translating is a lot like walking a tightrope. When you finally find your balance, you can take a few steady steps in the right direction. Still, you always have to stay focused and make sure not to fall. You can either do really well or fail miserably. Our worldwide network of translators consists of linguists who have passed the ‘Textcase test’. This test consists of a short text that can be translated in an infinite amount of ways. It’s a creative text with multiple layers and pitfalls. I’ve read more than a hundred English-Dutch translations and every single one is unique. (Read this article in Dutch here and in German here) What makes for a good translation? In this article, I will go into the three main identifiable aspects, in order of importance: accuracy, readability and style. 1. A translation must be accurate. This means that the message needs to be conveyed fully, without any omissions or additions or changes to the meaning. In order to do so, a translator must have a profound understanding of the cultures of both the source language and the target language. Examples of challenges: – Cultural subtleties, such as slang, dialects, stereotypes and figurative speech. We use language as a means to manipulate and work with our environment and circumstances. Since both the environment and the people are different in every region, language has borders. Translator Antony Shugaar described this issue beautifully in The New York Times Opinionator last week: “People talk about untranslatable words, but in a way, there’s no such thing. It may take three words, or an entire sentence, or...
10 Book Translation Tips for Self-Publishers

10 Book Translation Tips for Self-Publishers

Self-publishing is exciting, and having your book translated can make it even more exciting. As a translation project manager, I work with major publishers and self-publishing authors. In this article I will point out how the translation process can be both effective and enjoyable. (Read this blog in Dutch here and in German here) 1. Consider language service providers that are specialized in book translations. They have a valuable international network of translators, writers, editors and publishers; they can easily find the right translator for you: someone who is excited about your book. Also, the agency can help you market your book at little or no extra cost.  2. Make sure your manuscript is definite and does not need updating. It is practically impossible and risky to change or even slightly modify the content once the translation process has started.  3. It is worth inquiring about royalty-based agreements. Sometimes it is possible to cover part of the translation costs this way. Another option is to consider crowdfunding – it has been done before. Our translation prices for 10.000+ words, for Western languages, range between $0.09-$0.12 per word, which includes editing rounds and project management. Lower prices could compromise quality and may be too good to be true. Agencies are not always more expensive than freelancers, as explained in point 7 of this article.  4. Before you give the job to anyone, ask the following question to the language service provider: what do you consider a good translation? It’s important that you are on the same page with the language service provider in order to prevent being disappointed. Our professional...
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