Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 ITA Conference - Day 2

The second day of the Seventh International Conference of the Israel Translators Association (February 24, 2009) started with a plenary session, and then split into three parallel sessions.

The keynote speaker in the plenary session was Israeli author Eshkol Nevo, and his talk was entitled Secrets from the Writer's Desk. He spoke about how he found his ideas, how characters get lives of their own, how he collaborates with his translators into different languages and the difference between translations into languages he speaks and those he doesn't. Memorably, he compared working on the translation of a book quite a while after its publication, when he has moved on to other work, as similar to necrophilia!

As an aspiring writer, I love reading (or hearing) what authors have to say about their creative processes. As a translator, I also like discovering how authors work with translators. So this was a very welcome keynote speech.

I don't read enough Hebrew literature, partly because I read so much in English, and partly because I don't spend enough time in the Israeli cultural milieu. However, having heard Eshkol Nevo describe his work and read from his two novels, I bought them at the book fair (conveniently, the annual conference usually has a book fair that often sells books mentioned by lecturers...) and hope to read them soon. In fact, I may have to start writing a Hebrew blog in order to write about the Hebrew books I read.

Readers of English may be interested to know that Eshkol Nevo's first novel, Homesick, has been translated (by Sondra Silverston) and published in the UK. It will be published in the US later this year.

After the plenary session, I attended two lectures in the morning session. First I heard Ester Halac speak about Translating for an International Audience. This lecture discussed Global English (or International English, or English as a Lingua Franca), explaining that more non-native speakers use English than native speakers. Translators need to make their English simple and comprehensible for the target audience. She gave useful examples, and was pleased to hear from the audience that even in academic writing the active voice is now preferred. Or should I say: "... even in academic writing, publishers and editors now prefer the active voice"?

The next lecture was by Ilona Azar de Vlieger, entitled Think Global, Act Local. This lecture dealt with globalizing, localizing and culturalizing content for multi-national Internet projects. Since the Internet has only 23% worldwide penetration, and the greatest growth is expected in non-Western countries, translators will play a role in adapting web content to new markets.

After lunch, I attended two lectures in the first afternoon session. Fabienne Bergmann spoke about Linguistic Precision and Loaded Words. Translators often encounter culturally specific and politically loaded terms. These have to be translated into the target language accurately, without distorting the author's intention. It is currently less acceptable for translators to add footnotes or comments explicating the terms, or even to provide a glossary (except in some books), which makes this task more challenging.

Then the former ITA Chair, Micaela Ziv, gave an entertaining talk on the familiar problem encountered by English-speaking translators living in Israel: Hebrew starts to influence our English and we are at risk of writing Heblish. Being aware of the various ways this influence is expressed should help translators write "proper" English that doesn't sound like a translation.

After a short break, I attended two lectures in the second afternoon session. First I heard a relatively new literary translator (English and French to Hebrew), Shai Sendik, lecture on Getting Into Character: Creating Characters in Literary Translation. He compared the process of character formation by the translator to an actor learning a character before acting in a play (or film). The translator has to learn everything possible about the character, then think how to express this in the translation. I believe literary translation is difficult and subjective, and this lecture confirmed my assumption that a literary translator adds a level of personal interpretation to the text (and this is inevitable and acceptable). Some works of literature have been translated into Hebrew many times, in different decades, by translators with different styles and approaches. On a slightly different topic, Shai Sendik was asked how he, as an Orthodox Jew, deals with material he finds immodest. He said he avoids translating anything he considers inappropriate.

The final lecture of the day was by Yael Sela, entitled Editor-Translator Clash. This lecture described the complex relationship between literary translators and the editors of the translation (usually both freelancers employed by the publisher). Israeli publishers do not always encourage the translator and editor to collaborate, and sometimes even refuse to tell the translator who the editor is or let the translator receive the edited text before publication. Yael Sela has worked on both sides, so she was well-placed to explain the view points of translators and editors, and give specific advice on collaboration aimed at improving both the end product and the job satisfaction of both parties.

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