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Notes and Audio from International Translation Day 2017

  • By Free Word
  • 9th October 2017
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If you missed any part of International Translation Day 2017, then you can find recordings and some notes from many of the day's sessions here.

International Translation Day, hosted by Free Word and English Pen at The British Library, took place on Monday, 2 October.

This annual event for the translation community offers an opportunity for translators, students, publishers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and reviewers to gather and network, debate significant issues and developments within the sector, discuss challenges and celebrate success.

You can make your way through the full #ITD2017 playlist, view photos from the day or find more information about the sessions below.

Photo: Robert Sharp/English PEN


Welcome speeches and introductions from Free Word’s Director, Roma Backhouse, and English Pen’s Interim Director, Antonia Byatt kicked off International Translation Day 2017. Play the SoundCloud clip above to listen.

Opening Plenary

This plenary panel examines the UK’s changing demographics, and what they might tell us about who translators are and where we might find them. How has the make-up of our cities changed? Will translators of the future be drawn mostly from second-generation urban immigrants rather than (as in the past) primarily anglophones with modern languages degrees? Will Brexit make things worse, or better? How well is the diversity of our contemporary culture currently reflected in the translation profession, and what can we do to improve the breadth of that representation?

With Sarah Ardizzone, Vanni Bianconi, Adrian Blackledge and Francisca McNeill.

Chaired by Erica Jarnes, Managing Director of the Poetry Translation Centre.

With support from the AHRC “Translating Cultures” theme.

Translation Lecture with Helen Stevenson

A lecture with Helen Stevenson who was longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize with Alain Mabanckou for ‘Black Moses’. She shares her experience, practice, and advice, and discusses the collaborative work it takes to produce an outstanding book in translation.

With support from the Booker Prize Foundation.

 Translators at The British Library

Hear from curators and The British Library translator-in-residence about what the British Library can do for you.

This session will introduce some of the extensive resources available to translators and explore their potential for use across a wide range of research, educational, professional and creative work.

The Library’s collections include archives of literary translators, sound and oral history recordings, a vast array of print publications in most written languages of the world, historical dictionaries and much more.

With Rachel Foss, Head of Contemporary Archives and Manuscripts, British Library, Jen Calleja, Translator in Residence, British Library, and colleagues Pardaad Chamsaz, Deborah Dawkin and Teresa Vernon.

Translating Poetry

What are the specific challenges of translating poetry? Who is best equipped to do it – the solo translator, co-translators or even collaborative groups – and why? How do you best engage with a source text, and how do you ensure that the end result ‘lives and breathes’ in the target language?

Does it matter whether poetry translations are ‘marketable’, or do they exist primarily to further academic research?

And could translation be a part of the UK’s poetry ‘renaissance’?

Join practising translator and academic Sophie Collins, Literature Across Frontiers Director Alexandra Büchler and Poetry Book Society Manager Alice Mullen to mull over the big issues of the day for poetry in translation.

Chaired by Erica Jarnes, Managing Director of the Poetry Translation Centre.

Gender, Sexuality and Translation

No audio track available for this session but you can read notes here.

How do you translate a social construct? What can translators do when confronted with a text whose sexual politics are different from those of the culture they are translating into? And how can we work towards a more equal representation of marginalised groups in translation?

The panel will discuss implicit and explicit representations of gender and sexuality, ways to contextualise cultural differences, and how these reflect the challenges and joys of translation.

The panel will include Emily Rose, PhD candidate at the University of East Anglia writing about the translation of trans identity, ShengChi Hsu, PhD candidate at the University of Warwick writing about gender and sex in translation of Taiwanese literature, and Deborah Smith, translator and founder of Tilted Axis Press.

Chaired by Dr Chantal Wright, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick and coordinator of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation.

Translator or Activist: A Session by English PEN

Join English PEN‘s Cat Lucas for an informal session on the crossover between translation and activism.

For more than 50 years, PEN has been campaigning on behalf of writers at risk around the world – whether imprisoned, on trial, subject to threats or whose work is banned. Translation has always been a crucial component of this work: helping to inform the outside world of their situation, facilitating contact with their families and legal teams, and giving a voice to those that have been silenced.

In more recent years, PEN has also worked with displaced writers and those living in exile, many of whom have themselves been at risk in their own countries and often struggle to have their voices heard here in the UK. During this informal session, we will discuss the various ways in which translators can support PEN’s work and, more generally, use their linguistic skills for good. Join us to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Progress In Translation – New Initiatives for and by Literary Translators

This session looks at how the career of the literary translator as we know it has been changing over the last year through new opportunities, working models and self-initiated sidelines.

Coming together to discuss the significance, importance and, in some cases, necessity of these new developments are British Library Translator in Residence Jen Calleja, Ruth Clarke of new translation collective The Starling Bureau, and Shadow Heroes Co-Founder Gitanjali Patel.

The panel is chaired by Writers’ Centre Norwich’s International Director, Kate Griffin.

Effin’ and Blindin’ – Children’s Literature in Translation

No audio track available for this session but you can read notes here.

What is, and is not, acceptable in translated literature for children in different cultures? What to do when the story in the source language offends sensibilities in the target language?

The panel includes Mélanie McGilloway, school librarian and founder of librarymice.com; Alessandra Gallenzi of Alma Books; and Danish children’s publisher Elin Algreen-Peterson.

Chaired by Daniel Hahn, noted translator and advocate for children’s literature.

With support from the European Commission

Translating Human Rights

Translator and academic Amanda Hopkinson presents three South American authors who never intended to address human rights in their work, but found it impossible not to.

Professor Alison Phipps, lead researcher on Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language: the Body, Law and the State at the University of Glasgow, discusses the real life interactions that migrants face when fleeing their home countries. She is joined by the project’s poet in residence Tawona Sitholé. Chris Gribble joins the panel in his role as the chair of the board of International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN).

Samantha Schnee, Founding Editor of Words Without Borders, chairs the session.

With support from the AHRC “Translating Cultures” theme.

Translating Arabic

The panel assesses the cultural impact made by the literature of the vast, Arab-speaking region with its multiple countries and histories, on a global English-language readership that has become increasingly ready to engage with literature in translation.

Which works are translated into English and to what extent do they challenge or perpetuate stereotypes? Does ‘the Arab world’ as conveyed through the books we see published give us the whole picture – or are there many other works in Arabic which deserve to be translated?

Which authors and narratives are privileged over others, and which ones get left out? How do titles make their way into the English-language market, who are the gatekeepers who decide what is translated, why and when?

The panel includes Ali Bader (author and publishing editor), Alice Guthrie (translator, producer of Shubbak festival’s literary programme), Marcia Lynx Qualey (ArabLit blog), Wen-Chin Ouyang (academic, SOAS)

Chair: Bidisha (writer, journalist, broadcaster).

With support from The Arab British Centre.

Closing Plenary – Translation Centre Stage

[Foreign Affairs] Translates! is a programme designed to give theatre translators the opportunity to see and respond to their work performed whilst still in development.Translators are taken out of the usual isolated writing process and immersed in theatre practice, in order to improve the quality of their work through a greater understanding of the process by which it will be performed.

During this session, the audience were invited to navigate the practicalities of their craft in a mass-translation session alongside the company’s ensemble actors, led by William Gregory and Trine Garrett.

International Translation Day 2017 partners:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT), Literature Across Frontiers (LAF), Poetry Translation Centre, Translators Association (TA), Words Without Borders and Writers’ Centre Norwich 

With support from:

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Booker Prize Foundation, European CommissionWriters Centre Norwich, The Arab British Centre, Danish Arts Foundation and Arts Council England.


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