Letter From The Editor

Greetings, fellow translators and interpreters. I hope everyone is staying healthy in this difficult environment.

I also hope you will enjoy the new edition of the Gotham which begins with a profile of our President, Milena Savova. I think you will agree that her multi-faceted translation career is impressive.

To celebrate Women in Translation month (August), I am also including a write up of an online bi-lingual reading sponsored by PEN AMERICA which occurred on August 27, 2020. This event featured readings by authors and translators from around the globe in five different languages. I found it to be a unique and inspiring evening.

Finally, for all of us, but particularly for those who could not attend the Circle’s September 21st online meeting, I am including a write up of Professor Graham Neubig’s highly informative presentation on machine translation.

As the year draws to a close, please keep the Circle in mind for any articles that you might have written on industry issues or on your own personal experiences. We always look forward to receiving submissions from our members for eventual publication in the Gotham.

With best wishes,

Patricia Stumpp, Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Our President: Milena V. Savova

 

Milena V Savova

A native of Bulgaria, Milena brings a wealth of language experience to the Circle. Interested in languages from childhood, she learned French at home, studied English, Russian and German in high school and went on to study English philology at Sofia University. After graduation, Milena became a graduate assistant in the English Department at the University. She then progressed to a full time faculty position in translation studies and earned a PhD with her dissertation on Translation Theory.

She got her start in professional translation and interpretation when she applied for a job at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Linguists were needed to assist in diplomatic contacts with other nations. During one assignment with a Danish cultural delegation, she began asking questions about the Danish language, which so impressed the Danish representatives that they invited her to attend a one month course in Danish language and culture in Copenhagen. She participated in this course every year for four years and then was awarded a one-year scholarship to study in Copenhagen, an experience that she remembers fondly.

In 1987 she was awarded a Fulbright to study linguistics at Berkeley. Various U.S. academic posts soon came to her. After working as adjunct faculty in the English Department at City University in New York, specializing in ESL, she answered an ad for a position as head of the Foreign Languages and Translation Department of N.Y.U.’s School of Professional Studies. The position was particularly attractive to her since it encompassed her three main areas of interest: translation, foreign languages and administration. She spent 19 years at N.Y.U. in that capacity.

In 2015, always interested in the culture of the Far East, Milena attended a translation conference in Qatar. This led to a two year position in the Translation and Interpretation Institute in Qatar which began in 2016.  As Director of the Language Center there, she modernized the curriculum and developed a professional development workshop for language instructors.

Milena is currently an adjunct faculty member in Hunter College’s new translation and interpretation Master’s program where she is teaching a course in Theory of Translation, a subject that is near and dear to her. She also maintains a busy Bulgarian translation practice.

Milena’s two year term as President will end in January 2021. During her tenure as President,   she has greatly enjoyed working with the other Board Members and is proud of the work they are doing. Milena was instrumental in organizing the highly successful fortieth anniversary celebration of the Circle’s founding and is currently hard at work together with the other Board Members on the redesign of the Circle’s website.

Thank you, Milena, for your service to the Circle. Your translation journey is truly inspiring to all of us in the profession.

By: Patricia Stumpp

 

 

 

Bilingual Reading to Celebrate Women in Translation Month

On August 27, 2020, PEN AMERICA sponsored an online reading by five authors and translators to celebrate Women in Translation Month. The event featured works in Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Sinhalese and Turkish.   After the author’s readings, English translations were read by the translators. The event was moderated by the poet, translator and editor Nancy Naomi Carlson.

The first author/translator reading was by the Hungarian poet Zita Izso whose works have been translated by Agnes Marton. Zita is the recipient of numerous awards and grants for her poetry. Agnes is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK, is the reviews editor of the Ofi Press and the author of the recent collection Captain Fly’s Bucket List. The first poem, “Like Mouthbrooders,” is a devastating account of an attack on two sisters by soldiers of an unnamed army. As the elder sister is dragged outside from their hiding place and the soldiers force snow into the older sister’s mouth to mute her screams, the narrator recalls the taste of snow on her tongue when the two girls played in the snow as children. She thinks that God must be carrying her not in his palm as her mother used to say, but in his mouth since she cannot hear his voice, just as her own voice is silenced. The second poem, New Hope, is a brief elegy on the death of a beloved child.

The second pairing was that of Italian poet Mariangela Gualtieri and her translator Olivia E. Sears. Mariangela has published over a dozen plays and collections of poetry, among which is the bestselling book Bestie di Gioia. Olivia, whose translations of Mariangela’s poems have appeared in various publications, is also the founder of the Center for the Art of Translation and serves on the editorial board of Two Lines Press. Olivia read three untitled poems from “Beasts of Joy.” The first expressed the poets’ bond with the suffering of the animals of the world while yet acknowledging the moments of joy and lightness that still exist in the natural world. In the second poem, the poet used the metaphor of a goat to evoke the idea of sleeplessness while acknowledging that there is still happiness and light to be found in the darkness. The third was a beautiful evocation of a comet falling to earth from a distant star, bringing water, the source of all life, to the planet.

Natalia Rubanova and Rachael Daum then read from Natalia’s play which is tentatively entitled “Awesome” in English. Natalia’s plays have been performed in Russian and also in London, where she won the Best New Writing prize at the SOLO International Festival. Rachael translates from Serbian, Russian and German. She holds an MA from Indiana University and is the communications and awards manager for ALTA.  “Awesome” is an epistolary work told in the voice of a nameless young man who, like Goethe’s Werther, searches unsuccessfully for romantic love and ultimately destroys himself in the process. In the excerpt that was read, the narrator ruminates on some of his romantic encounters with women. The Russian text evokes the theme of the superfluous man prevalent in Russian literature going back to Pushkin while in the English translation there are echoes of the current incel and red pill movements.

The next paired reading was by the Sri Landan poet Thilini N. Liyanaarachchi and her translator Chamini Kulathunga. The first poem, “To be a Queen is a Sin” ponders the story of the sole female ruler in Sri Lankan history, Queen Annula of Anuradhapura. History portrays her as an “erotic being” who reputedly poisoned every man she married. At the same time, history ignores the fate of the many concubines of the kings of old. The poet wishes she could speak to the queen because only she knows what truly happened. The second poem, “Shall We Ask Time to Stop,” is a gentle musing on the poet’s aging mother and the poet’s desire to stop time and remain nestled in her mother’s arms. Also read was the brief and startlingly evocative poem “Inebriated Love,” which compares love to inebriation from substances like smoke and alcohol, a domain that is traditionally out of bounds for South Asian women.

The last reading was from the Turkish writer in exile Nazli Karabiyikoğlu and translator Ralph Hubbell. Nazli is currently a full-time resident of Georgia and is the winner of the Writers-in-Exile Scholarship awarded by PEN Germany for 2021-2022. Ralph Hubbell’s fiction, essays and translations have appeared in numerous publications. He is currently working on a translation of Oğuz Atay’s short stories. Nazli and Ralph read from a yet unpublished novel which describes the experience of a gay woman who has not yet come out but whose family suspects the nature of her sexual orientation. The family brings her to an exorcist with the goal of cleansing her of the “demon” living inside of her. The reading is a harrowing account of the physical and emotional stress to which the woman is subjected at the end of which the exorcist proclaims that she should be “OK” now.

I found this event remarkable in the breadth and intensity of the ideas and emotions expressed. To hear five such diverse and intriguing voices from all around the globe was truly an inspiring experience.

By: Patricia Stumpp

 

NYCT’s Machine Translation Meeting of September 21, 2020

On Monday September 21, 2020, the Circle presented an online seminar entitled “Artificial Intelligence, Machine Translation and Future Linguists Like You.” The presenter was Professor Graham Neubig from the Carnegie Mellon Language Technologies Institute.

Professor Neubig’s background is quite diverse in that it includes both computer science expertise and experience in interpretation and translation. Fascinated with computers from an early age, he had the opportunity as an adult to live in Japan as a professor in the Agricultural College at Kyoto University. During his tenure at the university he not only taught but also was called upon to act as interpreter/translator for various visiting delegations from other countries who came to tour the college.

In this fascinating presentation, Professor Neubig gave us an overview of machine translation, its technological underpinnings and its strengths and weaknesses. His first example was of a fairly successful machine translation from Japanese into English in which the machine was able to correctly identify the two personal pronouns used in the sentences (he vs. she) based on its ability to correctly associate the proper names in the sentences (Tanaka and Taro) with the appropriate gender.

A second less successful machine translation involved the translation of the Japanese word ko-do that has three meanings: cord, code and chord. In the English translation, the machine used the wrong word (code instead of chord) in a sentence related to music and the wrong word (chord instead of code) in a sentence which involved computer programming.

The professor then outlined the four most common methods of translation, all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. They are:

-Rule-based method: based on linguistic analysis, syntax transformation and word replacement. Limited by the number of linguists available to provide the necessary linguistic inputs in every language.

-Translation memory method: looks up the most similar sentence in the database but cannot generalize to new sentences.

-Phrase-based translation: looks up small chunks of a sentence and combines the chunks into full sentences. May result in sentences that lack fluidity and contain mistakes in syntax.

-Neural machine translation: feeds inputs into a probability model that predicts the next word. Better at syntax and fluency but can also make major errors.

It is important to note that all four methods are data driven.  For widely diffused languages such as French and German, billions of sentences are available to pass through the machine translation process while lesser diffused languages have access to significantly less data. The disparity in available data may affect the quality of the resulting translations.

This led to a discussion of Artificial Intelligence which the professor defined as “the technology that does something that seems intelligent.”  He also defined Machine Learning as “technology that learns from data to do something that cannot be done easily otherwise.” With the use of graphs, the Professor described the basics of neural machine translation as a sequence of mathematical operations capable of predicting each word in a sentence based on the probability of its use in a particular context.

In conclusion, Professor Neubig summarized what machine translation can and cannot do at the present time. Machines are good at capturing associations between words but not so good in cases where more than one step of reasoning is required. He believes that machine translation is good and will get better. However, it is not perfect, particularly in situations where little data exists, where non-literal translation is involved and where there are cultural implications which ideally would influence the choice of a particular word in a given sentence. In other words, machines are good at memory and speed  but not as good as humans at reasoning. In the future, high quality translation may result from a combination of both human and machine translation.

The Gotham would like to thank Professor Neubig for this thought-provoking presentation. Thanks go also to Serene Su, Program Manager, for organizing this fine event.

By: Patricia Stumpp

 

 

[Unknown A1]Would be better to add “…so the overall translation quality of the latter is lower than that of the former…” or similar at the end of this sentence.

 

[Unknown A2]Would be better if we add “at this moment” at the end of the sentence.

 

[Unknown A3]“Speech” should be “speed”.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

This edition of the Gotham takes a bit of a literary turn with “594 Ways of Reading Jane Eyre,” an article by Bonnie Chau reprinted with the permission of Poet’s and Writers, Inc. The article discusses a University of Oxford project that is studying the relationship of this literary classic to its many translated versions. In addition, I hope you will enjoy my write-up of the Circle’s Fifth Annual Open Mike Literary Translation night. This enjoyable online event included works by our members in various languages. The genres of fiction, non-fiction and poetry were all represented.

I’m also very pleased to share my interview with our Treasurer Sepideh Moussavi which highlights not only her distinguished career but also her untiring work with the ATA to establish a certification exam for the Farsi/English language pairing.

I wish all our readers a safe and happy summer. Please remember that the Gotham is always looking for original content for publication. Perhaps this would be a good time to put your translation and interpretation experiences down on paper and share them with all our members!

With best regards,

Patricia Stumpp, Editor

594 WAYS OF READING JANE EYRE

By: Bonnie Chau

Last summer, University of Oxford professor Matthew Reynolds, in collaboration with an international team of more than two dozen scholars, launched Prismatic Jane Eyre, a research project that explores the relationship between Charlotte Brontë’s classic 1847 novel and its many translated versions. In comparing the hundreds of translations that have been made across the globe in the more than 150 years since the book’s publication, Reynolds and his team hope to better understand the way a source text is read, absorbed, and transformed by translators, and the ways these translations reflect the culture in which they were created.

The project grew out of Reynolds’s wish to do a “collaborative, comparative close reading of several translations in different languages,” he says. This idea soon led to questions about the larger context of those translations and what other translations existed in the world. Reynolds says he decided to focus on Jane Eyre “because its internal conflicts seemed likely to play out differently in different cultures, because it is a popular as well as a literary text, and also because translation has a role within the book.”

In the project’s first phase, a team led by Oxford postdoctoral researcher Eleni Philippou spent the past two years tracking down every single translation of Jane Eyre since its initial publication. They unearthed a total of 594 different translations into fifty-seven languages, including Irinarkh Vvedenskiĭ’s colloquial Russian translation from 1849, Amır Mas‘ūd Barzīn’s 1950 Persian translation that he abridged by omitting subjects “not interesting to the Persian reader,” Yu Jonghos 유 종호’s 2004 revision of his 1970 Korean translation that substituted the former’s ornate Chinese vocabulary for more modern Korean language, and Amal Omar Baseem al-Rifayii’s translation from 2014, the only known Arabic version by a female translator.

A series of interactive world maps on the project’s website (prismaticjaneeyre.org) illustrate the scope and range of these many iterations, pinpointing each translation’s city of publication and noting its language, date, and translator. In this and other ways, the project emphasizes the individuality of translators, although, Reynolds says, “Usually all that is known of a translator is a name and often not even that—about 15 percent of the translators are anonymous, and an unknown number are pseudonymous.” The map’s color-coded display helps to illustrate where translations have proliferated. The website also features a time map through which users can trace the chronology of the translations, noting patterns or waves of popularity. For example, Jane Eyre was translated into Persian thirty times after 1950. “It was a surprise to discover how much those visualizations change one’s sense of where the book belongs,” Reynolds says.

During the project’s second phase, to be rolled out this spring or early summer, the team will compare the language used in about twenty-five of the translation languages. For instance, different translations of the title—originally Jane Eyre: An Autobiography in English—highlight different interpretations of the book’s themes. Titles such as 简爱 Jianai [Jane Eyre/Simple Love] in Chinese, and Jane Eyre: Yıllar Sonra Gelen Mutluluk [Jane Eyre: Happiness Coming After Many Years] in Turkish emphasize the book as a love story, while titles such as Kapag bigo na ang lahat: hango sa Jane Eyre [When Everything Fails: A Novel of Jane Eyre] in Tagalog, and Yatim  یتیم; subtitled ژن ئر [Orphan: Jane Eyre] in Farsi might point more toward social issues. The team will also explore patterns in the translation of the book’s key words and phrases. The words plain and passion, for example, are repeated throughout the original novel to describe the protagonist; both have been translated in endless ways, in accordance with the translator’s readings of Jane’s temperament, and exemplify the ways narrative style can reveal a culture’s values. In the third phase of the project, scholars will use digital tools, including one that measures the uniqueness of words in a passage of text, to analyze how style shifts and stretches across different languages—a glimpse of how technology may contribute to the future study of literary translation.

Reynolds and his collaborators hope the public will add to their understanding of the diversity of Jane Eyre’s translations. The team invites the public to alert them to missing translations, contribute personal translations of passages, and submit reflections, discoveries, observations, and theories. As the project proceeds, the Prismatic Jane Eyre website will be updated with findings, blog reports, and interactive features. In its fourth phase, in 2021, the project will publish a comprehensive volume of research, analysis, and essays, which will include a complete list of all the translations.

Prismatic Jane Eyre is part of a larger Prismatic Translation project, hosted by the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Centre, whose scholarship revolves around a set of theoretical stances on translation: “Translation is creative, not mechanical; it is a matter of growth as much as, or more than, loss. Translators are writers. Languages are not separate boxes but are rather intermingled areas on the ever-shifting continuum of language variation.” This attitude departs from historically conventional perspectives of translators as secondary or unoriginal. It also rejects the notion that translation takes place between discretely bounded languages and suggests instead that those boundaries are fluid and permeable. Reynolds hopes Prismatic Jane Eyre will further advance these ideas. “One of the main ideas driving the project is that everyone reads differently, and uses language differently, and that those differences are interesting,” he says. “The key thing in thinking about translation is not to reify standardized national languages but rather to recognize the great variety of textures and structures that language is made up of and the variability of the terrain that translation works across.”

Bonnie Chau is the associate web editor of Poets & Writers, Inc.

5TH ANNUAL NYCT LITERARY TRANSLATION OPEN MIKE NIGHT

On May 13, 2020 the Circle celebrated its Fifth Annual Open Mike Literary Translation night. Kate Deimling, VP of the Circle, introduced and moderated the on-line event which highlighted the translated works of eight Circle members.

The evening began with Miriam Kaplan’s translation from the Polish of Po Marcu, Wieden, Rzym, Nowy Jork. Miriam has lived and worked on three continents as a translator and interpreter in English, Polish and Hebrew. The book she translated is a collection of letters that the Anna Fraljick, the Polish poet and professor, and  her husband and sister wrote to their parents in Poland when they emigrated to the US after the 1968 Polish uprising, which unleashed a virulent wave of anti-Semitism.  The mother of the family kept the letters which were discovered some 30 years later after her death. The letters were especially interesting for the writers’ impressions of life in the free world with its corresponding culture shocks, such as walking into a Western department store for the first time.

Miriam’s reading was followed by Jeffrey Tao’s eloquent translations of poems from the Tang Dynasty which flourished during the 8th to the 10th century in China. Jeffrey was born in Shanghai and grew up in Hong Kong. A former senior Chinese Interpreter at the UN, he continues to work with the organization on a free lance basis.  The poems he read evoked many emotions such as friendship, loyalty, nostalgia and the love of nature and were full of lyrical images. Particularly touching were the ruminations of soldiers about to go to war such as those in “Moon over Mountain Pass” by Li Bai.

Alta Price, former VP of the Circle who has now relocated to Chicago, translates from German and Italian and also runs a publishing consultancy specializing in literature and non-fiction texts.  Alta’s reading was from Viennese-born journalist  Anna Goldenberg’s  I Belong to Vienna, which will be published by New Vessel Press this June. The author writes of her great grandparents who lived in Vienna during the Nazi regime. They were deported to a concentration camp together with one of their sons. The older son, Hans, however, survived by hiding in an apartment in the middle of the city and remarkably still used the municipal library and bought standing room tickets to the Vienna State Opera. Anna Goldenberg’s grandparents emigrated to the US but ultimately decided to return to Vienna. The author, who moved to New York in 2012, ultimately followed the same path, moving back to her native Vienna. The book is a reflection on the pull that one’s homeland can exert even on families who suffered incalculable tragedy and grief there.

Steven Capsuto is an ATA certified translator in Spanish/English, English/Spanish and Portuguese/English who also translates from French, Catalan and Ladino. He read from his translation of “Scenes of Jewish Life in Alsace” by Daniel Stauben (pen name C. August Widal) which was originally published in 1860 as Scènes de la vie juive en Alsace. The text was notable for its elements of magic and the supernatural as seen by a Parisian visitor who encounters the vivid myths and legends of rural French village culture.

Tatyana Lotarevich then read a poem she wrote in English entitled “What For?” Tatyana’s native language is Russian. She joined the Circle in 2017 while working for a women’s health research organization where she translated research and education materials. She currently works as a data manager for a social service nonprofit and writes poetry in her spare time. Her poem was a sensitive expression of the feelings one encounters when moving from one country to another.

Patricia Stumpp, your editor, is an Italian/English translator and a certified court interpreter. I read from my translation of actress and singer Gianna Coletti’s memoir Mamma a Carico which is subtitled Mia figlia ha novant’anni.  I translated the title into English as “My Ninety Year Old Daughter.” The book documents three years in Gianna’s life as a professional actress, caregiver to her aging mother and one-half of a long-standing romantic partnership. I read from the first chapter, which introduces the characters, from one of the last chapters in which Gianna’s mother passes away and from the epilogue. The book is filled with both pathos and humor and I greatly enjoyed translating it.

Kate Deimling, VP of the Circle, is an experienced French translator in the fields of fiction and non-fiction, art and culture, marketing and transcreation, public policy and international relations. Kate also heads the Circle’s mentoring effort. She read from her translation of French author Marc Levy’s book A Woman Like Her which will be published this month by Amazon Crossing. The book is a comedy of manners that describes the lives of the residents of a Fifth Avenue apartment building. The excerpt that Kate read describes the relationship of some of the residents with their elevator operator Deepak. As the book states, Deepak has two religions: Hinduism and Discretion. The end of Kate’s reading left us in suspense as we are told that Deepak’s orderly life, established during his 39-year tenure in the building, is about to undergo a big change.

Kate then mentioned that it has become a Circle tradition to end Open Mike Night with poetry. Consequently, the last reader was Maria Teresa Acosta who read two poems that she wrote in English entitled “Pouring it All Out” and “Soulless Smell.” A Venezuelan by birth, she worked with an NGO in the Amazon for 15 years and also in the Environmental Impact Assessment Industry, places in which English to Spanish bridging was needed. After arriving in the US in 2016, she began a full time career in translation and interpretation in which immigrant issues have played a central role.   The poems were the outgrowth of her experiences as an interpreter and vividly evoked the different environments she has experienced and the desire for justice and human connection.  Maria Teresa has also translated the two poems into Spanish as “Sin que me quede nada por dentro” and “Olor desalmado.”

Many thanks to Kate and Serene Su for organizing this event as well as to the participants and the Circle members who dialed into this on-line presentation.