Poland’s Most Famous Translator Dies

Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak was born on 13 November 1946 in Poznań. After finishing high school, he attended and graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University, specialising in Polish literature. His literary debut was a poetry volume entitled “Korekta twarzy”. Stanisław Barańczak’s impressive output revolves around four main fields: academic and critical work in the field of literature, essays, poetic work and translation. The most significant of his translations are those of Shakespeare plays, for example Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, King Lear, The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew. “Barańczak’s writing taught us critical thinking, which was independent from mass hypnosis,” wrote Adam Michnik recently. “He is the subject of admiration for all of us engaged in matters of Polish literature. His particular mixture of a poet, a translator and a literary critic all in one, is very unusual. Having said that I admit I value his work as a poet the most,” wrote Czesław Miłosz on the occasion of Barańczak’s fiftieth birthday. The prestigious NIKE award, which Barańczak received in 1990 for his book of poems “Chirurgiczna precyzja”, is one of his most important literary achievements. Critics name his “Dziennik Poranny” published in 1972 and “Widokówka z tego świata” from 1988 as prominent, key works.
reblogged from Newzar

Poland’s Premier Translator Dies

RIP Stanisław Barańczak

RIP Stanisław Barańczak

Stanisław Barańczak, the outstanding Polish poet, translator and literary critic, has died at the age of 68, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had lived since 1981. For well over a decade he struggled with Parkinson’s disease. He was a key figure for Polish intellectuals of his generation, his students and readers, comanding respect both as a person of integrity and as a brilliant polymath. People who met him recall Barańczak as someone exceedingly gifted, hard-working and prolific, charismatic in his contacts with others yet modest and kind, as well as extremely demanding of himself and principled. He was equally dedicated to his work as a university lecturer, first in Poznań and then at Harvard, as he was to his own writing and translating. His peers admired him for his engagement in the Polish democratic opposition movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Barańczak’s restless mind, discipline and his extraordinary ability to give artistic expression to linguistic and poetic subtleties across languages left an impressive legacy. Antoni Libera, his long-time friend, remembers that Barańczak mentioned having translated over 2,000 poems. “Miłość jest wszystkim, co istnieje” (Love Is Everything That Exists), an anthology of 300 of the most famous English and American love poems selected and translated by Stanisław Barańczak, published in 1992, was a landmark book which introduced many Poles to the poetry of English-writing authors. Barańczak also translated into Polish 24 of Shakespeare’s plays. Polish actors in particular appreciate the lively, sparkling and rhythmic language of these translations. Stanisław Barańczak was an excellent essayist, who left an ample collection of lucid and insightful texts of literary criticism. Importantly for translators and aspiring translators, he published a series of perceptive, discerning and instructive observations on the art and craft of translation with descriptions of some tricks of the trade and explanations of specific linguistic choices. His merits in popularising Polish literature abroad, especially in the English speaking world, an activity he indefatigably pursued as a co-translator and a university lecturer, have been invaluable.
Reblogged from newzar.wordpress.com

Translators Disrespected

Actually, it's not

Actually, it’s not

You’re sitting at home (or at work) slaving over a translation when out of the blue you receive a call/email/text message* (delete where appropriate) from a colleague/friend/acquaintance* (delete where appropriate) who you have not heard from for quite some time. The message usually begins in similar fashion regardless of whether it is a phone call, email or text message and whatever the nature of your relationship with the interlocutor – a polite yet brief query as to how you have been these past few weeks/months/years in order to momentarily detract from the main point of the message. Your suspicions are raised immediately – this is not the first such message you have received from ‘friends’ – yet you remain quietly heartened by the fact that this person has decided to contact you after such a long time.

However, you listen/read on and within several seconds your fears are confirmed. Your mind is awash with a range of emotions – anger, frustration and disappointment. Once again, another of your so-called ‘friends’ has demonstrated their complete lack of respect for your profession, not to mention an utter lack of respect for yourself. This ‘friend’ has done the unthinkable – he has asked you for ‘help’ in order to translate a phrase/sentence/text. The plea is usually innocent and nine times out of ten the task is ridiculously simple but what especially irks is the justification this person uses to ask you in the first place. Perfunctory explanations like, “I know it won’t take you a great deal of time…” or syrupy statements like, “For someone like you, this should be really easy…” or to really add insult to injury, “This should take you five minutes at most…”

Who are these people to determine the period of time a translation task should take? And then demand that we perform the task? What is more, the very fact that it would take, for example, only five minutes is surely testament to the fact that we are good at our job. Specialists, as we all know, are usually richly rewarded for their specialist services. Why is it that people who are not translators believe translation should be undertaken for free? Do architects receive calls from friends to ‘do a quick sketch’ of a proposed design of a room? Do copywriters get text messages from colleagues to ‘come up with a short slogan’ for a product? Do accountants receive emails from clients asking them to ‘undertake a brief audit’ of an investment?

Translators, language specialists and editors need to show people unfamiliar with our work that the services we offer are akin to those services provided by other professions. Not only do we have similar time constraints and financial requirements but we also have the need to gain satisfaction from our work. Respect for the work we do is key to achieving this satisfaction. In today’s society, the one tangible way in which measure for our work can be achieved is through remuneration. This is, after all, what we do for a living…

When is an Indian not an Indian?

(c) Gulf News

'Indian' Become 'Hindus' in Polish

For the translator, geographical names are often unproblematic and the least of his or her worries. However, there are situations (terms and names) which are seemingly ‘easy’ to translate but throw up a whole range of quandaries, queries and questions. A wonderful example of such a term is the English word Indian which is not as simple to translate into Polish as one might expect.

The term Indian (meaning a citizen of the Republic of India), or even perhaps, a person living on the Indian subcontinent is most often translated as Hindus in Polish. Simple? Not really. As we all know, a fine test of translation fidelity is back translation. Unfortunately, this is where the translation of Indian into Hindus fails.

The chief problem with the word Hindus is the religious connotation that it holds. If we were to superimpose the semantic structure/map of the word Hindus onto the word Indian we would be struck by the fact that the two words inhabit different semantic spaces. Hindus can also refer to someone who is a Hindu (i.e. Hinduism, the religion).

This is, of course, problematic. Although the majority of the inhabitants of the Republic of India are Hindus (Hinduists), there are Indians who are not Hindu. Likewise, there are members of the Hindu religion who live in Nepal, Bangladesh, Bali and interestingly (from a political point of view) in Pakistan. What is more, the term Hindus can also be incorrectly interpreted as someone who speaks Hindi, which again is not necessarily correct.

Just as members of the Hindu religion inhabit countries other than the Republic of India so too speakers of Hindi do not only live in India. Major Hindi populations can be found in Nepal and Mauritius. Furthermore, Hindi and Urdu, to all intents and purposes, are the same language – Hindi-Urdu – but have two standardised forms (i.e. it is a pluricentric language). So when one refers (in Polish) to a Hindus does that mean an Indian, a Hindu or a Hindi speaker?

The case of Indian-Hindus is a wonderful caveat against taking translation for granted. What may seem to be a seemingly ‘harmless’ word may in fact throw up a host of political-loaded problems as the Polish word Hindus can occupy the semantic space of several English words. For example, would we call a member of the Hindu religion living in Pakistan a Hindus (in Polish)?

Obviously, the translator is left to his or her own discretion when choosing a word or phrase as an equivalent but being aware of a word’s etymology or ‘real’ meaning can often be the difference between a ‘good’ translation and a ‘phenomenal’ translation. However, returning to the issue of Hindus, for those familiar with the Indian subcontinent, the word Indus is sometimes used and appears to be an elegant equivalent of the English Indian.

International Translation Day

Jerome - Patron Saint of Translators

Jerome - Patron Saint of Translators

The 30th September is our festival. On this day, the Christian Church celebrates the feast of Saint Jerome, the patron saint of translators. In turn, this date later became associated with translators. The International Federation of Translators officially designated the 30th September International Translation Day in 1991, although this date has for a long time been recognised by many as ‘our’ day.

Not only is Saint Jerome the patron saint of translators but also the patron saint of archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, school children, students and… archaeologists. Jerome – Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus – was born c. 347 in Stridon not far from today’s Ljubljana. Although initially sceptical of the Catholic Church, Jerome later converted and grew in stature becoming a Doctor of the Church (there are only 33).

As well as making it into the history books for his scholarly work for the church, he is much admired by translators and Bible scholars alike for his contribution to Bible translation and translation theory and practice. In order to reliably master his language skills, Jerome moved to Jerusalem and Bethlehem to improve his Hebrew after which he completed several translations from the Hebrew Bible.

Up to that point the Koine Greek Septuagint was regarded as the authoritative source text rather than the Hebrew original. Jerome’s re-workings, revisions and translations led to the production of Jerome’s Vulgate. For him, a reliable source text was of great importance. So highly valued and cherished was this translation of the Bible, that it became the official Latin version of the Roman Catholic Church. Saint Jerome had finally left his mark.

Saint Jerome is also known for his humility, which can be a great example to all fellow translators. He was well aware of his inadequacies and weaknesses and is known to have often held up his hands and pleaded ignorance and admitted to being at fault which led him to regularly return to his translations in order to amend, revise and correct them.

Saint Jerome, patron saint of translators, archivists, Bible scholars, librarians, school children, students and archaeologists passed away in Bethlehem, on the 30th September 420. His work on translation paved the way for all the translators that followed him. Without him, translation would no doubt look very, very different. To mark Saint Jerome’s Day, we celebrate our own profession and the work of our fellow colleagues. Happy Translation Day!

Visual Translation & Interpretation

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A New Ray of Light?

To mark the fourth anniversary of transubstantiation (which was actually in June), the passing of the 90,000 hits mark as well as the fact that we were nominated to the Top 100 Language Blogs competition, we feel it is about time to breathe some new life into transubstantiation and give the site a subtle facelift. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, commenting and taking an active part in the development of the blog. Without you, the readers, transubstantiation would never be the success that it has been up to now.

While giving the site a facelift one cannot help consider the importance of the visual medium in translation. How important is the way the text looks? By this we are not referring to the structure, grammar or coherence of a text but rather the font style, font size, page layout, quality of paper and so on. For most translators this is a secondary issue. The primary goal is the communicative role – the goal is always to appropriately convey the message from one language/culture to another language/culture.

All things being equal, the visual aspects of the translation (that is, font, page, paper etc.) will never take centre stage and will always take final position in the long chain of activities within the translation process. However, in today’s visually-oriented world, how one’s work looks has become of greater importance. There are no excuses for poorly-produced work as 99% of translators own a word processor (complete with a spell checker) and printer. In much the same way that today’s students rarely hand in hand-written work to their tutors so to are translators expected to produce high-quality electronic documents.

Unfortunately, this race to ‘look good’ has also had some negative consequences. Many budding young translators have put the cart before the horse when it comes to translating. They focus first on their choice of font style, font size, page layout, paper and only after do they begin with the task in question. For some, the translation locus has shifted. This shift has unfortunately filtered through to our understanding of texts to the extent that an excellent, yet poorly-presented, translation might be poorly-received. On the other hand, a poor translation which is well-presented may have a chance of success.

What is important is balance, of course. Perhaps a useful rule of thumb is for translators to always begin their work by focusing on the content rather than the form. As we are all aware, however, sometimes focusing on form is simply a subtle method of procrastination when a difficult translational problem eludes us. That being the case, focusing on the visual medium will do little to help resolve our linguistic predicaments. A surprisingly useful, if not revolutionary, method for dealing with such procrastination and problem-solving in our computer-filled cosmos is to resort to a much-trusted and highly-underrated tool – the pen.

Just a Translator…

Football fans across Europe and the world were introduced to the fickleness of football fandom when FC Internazionale Milano (Inter Milan) took on FC Barcelona in a UEFA Champions League match. Inter Milan registered an aggregate win of 3-2 over two legs to knock out the Champions League Cup holders Barcelona and reach the Champions League final but one of the major talking points was the abuse hurled at Inter manager José Mourinho by the fans of FC Barcelona.

Much to the surprise of football fans and translators alike, the Barça fans expressed their hate of Portuguese-born José Mourinho by calling him “El Traductor” (the translator). To them, he was no a nobody. Mourinho, after four years spent at the Catalan club, also found the term derogatory. By calling him “El Traductor”, the Barça fans were not only disparaging his talents, but they were also suggesting he was nothing more than a translator.

Obviously, this was a classic case of ‘sour grapes’ as José Mourinho has in the past masterminded several victories over his former employees and the fans of Barcelona had no other way of venting their frustration, however, it is particularly saddening for translators and interpreters around the world to witness the ignorance of so many. On the other hand, José Mourinho can be a wonderful example to translators, interpreters, linguists and also non-linguists.

The former Porto and Chelsea manager and the self-proclaimed “Special One” was in fact an interpreter and translator working under manager Bobby Robson at Sporting Club de Portugal, then Porto and later at Barcelona, and following Robson’s departure under Louis van Gaal. Through his remarkable linguistic skills he was able to learn from the best in the business which helped him later become the best in the business. José Mourinho is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, French and English.

His attitude to languages is fascinating. To him they are tools. He began learning new languages due to the fact that the knowledge he required as a student was only accessible in languages other than his native Portuguese. As a budding football manager under the wings of Bobby Robson at Barcelona he quickly learnt Catalan because, as he himself is quoted as saying, he would find it impossible to work in a country in which he did not know the language.

In many ways, Mourinho is a polymath of sorts: he is skilled in six languages (although, by his own admission he finds German difficult) and is one of the most successful football managers of his generation (having won over fourteen major prizes in world football). May the abuse hurled at José Mourinho be a shibboleth for all of us. If we could all accumulate languages in the manner that Mourinho has done and have even a fraction of the success he has had then may we all forever be called ‘just a translator’.