Friday, October 27, 2006

It can happen...

I'm not intending to do these regularly, but when they're this brilliant, I just can't help myself - I dare say this may be the result of using a translator who does not have the required command of the target language:

Language Log: And next, facial poo

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Native speaker

One thing I am utterly fed up with is people (agencies, other translators) bleating about "native speaker" as a quality mark for translation. How in the world are we supposed to appear as a group of professionals if we keep using this subjective, poorly defined and irrelevant term as some kind of a holy grail?

I may come back to this point.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I've left this place a bit long between updates...

I've been very busy, and when I've been slightly less busy, I have been taking a virtual stroll through the Norwegian blogosphere. I like it there. I enjoy reading Norwegian blogs, and find it easier than trying to find good blogs in English. It's quite possible that my view of my home country and its inhabitants is more thatn a little coloured by nostalgia, but it's my impression that the average quality of the Norwegian blogs I stumble across is higher than the English language ones. There are several very obvious points to be made here regarding the total number of blogs etc., but I can't be bothered.

I don't really mean that these Norwegian blogs are particularly "important", or that the content is particularly useful, but just simply that they're generally a joy to read. I don't think I'm familiar enough with the Norwegian world of blogs (I've dropped in occasionally over the last couple of months) to proclaim anything definitive about it, but wanted to say thank you for the nice and thought-provoking/laughter-inducing reads. This means that I'm not blogging a lot at the moment, as I'm having such a fantastic time reading. Go, Norway!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ibsen 'stolen'?

Tore Rem has written a book (sorry, no link in English), in which he points out that the Ibsen the world outside of Norway knows is different from the one we know in Norwegian. Aftenposten's reporter seems to think that Norwegians will dislike this assertion. I'm just wondering if that's fair. Are Norwegians really unaware that this is a possibility, or is it that they think it's wrong, or don't they care one way or the other?

People I know here in the UK (the few who care about these things) assure me that it's (or at least used to be) quite common to think that Ibsen was British; as Rem points out, 'A Doll's House' is used as part of the curriculum for English literature in British schools. And when i write 'A Doll's House', that's what I mean; the text used is not 'Et dukkehjem', but an English language text. And that brings up interesting issues to do with choice of translation (there are many to choose from), which translation is 'correct', whether the translation is a version of the original text or a completely different text, leading an independent life, etc.

But to me it seems that Aftenposten's reporter views this as somewhat controversial. Is it? As somebody living in the UK might not be the right person to answer that question, but I think the book may be somewhat less shocking than is portrayed in the article. And when i had a closer look at what the publisher (Cappelen) has to say about it, it starts to look like a 'storm' in a teacup. Oh well. I'd quite like to read this book, just to see if it has anything interesting to say about translation, or about Ibsen. That isn't very clear from the article in Aftenposten.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Oh dear...

Well, it looks like this experiment is going right down the drain. My problem is that I usually feel like writing something in one of the languages. So I write a post, save it as a draft, and wait for the inspiration to translate it. But it doesn't arrive. It's letting me down, and I feel a bit disappointed and abandoned.

I work with translation all day, and finding the energy to translate everything I write as well may have been pushing expectations. I'm thinking a lot now, and I'm mostly thinking that these blogs are mine. So I can change my mind, and that's what's happening.

From now on I'm going to write what I feel like writing, in the language I feel like writing in, and translate it when and if I feel like it.

That's a lot of feeling, like (see what I did there?).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Scarlett Johansson

Ha! I sincerely hope that somebody gets this page when what they were looking for was something about Scarlett Johansson. Then they'll know how I feel every day when my Google news search emails me the results for my simple key word: "translation". Is it REALLY necessary for journalists to mention that pesky film every time they write something about her?

And while we're at it, shall we just stop the "lost in translation" references altogether, when writing anything about translation, anywhere? I for one don't think it's awfully original or funny or clever anymore (as if it ever was).

The news in my google alerts that aren't about Scarlett Johansson, but instead are making clever references to the movie title, are usually about interpreting - that's right; INTERPRETING. It's different. That's speaking, translating is about the written word. How hard can it be?

Stupid Google, stupid news, stupid Coppola, stupid everything.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Which country is preferrable for literary translators?

My impression is that translators are recognised to a greater extent in Norway than they are in the UK. What I mean by that is that people realise translators exist, which is a step in the right direction, although a lot of the attention they get is presumably the usual:

'look, I found a mistake made by the translator, look, there, MISTAKE'. I guess it's easy to overloook the rest of the text, where you didn't spot any notable errors, and which you may even have enjoyed; the author writes so well, in such a rich and descriptive language. But then the stupid translator went and interfered with the reading experience. Some people even claim that some translators are bitter, and that they express this through sarcasm. That's simply not true.

I guess we can thank Oversetteraksjonen 2006 (see link for explanation in English) for the column inches dedicated to translators in Norwegian newspapers this spring and summer. This even means that the issue discussed is more often than not something as vulgar as money. Well, I don't know. Your name on the cover of a book AND money? Whatever next? Wouldn't surprise me if they demanded an indoor swimming pool.

I have a strange habit of reading the Sunday Times on a Sunday, and I have developed a little game for myself for reading the book reviews; I guess whether a book has been translated from another language. I usually use the author's name as a clue, but it's not a simple task in today's world, where not all British authors are called something Smith (though admittedly, that would be confusing too). But I don't have any other clues, so I guess on. It's possible that they are planning to include this information, and even go to the extreme length of naming the translator, one of these days.

As I'm known for my vulgarity anyway, I'm going to mention money (arty, sensitive types may want to skip this brash paragraph). In the UK, The Translators Association, a subsidiary group of the Society of Authors, recommend a minimum price of £70 per 1000 words. Oversetteraksjonen are demanding a minimum fee of NOK 244 per page. It's not a lot, considering that nobody works continuously (it's usually contracts per book, maybe a series of books if you're lucky), and that you have to make your own arrangements for pensions and other things.

If somebody with a head for statistics can work out how the figures relate to each other (considering general salary situations in the two countries), feel free. I got stuck trying to figure out the basis for comparison, as one is quoting per 1000 words and one per page.

My conclusion: if you're a translator, you'd probably prefer to live in Norway (if nothing else, then just because books are actually translated into Norwegian in decent numbers). If you're a publisher, you'd probably prefer the UK, at least with reference to your relationship with translators. They're so insolent in Norway, but over here it's not even likely that you'd have to deal with any of them.

Lastly, I would like to point out that I am not attempting to express that Norwegian translators ought to be grateful, I'll leave that opinion to the publishers. I've never thought it was much of an excuse that other people have worse conditions, there's always somebody suffering worse conditions.

Oversetteraksjonen 2006 has my full support (and they struggle to hold back their tears of gratitude; without my support, the whole campaign would obviously fail).