Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to work for an award-winning online journal Art in Translation, founded at the Visual Arts Research Institute (VARIE) of the University of Edinburgh. The journal is a highly applaudable initiative which serves the art historical community through making foreign research more readily accessible, but also elevates the role of translators in the process. Their own mission statement reads:
“Art in Translation (AIT) is the first journal that takes as its mission the publication of quality English language translation of the most interesting articles on visual culture presently available only in their source language. (…) It will introduce the English-speaking readership to new areas of scholarship that share as their main qualities their excellence and originality.”
One such article is Stanisław Czekalski’s “The Internationale of Automobile Salons and the Hagiography of Revolution. Mieczysław Szczuka at the Crossroads of New Art” (June 2012 issue of the journal). The author looks at the Constructivist movement in Poland in the 1920s and the dilemma of artists such as Szczuka, who were caught between political ideology and the need for artistic freedom, between communist propaganda and Western commercialism.
It was a great pleasure to work on the English translation of the above text. It is always very gratifying to work on a project, which allows one to learn, and not just linguistically. It also allowed me to work in tandem with my husband, who happens to be an art historian and a native speaker of English, and therefore a perfect proofreader of my translation.
As a side-mention, an important source of existing English translations, which I used in my work, was this anthology: Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds), Art in Theory 1900-2000. An Anthology of Changing Ideas (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003).
In the past 6 months I have disappeared off the surface of this Earth and started to live virtually in the Blogosphere. All of this, because of my last large translation project – Polish localisation of Tumblr! I have to say that no other translation job has had such an impact on my life as this one and I can confirm with all certainty that Tumblr is very addictive!
What is it like translating a popular site like Tumblr?
Well, it’s been an exciting but also a humbling experience. Nothing puts you more under pressure than a few very vocal and devoted users of the platform who all have very clear ideas (often very different ones too!) of how things should be translated – if translated be they must!
I think what surprised me the most was the possessiveness (I can’t think of another way of describing this) of those Polish users, who felt that their best-kept secret was just about to be revealed to the wider masses of the unworthy. They have been using Tumblr happily in English and didn’t want to share the platform with a broader Polish audience. They liked the idea of being privy to something very special and exclusive (only in terms of language accessibility – Tumblr is anything but ‘exclusive’).
Having been on Tumblr for a few months, I think I can understand this now, but don’t appreciate the selfish viewpoint of those few. What I have learnt about Tumblr is that it is full of very creative and talented people from different walks of life and I get inspired every day looking at what they produce, discover and do. Some of them pride themselves for being an anti-mainstream crowd. They put themselves in opposition to Facebook, which is for “everyone else”. In this respect, there was some discussion in the translation process about how NOT to sound like Facebook!
I have also found some very generous users and have made friends. In particular, a wonderful person from Poznań, who was one of the beta testers, but turned out to be more than that. She kept my spirits high in the moments of “doubt and despair” and provided ample input and advice. Ave - I do hope we meet in person one day, as I still owe you a few drinks for keeping me sane back then!
Translating Tumblr is not a one-off thing. Tumblr is dynamically growing, changing, expanding and there is always plenty to do for the team of localisers (currently 8 languages and more coming up). So I have been sucked in, but sucked into something that I wouldn’t want to go away from…
You can find my Polish Tumblr blog here: Polka Dot. I also work on the Polish version of the Tumblr staff blog – Tumblr: Blog ekipy.
I have recently re-watched the British animated film “Father Christmas” (1991), which is based on two graphic novels by Raymond Briggs – “Father Christmas” (1973) and “Father Christmas Goes on Holiday” (1975).
As on the first viewing of the film, I was amazed at the subversive interpretation of this classic children’s character – Santa is a grumpy old man, who likes his liquor and complains about his job. He goes on holidays to France, then Scotland and Las Vegas, where he over-indulges on drink, food and partying before returning home to read his post and prepare for his busies day of the year. We never hear him say “Merry Christmas” – instead he calls it “Bloomin’ Christmas” – and that’s the curse word (milder version of “bloody”) he uses in every sentence in the film.
Brigg’s Santa is not unlikeable and he has a good heart, but he is depicted as much more human than the St Nicholas I had grown up with in Poland. Watching this animation, my reaction was a totally mixed one including disbelief (are you for real?), confusion (but you can’t do this!), amusement (this is funny!), guilt (I shouldn’t be seeing Santa’s naked bottom!) and awe (you couldn’t get away with this in Poland!). It also brought home the fact that, despite seeing myself as an open-minded person, I have been brought up with a certain model of the world and that it is hard to see beyond that experience.
This irreverence and taboo breaking seems to me a very British thing: from King Henry VIII’s break up with the Catholic church to comedy shows of today (“Father Ted” is a good example) – Brits seem to be always questioning authority and testing the limits of what is allowed and what isn’t. “Father Christmas” made me realise that there is a big difference in mentality between Britain and Poland, with the latter one desperately trying to hold onto its national heroes and traditional figures of authority (political, religious or cultural) and maintain their special status – above everyone else. In Britain, nothing is really off-limits – one can make jokes about the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Church, the politicians and Santa Clause. After all, we are all only human!
“So jump up on my sleigh and we’re all on our way to another bloomin’ Christmas!”
I have just discovered a simple and good Diff tool, which I thought I could share. Diff Checker is an online tool, meaning you don’t have to install anything on your computer. Less clutter – less hassle – it’s all good news. I pasted two large blocks of text (old and new), which I copied across from an Excel file. The formatting was not affected and the text rendered correctly. You also have an option of uploading two files. Then just clicked Find Difference! and the tool displayed underneath texts showing the highlighted areas where both documents differ. Really simple, really effective. I will definitely use it again in the future.
Kasper is now 3,5 years old and his linguistic explorations continue to amaze and entertain us in both languages. I speak mostly Polish to him, while the shared language at our home and in the nursery is English. It is proving more and more difficult to keep the two languages separate, but also to use Polish consistently on my part. The English-language surroundings are becoming more prominent, as Kasper is becoming increasingly more interactive, conversational and interested in socialising with his peers (as well as snails, dogs, cats, sheep and any other creatures we encounter on a regular basis).
Kasper’s vocabulary is expanding every day and his sentences are becoming more complex and grammatically correct. Since starting the nursery, his English stock of phrases has been enriched by typical play/interaction vocabulary, which indicates acquiring new social skills of negotiation and rule-making:
-What colour do you want? (dividing up the toys to ensure everyone knows whose in charge of which train)
-That’s wrong. This way! (verbalising rules of the game)
At the same time, he is learning to express his feelings (-Kasper is very cross! or in Polish – Kasper gniewa) and his wishes (-I don’t like that! or in Polish -Nie lubię. Coś innego (Something else)).
Kasper continues to mix up both languages, although he will make entirely English or entirely Polish sentences. He will also make phrases using both languages and inflect English words with Polish endings (e.g. meerkatów, even though he knows very well the Polish term “surykatka“). His grasp of grammar in both languages is becoming more and more apparent, however, it also reveals the limitations of learning Polish mainly from one source of language. Kasper often uses the feminine form when referring to himself (Polish verbs contain this information in their endings, while English ones don’t), and would say -Zrobiłam / Posprzątałam / Wstałam…I am trying to signal to him that there is a difference between the way boys and girls express stuff, but hope that he will naturally pick up some cues from his Polish cousins.
Kasper likes to repeat new words and Polish pronunciation poses no difficulty to him, but sometimes he gets the words wrong. Recently, as a result of learning the word “policja” (the police) and Alicja (my name) – he started mispronouncing “ulica” (street/road) as “ulicja”, a word he previously used correctly. When practising the correct pronunciation, he sometimes loses his patience with me and mocks me and my didactic tone of voice. Similarly, he used to be able to say “babcia Jadzia” referring to his Polish great grandmother, but in recent days has started saying “babcia dziadzia” (it’s easier), which I find hilarious (sounds like he was saying “grandfather’s grandmother”), but also a little embarrassing in front of my grandma.
We have just spent some time in Poland, which I think charged his Polish language batteries a bit. Kasper managed to communicate very well with my family, although confusions are still inevitable and we, the parents, remain the only people on the planet who really get the more obscure utterings and references in this 3,5-year-old’s code, whether in English or in Polish or both.
This is a really fascinating talk by Patricia Kuhl, which gives us some better understanding of how second language acquisition works for babies. She answers questions, such as why it is important to start providing input in a second language as early as possible and why contact with a human being – a speaker of that language – is necessary. Babies do not acquire language from recordings and television!
This year, Proz.com’s celebration of the International Translation Day stretches over a whole week. It seems that the ambition and vision of the Proz.com staff has no boundaries and they keep raising the game.
While there is nothing better than a face to face interaction – these virtual conferences are an exciting addition (in the last 3 years) to the already broad range of networking/learning opportunities offered by Proz. We have seen by now two days of events focused around the site itself and issues of online promotion/collaboration of translators, while today is a big recruitment day.
It is not too late to join yet – we are currently starting day 3 with some more big events on the horizon. I am particularly looking forward to several sessions presented on the last day – 30th September – at the 2011 ProZ.com freelance translator virtual conference:
Data backup for translators – by Marek Buchtel
Creating a Marketing Plan for Freelance Translators – by Tess Whitty
Be Special II in a Nutshell – by Suzanne Deliscar
Negotiation – a little effort goes a long way – by Konstantin Kisin
I will be also interested to see other translators’ advice on SEO (Ioana Mihailas and Stanslaw Czech) and online promotion (Marcela Jenney, Tess Whitty, Stanislaw Czech).
See you there!
I am looking forward to a new programme by Stephen Fry on world languages: Fry’s Planet Word. It will be shown on BBC2 from the 25th September.
In a recent interview Jonathan Ross described Stephen Fry as the most desired party guest, and I must agree. I would love to be sat next to him at a dinner party – he is definitely a Renaissance man and I doubt he has time to sleep. Not with all the blogging, twitting, writing, filming he seems to be doing.
By the way – here is Stephen Fry’s website – which I do find really cool and colourful – just as Fry’s life seems to be.
This is a rather amusing story of one of my favourite radio stations and how I got to know of its existence. Nowadays, I listen to it online on my laptop or through my wifi radio and I love it just the same as the first time I heard it. This is a story of true love at first hearing, followed by a heartbreaking separation and a happy reunion after years.
After my graduation in Poland in June 2004, I joined my husband to be in the UK and we started off living in a very central area of Brighton. We were flat-minding a lovely little apartment in the first few weeks while searching for somewhere else to live in the long term. We were driving back home one evening when we picked up this fantastic radio station that really mesmerized us. Very quickly we found it on our home radio and just marvelled at the great music taste of the DJs and the programming. It played everything from jazz, blues, chanson, world music, film music and classical, often in playful sequence with original track immediately followed by a sampled version or around some theme. We were intrigued by the fact that the station was French (neither of us speaks any French) and played music non-stop with only short news updates and introductions. Most of the DJs were female with very sexy and velvety voices.
Alas! After we moved into our flat in Brighton’s ‘posher but duller’ twin – Hove – we were out of range of our mystery radio station. Had I known this, I would have negotiated a 10% discount on rent…
Soon after this, I read a whole article in a Brighton newspaper about the radio station FIP (France Inter Paris), a niche French public station broadcast from Paris, whose radio waves mysteriously cheat the laws of physics and reach Brighton of all places (but not Hove!). After two FIP-lean years, I discovered to my great joy that FIP could be played online from their own website with all track titles provided live, and a few years later I upgraded the sound quality thanks to my wifi radio. Whenever I put FIP on, I feel like I am joining a celebration of musical eclecticism or embark on an expedition of musical discovery.
In the meanwhile, I learnt that FIP was illegally re-broadcast in Brighton for seven years by its most avid fan who installed two transmitters in the area. This continued until 2007 and a closure of the pirate station by Ofcom to the dismay of many Brightonians. Nevertheless, Brighton continues to reverberate with the Parisian sound with a local appreciation society Vive la FIP keeping up its regular DJ nights and get-togethers for the fans of the station.