Sunday, 26 June 2011

Wolfenbüttel Manifesto - 10 Theses on Blogging for Translators

This is an initial outcome of the workshop on blogging for translators I held in Wolfenbüttel last weekend. You can read the original German at Die Übersetzer. Comments are welcome, preferably over there.

1. Translators are experts. We often know the works we translate almost as well as the writers do, and usually better than their editors. We know the countries whose literatures we translate, and we know the respective literatures themselves. Not least, we have a firm command of our own languages and we play a role in their development, consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or not.

2. Yet translators are often invisible. In reviews, on book covers, in advertising material – often enough, our work and our mere existence are denied. Like vampires, we do not appear in the mirror held up to the public, are seen at times as literary parasites with no life-giving ideas of our own. You can tell a good translation if you don’t notice it’s translated, they say. Whether this old maxim still holds true or not, it doesn’t mean that we translators have to remain invisible.

3. The internet provides a wealth of opportunities for expressing ourselves to a theoretically unlimited audience.

4. A blog is one of these possibilities. With a minimum of technical input, it can be used to spread our ideas, bringing ourselves, our projects and possibly our entire profession out into the public eye.

5. Reader comments and networking with other bloggers enable a dialogue that would otherwise not take place at all.

6. Bearing in mind that the readership is theoretically unlimited – and thanks to online translation services no longer even restricted by language – a translation blog ought to be as readable as possible. In cases where we want to present our work to the uninitiated, we don’t want to scare off this readership.

7. On the other hand, a blog also enables a more intensive dialogue with other translators, possibly from around the world. We need a space for writing about specific professional and translation issues, where we can discuss our work and the way we see ourselves.

8. In the German-speaking world, there are very few links between translation theorists and practitioners. A blog could be an attempt to connect the ivory tower with the ground crew, provided discussion takes place in a generally readable form. It could also involve students of literary translation, who often reflect their own work more than established translators.

9. A blog should be fun to read. As translators, we have the rhetorical tools at our fingertips for writing well. We ought to use them. It can be incredibly liberating to put your own words down on an empty blog page rather than interpreting others’ as usual. Writing freely also has advantages for our translation work, even if it’s something as banal as helping us to find new formulations.

10. All too often, translators are reticent people who shy away from the limelight. For some time though, especially in Germany, we have been raising our voices through readings we organise ourselves, the PR work of the professional organisations, letters to newspapers, etc. Let’s take another step out of the shadow of our writers and create our own platform.


Amy said...

Just found your blog via Twitter! I love German books too although I'm not a translator. Hope to find some great titles to enjoy on your site...

kjd said...

Thanks Amy.

Interpretation and translation services said...

Great post! I agree with your 10 theses in blogging for translators. I also enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.


Sal said...

Just wanted to say I appreciated the post and agree wholeheartedly especially with point #1. I'm not a translator myself, but work with translators and run a translation reading series,, and their deep involvement with and knowledge of the books they work on is inspiring. And enticing! And other gerunds.

batTzedek said...

I'm one of those translation students, blogging about the process as I'm learning it, and your list is deeply encouraging. We need to be visible, at least to each other, because this art/craft/magic we do is hard and astounding and sometimes all-consuming. Thrashing out the big questions with other working translators (not language scholars, but translators) is so vital.

batTzedek said...

Oops - forgot my blog site:

Matthew said...

I am also a student and agree with batTzedek's comments. I study Arabic and live and study in Morocco. My endeavors in translation are mainly self-guided and I'm very grateful to be able to experiment in front of a wide audience who can offer comments and critiques. It's part of the learning process and it's emboldening. I also think that with Arabic in particular, there is such a wide-range of material that needs to be translated and communicated. So the blog is a platform that can give you, the individual translator, a loud voice without worrying about publishers and editors.

I'll also throw in my blog's address:

kjd said...

Thanks everyone for your very supportive comments. I'm glad so many people are discovering blogging as a way to position themselves as translators.