ave you ever wondered what it would be like learn to translate? This winter term at Middlebury, NER got a first-hand look at the challenges and pleasures of translation by teaming up with Professor Karin Hanta for her “Intro to Translation Studies” class.
NER author May-lee Chai agreed to have a portion of her essay “Women of Nanjing” translated by the students, who had the chance to ask her questions as they created translations into Bulgarian, French, German, Italian, isiXhosa, and Spanish.
The class also translated memes, as pictured below. The chart on the right recreates a semantic field, showing all the different shades of meaning that the word “design” can have.
According to Professor Hanta, the class “is geared towards beginning translators with advanced language skills/bilinguals. In this translation exercise, we simulated a situation involving a real-life client, the New England Review. When ‘our client,’ editor Carolyn Kuebler, visited the class, students tried to determine what kind of translation she would expect from them. To many of them, it seemed that the client was looking for a ‘faithful translation.’ Students reflected on how they could or could not meet this expectation. What helped them immensely in their work was an encounter with author May-lee Chai, in which the writer further explained her text. This was their first exposure to translating a nonfiction text type with historical underpinnings. Students zigzagged from the word to the sentence level, critically examining their choices and assuring the smooth flow of the translated text. They experienced what it means to be the closest readers of a text and how background knowledge [in this case about what Nanjing means in history] always serves a translator well.”
Here we share those translations, along with the students’ intriguing and insightful comments about the challenges of translating ino their particular language. Click on any one of them to see the opening passages of the essay translated into another language, followed by their comments.
Avalena Baird (French)
Grace Carroll (Spanish)
Lex Clay (German)
Zoe Garcia (Spanish)
Michael Koutelos (Italian)
Damaris Neaves (Spanish)
Vera Rousseff (Bulgarian)
Maeve Shea (Spanish)
Lila Steinberg-Sher (Spanish)
Khanya Sarrkos Thunyiswa (isiXhosa)
Maren Walsh (Spanish)