Gypsy Scholar Addresses the “3% Problem” and Governmental Support of Translation

Conference Dinner at Parliament Hall!

And this time we aren’t referring to his test scores!

It’s a link I had picked up and put in my link queue, but now that GS (or “GS25” as he’s known in Korea) has covered it, I can just link to his article and not worry about it.

It’s an article in the NYT talking about the difficulties all translating entities face, primarily that 3% problem, which is the percentage of all literature in English that is translated from other languages.

More interestingly, it and the GS(25) talk a bit about how governments are responding. The G-man says:

Or are these the forces of heavy? Governments are getting involved, and they’re rather weighty. A bigger heavy yet is also settling in:

Even the online bookselling behemoth Amazon.com has entered the field, with a new imprint for literature in translation called AmazonCrossing, which is sold online and in bookstores.

But even more importantly, the G-Spot notes:

With Amazon getting involved, there must actually be a market. Translators still need support, though, because years of language learning, cultural immersion, and experience translating are usually required before a prospective translator is good enough to attempt literary translations. Again, there is now help for aspiring translators:

Government cultural institutes like the Institut Ramon Llull, which is dedicated to propagating the language and culture of Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, and the Korean Literature Translation Institute have also helped underwrite conferences and books on translation, and others are sponsoring trips to take American translators to their countries to acquaint them better with their culture and people.

Note the mention of the Korean Literature Translation Institute (KLTI)

This is interesting to me because it touches on some of the research I’ve been doing, which indicates  that non-English government initiatives carried out inside the translating cultures, fails.

I’m in Auckland on my way back for a conference “Writing Past Each Other,” and the feedback I got from Chinese interpreters was that this was also true in China – that is, only translations done outside of China seem to be successful. Then, I met an amazing student (This was at Victoria University Wellington) who was doing research on “reception” of translated German literature who in the course of her presentation said very much the same thing.

But in a brief conversation after the session we shared, she noted an interesting approach the German government has taken. That is, it has set up a journal in England, run by English translators of German, and writing from the English point of view. She said, this allows the people working for the journal to keep their “native” (in both sense of the word) enthusiasm, but it also creates a product that is more comprehensible in the target language AND one that seems a little bit less like self-serving propaganda.

It’s an interesting idea…

As the KLTI is reformed (and it seems to be in the process of another reformation), it might take into account the advantages of external translation and support.

2 thoughts on “Gypsy Scholar Addresses the “3% Problem” and Governmental Support of Translation

  1. Dear Jeff (see how I avoid the problematic spelling of your name?).

    Yeah… trackbacks… just one silly way to slightly pimp other people’s websites.

    and if you’re on Word/Press?

    Automatic… ^^

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