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Rhys Hawkins

How does one go about arranging the translation process?

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First of all, congraulations on the recent release of the Esperanto version of the Gruffalo!

This got me thinking - there are plenty of other children's classics, adult fiction and graphic novels that seem to be fertile ground for further such translations. What is the legal/ general practical process for developing a translation of an already exisitng work? And how come there aren't more of these brilliant translations around?

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Quite apart from legal/practical problems there's the problem of getting a good translation. Some of these books are rather hard to translate. The author picks some words that rhyme in the source language, certain objects get incorporated into the story and the pictures, and then the translator somehow has to find rhymes in the target language. If you'd been writing originally in the target language you would have picked different objects. But even with ordinary prose it takes some skill and a lot of work to get a good translation.

As for the process, it will depend on who owns the copyright. There's a distinction to be made between co-publishing/co-printing, which is what happened for "La Krubalo" and "Mil Unuaj Vortoj" and another forthcoming book - see articles in the next issue of "La Brita Esperantisto"! - and there's the ordinary sort of permission to publish a translation. Some publishers are set up to do co-printing in multiple languages and have a draft contract all ready. You just need to show them you're a serious and trustworthy client publisher. EAB now has some credentials for that. However, I'm not sure whether EAB has done the ordinary sort of translation, though there are a couple of active projects in that area. Sometimes publishers are not very responsive if they get an e-mail from someone they don't already know. Perhaps in some cases it works better to meet them at a Book Fair, like the London one that's just been coronacancelled.

There's also the case where no special permission is required. Probably most translations into Esperanto are of originals that are out of copyright. There are plenty of famous classics not yet translated. My https://rano.org/frateto/ is a much more unusual subcase: it's a modern and famous book that was already licensed for anyone to translate it. (I think it's aimed at "young adults".)

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Posted (edited)

That's a very thorough answer, so thanks for that! Hmmm, it seems that sometimes it's a bit of a catch 22 then? As in, Esperanto needs more skilled speakers to become passionate enough to take on the difficult process of translation, but publishers don't take the proposition seriously if there's no professionally organised interest?

I hope in my lifetime at least I will see this change - there appears to be such a business opportunity for large and small publishers to encourage translations into Esperanto. Imagine how their audiences and sales would expand! I'm really passionate about this and feel that for the language to spread further we need to get younger generations to see Esperanto as a viable lingua franca across the world when they encounter a new favourite book/ youtuber/ Netflix series. ......Or perhaps I'm just a doey-eyed komencanto? 😉

Edited by Rhys Hawkins
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I think there probably is an opportunity to get more books published just by coordinating and managing the process. Publishing a book is a daunting prospect if you have to do everything by yourself: not just translate, but find people to edit and proofread, negotiate with a publisher, typeset, design a cover, arrange printing and distribution, publicity, ... It's enough to put most people off even starting. But if you have a team of people with some experience then you might be able to encourage other people to get involved. Sezonoj published a couple of books ("Rustimuna Ŝtalrato", "Ŝerloko Holmso") that had different people translating different chapters: a good way to get new people involved. Could we arrange some sort of training for translators? That's probably beyond us. However, a lot of skills are transferable between languages. I think the classes I had in translation between English and German, a long time ago, helped me translate between English and Esperanto, and books I've read about translation theory have helped as well. But those projects with multiple translators also must have helped people learn, provided they paid attention to all the criticism and debate that followed the first draft of each chapter. Perhaps EAB should help organise something like that one day. Anyone want to discuss this idea in Leicester?

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Posted (edited)
antaŭ 20 horoj, Edmundo diris:

I think there probably is an opportunity to get more books published just by coordinating and managing the process. Publishing a book is a daunting prospect if you have to do everything by yourself: not just translate, but find people to edit and proofread, negotiate with a publisher, typeset, design a cover, arrange printing and distribution, publicity, ... It's enough to put most people off even starting. But if you have a team of people with some experience then you might be able to encourage other people to get involved. Sezonoj published a couple of books ("Rustimuna Ŝtalrato", "Ŝerloko Holmso") that had different people translating different chapters: a good way to get new people involved. Could we arrange some sort of training for translators? That's probably beyond us. However, a lot of skills are transferable between languages. I think the classes I had in translation between English and German, a long time ago, helped me translate between English and Esperanto, and books I've read about translation theory have helped as well. But those projects with multiple translators also must have helped people learn, provided they paid attention to all the criticism and debate that followed the first draft of each chapter. Perhaps EAB should help organise something like that one day. Anyone want to discuss this idea in Leicester?

Yep, certainly ready to discuss this / participate / listen in on conversations, discussions on this matter. 🙂

Edited by Rico

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Catch 22 is about right, I think, Rhys. I know of thorough translations which exist but permission for which was subsequently declined, meaning that the work won't see the light of day. Frustrating for the translators and a reason underlying why I personally won't translate ahead of securing permission to publish. But then that puts you in the difficult position of then having to produce something at the appropriate level within a time frame.

I don't think people in general realise how difficult and time-consuming translation is if it's done correctly. There's a reason that most professional translators translate into their native languages rather than from them into a learned one. In our case, we're all translating into something which isn't our native language. That makes the job harder.

As Edmund pointed out earlier regarding La Krubalo and a soon-to-be-announced book, there are often additional complicating constraints. Those books rhyme and really heavily on single-syllable words, which we don't tend to have in Esperanto outside of pronouns, prepositions and numbers. Then you have to match the metre and the imagery. The Krubalo-style book which we'll announce in a week or so took a fluent speaker seven months to get to a position he was happy with, and even then Edmund and I recommended some changes afterwards. It's tricky.

Perhaps one day we'll be in a position where we can manage this a little bit better. It's early days for us at the moment. It's been a fun ride so far, though, with more to come 🙂

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Posted (edited)
On 10/03/2020 at 11:43, Tim said:

Catch 22 is about right, I think, Rhys. I know of thorough translations which exist but permission for which was subsequently declined, meaning that the work won't see the light of day. Frustrating for the translators and a reason underlying why I personally won't translate ahead of securing permission to publish. But then that puts you in the difficult position of then having to produce something at the appropriate level within a time frame.

I don't think people in general realise how difficult and time-consuming translation is if it's done correctly. There's a reason that most professional translators translate into their native languages rather than from them into a learned one. In our case, we're all translating into something which isn't our native language. That makes the job harder.

As Edmund pointed out earlier regarding La Krubalo and a soon-to-be-announced book, there are often additional complicating constraints. Those books rhyme and really heavily on single-syllable words, which we don't tend to have in Esperanto outside of pronouns, prepositions and numbers. Then you have to match the metre and the imagery. The Krubalo-style book which we'll announce in a week or so took a fluent speaker seven months to get to a position he was happy with, and even then Edmund and I recommended some changes afterwards. It's tricky.

Perhaps one day we'll be in a position where we can manage this a little bit better. It's early days for us at the moment. It's been a fun ride so far, though, with more to come 🙂

That gives me a much clearer image of the problem there Tim, so thanks for that. I can't imagine the relief and sense of accomplishment when a successful translation is written/ you can see the finished product in front of you!

I'm obviously very new on my Esperanto journey, but sometime in the future I'd love to be involved in this. Some of the exisiting Esperanto literature out there looks beautifully prominent, but some also a bit hit and miss. I can't help thinking that with the right resources, man power, and backing from publishers, children's books, translations of YA fiction and some of the classics (new and old) is the way to go? If only we could get the J.K Rowlings and Malorie blackman's of the world on side!

As you said though, I'm sure it's all part of the upcoming plan - here's to hoping passionate folks such as yourself get to drive the vanguard some-day!

Edited by Rhys Hawkins
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