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Monday, August 09, 2010

Suggestions for a Prposed Centre for Translation

Following are the suggestions I had sent to a friend of mine who is planning to set up a Centre for Translation. I post the suggestion here so that similar such initiatives may find these suggestions useful.


  1. Translation of works: literary, scientific, sacred, theoretical/philosophical. To the best of my knowledge no translation centre in India has taken such a broad-based approach to translations. You could be not only the pioneer, but may also inspire such works in the future in different Bhasha languages.
  2. Translation training workshops for different groups: teachers- local language and English, local language and state language, local language and French to translation texts from respective languages. The other groups could be students, youth, women, folk singers etc.
  3. I hope the centre does not fall in the trap of only translating to the local language. At least in the literary realm the flow should be two ways.
  4. Translation workshop of local language texts. You can invite translators from different languages- official and other – and put them in a week’s workshop or so during which they should translate at least one local language work in consultation with the local language writers, translators or scholars to their respective languages. Publication of such works needs to be followed up.
  5. A similar workshop to translate works from other languages to the local language can also be thought of.
  6. For literary texts, translate from diverse cultures: Afrikan, Latin American, Asia, Middle East, not necessarily from the dominant languages. This will enrich the local language further. The translations could also be done from the English versions.
  7. Produce research on translation per se and translation in the local language
  8. Evolve a textbook/coursebook for translation in the local language.
  9. Build/develop resources for translation. This could be dictionaries, thesaurus, grammar books, books on translation studies, primary texts for translation, in the form of printed texts, videos, digital material. You need not necessarily buy them. You could request for photocopies from different individual – a cost effective and quicker way to build resources.
  10. All the print publications should also be published simultaneously in the digital format on the centre’s website so that access to knowledge is made more democratic. It also ensures much wider reach. You could also publish them in scholarly databases such as Eprints
  11. You could also get scholars to research on local cultural, social, political issues,  biodiversity, folklore and publish them in both the local language and translation.
  12. There could be weekly two evening meetings. One, where people working with the centre present their work-in-progress and second, where invited speakers interact with the people at the centre on their on going research. The second category of people can be made to interact via skype or dimdim, which would take care of both financial constraints, logistic problems as well as give access to wider range of scholars.
  13. You could have discussions with  Tejaswini Nirajana at the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore, who are also working in the area of translation to address the major issue of language divide in the context of higher education in India. They have come up with some fascinating insights on the translation scene, which would be beneficial to as well. 

More important than all the above….
One, translation projects of this nature can easily become tools of ulterior political agendas. For the example, the present centre can become a tool to subordinate regionalism to lager nation agendas of the state. While on the one hand it can be seen as a positive move, what one needs to be careful is the nature of such integration. In the process it should not be a situation where the national language, dominant cultures and religious outlooks are thrust on the region.

Two, translations in India have been largely thought of as literary translations. It is important to break that mode of approach. People who have tried to break that have landed into another trap, i.e., asking literary scholars to translate works in sociology, political theory and so on. Such practices have rendered translations highly unintelligible to the target audience.

A third issue is much more nuanced. Most translations in India have, easily and unintentionally, become Sanskritic. As a result, they sound very different to the general speakers of the language who are unable to connect to the text. Greater care needs to be taken of this aspect.

Four, the centre might do more productive work if it does not limit itself to Nepali. Instead, if it is able to simultaneously address the divides and histories of the indigenous tribes and take a more sensitive and nuances stand, it might preserve much more than breed more mono-cultural living and understanding at the cost of smaller and less politically visible communities. Taking into consideration the multi-lingual environment of Nepali, Tibetan, English, Hindi, and Bengali and also the contesting, dominating relationships between them would be more historically and ethically interventionist rather than trusting a single understanding into the programmes of the centre.

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