Teaching in Translation: The Translation Workshop

By Becka Mara McKay

I was hired in 2009 to teach translation in Florida Atlantic University’s MFA program—something that had never been offered in the MFA curriculum. To encourage as many students as possible to register for the translation workshop, I decided that I would not require that they know a second language. Working from the premise that proficiency and flexibility in English were the most important requirements for students in this particular workshop—and that together we would find resources to assist their understanding the various source languages—the translation workshop has, over the last three years, produced some remarkable projects. These include:

  • A translation/stage adaptation of The Tale of Genji  set in a postapocalyptic Japan
  • A hybrid form that I am still searching for a way to name that consists of a translation of a Strindberg short story woven together with a lyric essay about the translator’s process
  • Translations of Hawaiian petroglyphs
  • A plan for a scratch-and-sniff, pop-up book translation of the Song of Songs
  • A graphic version of Don Quixote
  • An adaptation of a feminist Senegalese novel as a series of blog entries written by an African-American woman from Alabama

Some of these projects may sound amusing and even irreverent (neither of which is necessarily a bad thing), but my students always take their work very seriously. If they do not have access to the source language (many of them have at least a little knowledge), they consult native speakers, multiple dictionaries, and multiple previous translations to learn as much as they can about the voice, context, and cultural background of the work. 

Every year in the workshop I also have the students do a project focusing on a classic work in translation—this year it will be the Iliad; last year it was the Inferno. I asked the students to do their own translations of a canto, and gave them no limits on style, medium, or form. This is a partial list of what they came up with:

  • A rap
  • An erasure piece
  • A blues song
  • An aria
  • A couple of animated shorts
  • A slide show with action figures
  • And a video game:

Courtesy Nicole Oquendo and Mike Shier

Most of my students have continued to work on their translation projects a year or more after taking the workshop. They’ve told me that they find the workshop atmosphere to be remarkably supportive and inspiring. It does them good to practice their skills in service of something beyond their own writing projects. I believe that any MFA program that makes an investment in offering translation in some form—from a single course to a certificate/concentration—will be rewarded with students who are more engaged in aspects of writing that go beyond writing a thesis and learning their craft.  I tell my students at the beginning of each semester that I think that all writers should be translators and all translators should be writers, and I hope that by the end of our time together they will be both.

 


Comments

1

i am interested in attending the next workshop.

2

Please contact me about next workshop for translation

I do what you professed in this article for French and now asked for Spanish

translation is for gran prix de poesie France, jean-luc steinmetz

3

Reasons why a person good egnouh at Japanese to translate it watch subtitles:No one is ever completely perfect in Japanese. That means that there is always plenty of room for improvement. For example if your first language is English and your second is Japanese, you probably know English a bit better. Through watching fansubs an English translation is already provided, thus helping you learn more Japanese or simply polish it up.Also, even if one is fluent in Japanese that definitely does not mean they are fluent in English. Through watching fansubs someone who already has the knowledge of Japanese can work on learning and polishing up their English.Even if you are fluent in both languages, there is still is merit for watching fansubs. Fluency does not mean perfect. It means that one is able to speak and understand the language at a native level. There is always room for improvement. For example: if you are from America or England and English is your native language, does that mean that because you are fluent you will always get an A in every English class you take? No, it definitely does not mean that. Therefore there is always room for improvement in both languages.Finally, fansubs make the transition thought-wise from English to Japanese faster, which is extremely helpful for work situations or just anything regarded to translating, trying to explain one language in another, or simply trying to explain something in general.Overall there are many reasons why someone who understands Japanese might watch fansubs. Of course these reasons aren’t limited to the ones I provided. However I feel these reasons are a legitimate and definitely reasonable reason to watch fansubs with an understanding of Japanese.All in all, anime is a very enjoyable way to improve your language skills in general.Oh, and one more thing:tl-note: The Japanese in Sunny’s message means that: I will hit you so hard that you will have to go the hospital.

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