Tag Archives: German translation

Broadway Director Takes on a Play’s Translation Herself

When it comes to true artists, maybe passion and vision are all they need to make a satisfactory translation of a work in another language. Former Broadway star Liv Ullman will be putting that sentiment to the test when she directs her own language interpretation translation of the Norwegian play, A Doll’s House. Instead of using a professional translator or a translated version to develop her script, she will be doing it on her own to apply her own personal thoughts and beliefs about the production. She has a special understanding of the script as it is, because she starred in the show in 1975 on Broadway.

The Play is No Stranger to Translation

A Doll’s House was originally written in Norwegian when it was written by Henrik Ibsen. It premiered in Copenhagen in 1879, and has gone through countless translations and productions around the world since then. When it underwent a German translation, Ibsen’s agent actually made him change the ending so that it would suit German audiences at the time. The show has also been on Broadway in New York City thirteen times, and it even won a Tony award in 1997. In each of these thirteen productions, the play was translated to English in its entirety.

Artistic Translations Have Room for Error

Ullman probably wouldn’t take on the technical translation of a government document or a business translation for an important decision. She is not a professional, and such translations should be left to the professionals. However, a play is a work of art, and it’s always up to the interpretation of the director and actors. Therefore, even if her translation of A Doll’s House is not exactly correct word-for-word, she will still be applying her own style to the piece and the audience will still gain the intended insight by watching it. Luckily, Ullman also has many examples to refer to if she gets stuck since the play has been translated into English so many times.

Artistic translations certainly don’t require as much expertise as legal translations or technical translations, but there’s a good chance Ullman might need help with a word or two along the way. Even if she does seek out professional help on parts of the play where the translation is more difficult because of idioms and context, it will still prove to be an artistic extension of herself after she translates the bulk of it.

Children’s Literature Themes Come Across in Any Language

Adults are picky about the books they read. Often, translations of popular books in other countries don’t become popular in the United States because readers find it difficult to connect with the characters. The English translation of a story about a woman’s strife in Africa to keep her family healthy is interesting to many people, but it is not going to fly off the shelves. Those themes are difficult for a busy professional woman to relate to between picking her kids up from school and making steak for dinner. Children on the other hand can relate to each other easily from anywhere across the globe. Whether a kid is reading the German translation of a Spanish children’s book or the Chinese translation of a book from Portugal, he or she will likely understand the themes and relate to them well.

“Scaredy Squirrel” to be Released in Iran

Though the United States and Iran certainly have their differences, there will be a professional translation of a children’s book from English to Iranian. The book is called “Scaredy Squirrel,” and it’s the first in a series of books about a squirrel seeking courage to take on events in his daily life. Though adults from the two countries disagree on many points, children in both places can all innocently relate to the universal themes of courage and friendship.  So far, only the first book has been translated, but other books in the series have been released in the United States. These include, “Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend” and “Scaredy Squirrel at Night.” The books were written by Melanie Watt and have received numerous awards.

Translator Known for Her Children’s Books

The translator responsible for the release of “Scaredy Squirrel” is known in Iran for the many translations of children’s books that she’s completed. Her name is Mahboubeh Najaf-Khani and she was born in Tehran in 1956. She studied at the Supreme Translation School and is now a professional translator of English.

It’s easy to forget about children’s literature when examining the importance of translation from a global perspective, but in many ways it’s just as important as business, legal or technical translation. It gives children the opportunity to connect with each other from across oceans through books. Kids can learn that, even though they are miles away, people in other countries are just like them and sometimes they struggle with the same problems but in different ways.

Translation of Bulgarian Play to Premiere in New York

While his play is the first Bulgarian play ever to premiere at a major theater in New York, Ivan Dimitrov was only making his first attempt at drama. His first Bulgarian play ended up winning a contest in Shumen, Bulgaria. He took his prize money and put it towards creating an English translation of the play. While the decision to translate the play was just a realistic step in case anyone wanted to read it from the states, he ended up with an offer to produce the play in New York. He worked with a professional translator on “The Eyes of Others,” and it is now the first play originally written in Bulgaria to land a New York opening.

The Play Translates Well

It might be hard to believe that a play written entirely in Bulgarian would translate well on the American stage. Surprisingly, it does. While Dimitrov is shocked to have his play produced on a coveted New York stage, he did expect the themes to be highly relatable in the states. The play is about mass consumerism and the increasing level of anonymity in the age of digital communication. It touches on themes with references to Facebook and celebrity gossip. With a description like that, it sounds as though an American wrote it. Even the locations in the play were vague enough to remain unchanged in the professional translation. Some food items were changed in the translation so as not to distract the audience. For example, a traditional Bulgarian pastry became a donut.

Dimitrov Worked to Keep the Play From Becoming Too American

While working on the English translation for his play, Ivan Dimitrov actually struggled to keep its Bulgarian identity in tact. It translated to English so smoothly that he worried it would start to feel like an American sitcom. However, he also didn’t want it to sound like he ran it through some soulless translation services to get a literal translation that lacked personality. The play’s themes are understandable to an American audience but also mystical enough to be European or simply foreign in general.

The New York opening of “The Eyes of Others” will prove to be historically significant, and Dimitrov is the first Bulgarian playwright ever to accomplish such a feat. Many Spanish and German translations of plays have hit the New York stage before, but Bulgarian to English translations are less common.

New Website Makes Education and Translation Simultaneous

Online Education written on LCD

When you need to translate an entire webpage, you’d usually use one of many quick online translation services that generate a computerized translation. While you might get the general gist of the site, you’ll miss out on any subtleties or innuendos in the language that could really add to the content. A new start-up website called Duolingo looks to solve that problem. The website’s creed is that, even if the translator is just learning the language, a human translation is superior to that of a machine.

Translating the Web with Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the process of outsourcing a task to a large number of individuals, usually on the Internet. With Duolingo, people who are trying to learn a language can practice their skills by translating websites to the language that they are learning. However, the site isn’t just for education. These translated sites are then made available to people searching for a website in their native language. The labor is free, and the process benefits both the translators and the users. So far, content on Duolingo is only available for English, French, Spanish and German translation.

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Users Already have Big Projects

Wikipedia has almost four million articles that are in English and only approximately one million in every other language. Wikipedia already uses crowdsourcing for its content, so it makes sense that Duolingo would take it on for its first major challenge. Even the New York Times has started experimenting with Duolingo as the means for translating its content into other languages. If the company were to hire translator services for every one of its articles, the cost would certainly begin to rack up.

While you might get a more accurate translation of a website by using a professional translation service, you’re certainly getting a better one than if you had used a simple robot translator. Humans, even at the most basic level, can understand contextual subtleties, which a computer cannot. The new website will make the translation process a learning experience for those just starting to study a new language, and it will make translation services more accessible to people around the world. Combining the processes of learning and translating creates a method that is beneficial to countless people, so even if Duolingo doesn’t provide the highest quality or most flawlessly accurate translation, it will still deliver value in a different way.