According to the UN, “Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage.”
Humanity is facing a linguistic diversity crisis even as it faces the biodiversity crisis.
How can we help? For starters, we can #NameTheTranslator.
Books authored in English circle the globe now, making it harder for authors who write in Languages Other Than English to compete, even in their home markets. In this environment, we do not want the world’s authors to have to switch to writing in English to survive. Rather, we hope they can keep writing and innovating in their languages—keeping the languages vibrant!—while also earning income from selling their works in English. In translation.
Translators are key to this process. As independent, creative contractors (freelancers), translators need to receive credit for their work in order to build reputations, secure further work, and pursue professional development. The PEN America Model Contract for Literary Translation establishes that crediting translators on and in books, “wherever the Author’s name appears,” is best publishing practice.
It is also essential to name translators in book reviews, library programs, festivals, blog posts, podcasts, social media, and online retail spaces. Whenever we do not #namethetranslator, we normalize others not doing so.
The hashtag #NameTheTranslator was initiated by Helen Wang, acclaimed translator from Chinese of Bronze and Sunflower and the forthcoming Dragonfly Eyes by Cao Wenxuan. The hashtag has been used to encourage naming translators on and in books and wherever books are sold or discussed.
Let’s all #NameTheTranslator this year. It’s simple, and it means the world.
Happy New Year!
Avery Fischer Udagawa’s reviews of children’s books in translation appeared throughout the inaugural year of the GLLI #WorldKidLit Wednesday column. She serves as International and Japan Translator Coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her translations from Japanese to English include J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani and Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a “fantastical and mysterious adventure” forthcoming in 2021.
4 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution: #NameTheTranslator”
Love this! For the most part, I have been naming translators in blog posts etc, but having read this I now understand why it’s important to do so – it’s part of equalising global lit and recognising the hard work and skill of translators – and I’m going to be more intentional about naming translators in the future.
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Yup, I’ve been doing this for a good while now. I don’t do jazzy titles for my blog posts, I name them with the title, the author’s name and the translator’s name.
And when I started doing naming the translator in response to the hashtag, I went back through all my old posts and added the translator to the title if it wasn’t there (discovering in the process that some very old editions don’t include that information, which was an interesting discovery.)
The other thing I do is to add a tag with the translator’s name, e.g. “Dorothy Bussy translator” or Carlos Rojas translator”, so anyone can find them in a search on my blog, and also in a Google search where they often turn up in the first page of results.
As far as I’m concerned the translator has equal status with the writer, because I would not be able to read the book without their work.
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Yes — very important, Avery! I tell my children’s literature students that there are two authors to credit in a translated book, and that they need to name them both. And, more informally, in the book clubs I attend I make sure to name the translator in our booklists.
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