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.