Friday, October 27, 2006

Translation in Vietnam

This article from the VietNamNet Bridge makes an interesting juxtaposition with the previous two articles posted here about Russian literary translation and a star Vietnamese translator.

Vietnamese translators killing int’l authors

Many foreign books have been translated into Vietnamese in the past 15 years and many of them contained major errors in translation. Are translators assassinating foreign authors’ works?

Recently, the Culture and Information Publishing House released a very badly translated version of the American novel The Da Vinci Code.

Vietnamese translators have worked individually, relying on personal talent. Thus far, no one has been successful in regulating a standard level of translation. Many international poets and authors have their work severely changed when it’s translated into Vietnamese. In the other words, their works are killed by translators.

There is currently no agency overseeing the translation of books into Vietnamese. Many are worried that the current situation offers no transparency in the translation process and few opportunities for quality control.

Many young talented translators are not being given the opportunity to work with international literature of any consequence. They are ignored by publishers because they apparently lack the prestige and experience of their older counterparts. What they actually lack is simply the relationships to get their foot in the door. Consequently, there is a lack of realistic youthful voices in translated literature.

For many years, Russian poetry was considered the epitome of literature in Vietnam. Now, one must wonder if the translations were good in the first place. According to many experts, Vietnamese translators have been assassinating Russian poets for quite some time.

Of course any translator faces a colossal task when attempting to translate a work of literature between two languages. All we can ask is that they do their best. However, it is important that the safeguards are in place so the public knows that the version they are reading is as close to the intentions of the author as possible.

My comments:
“According to many experts, Vietnamese translators have been assassinating Russian poets for quite some time.” !!!

“All we can ask is that they do their best.” I can't agree with this; I think one must ask more, namely that publishers ensure that they publish only competent translations. Given the investment involved in putting out a book, it should at least make economic sense to confirm the quality of the product, even if one has no esthetic sensibilities.

And last but not least, on the choice of The Da Vinci Code as an example of a very badly translated novel... Would it really matter so much?



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