The Linguist

The Linguist 59,1 - February/March 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 9 FEATURES believes that providing alternative learning spaces could make a difference. "There's not enough spaces for people to learn outside of universities – and there's nowhere in the UK that you can study Punjabi language and literature at university – so I'm doing some work, with the suppport of the National Centre for Writing to set up Punjabi summer schools and workshops," she says. As a writer, Bhanot has long been interested in literary translation. In particular, she wanted to translate a friend's short stories from Hindi into English. "I might have continued to postpone starting to translate for a long time. Applying for and getting the Tilted Axis Mentorship pushed me to just start translating. It built my confidence and gave me permission to continue, as well as providing practical advice," she says. There was guidance on where to send work to, who to approach and how to find opportunities, as well as an ongoing relationship with Tiang once the scheme had ended. "Through this process I had a way of getting into networks and connecting to people – opportunities I wouldn't normally have," she adds. They also discussed the expectations and norms that may be biased against BAME translators, particularly those translating from heritage languages. "What we want to translate and the way that we translate may be different," explains Tiang. "When I'm working on a book from Singapore, I often want to use a Singaporean English register, and similarly Kavita wanted to translate in an Indian English register. We talked about how editors might push back on that and ways to convince them that this is a perfectly valid form of English. These sorts of conversations can be intimidating to have with editors, so it's about validating these feelings and giving translators the confidence to say 'This may be "non-standard" but it is valid'." The accepted standard of translating only into one's native language can also be problematic for heritage language speakers. For Tiang, who grew up in Singapore in "an environment that wasn't completely English- speaking", questions early in his career about his native language were "complicated" – 'judgemental', even, given his evident fluency in English, the target language. Deep-rooted problems "Ultimately the lack of diversity in the literary translation industry reflects the lack of diversity in the publishing industry and, in many ways, reflects the wider issues in society. These issues need to be addressed by translation as a whole and society as a whole," says Tiang, acknowledging the limits of the programme. Officially, the mentorship helps just one person a year, with the current winner, Yan Chen, as the second beneficiary. However, Tiang has also supported several of the unsuccessful candidates. Furthermore, a programme that raises awareness of systemic, societal, cultural and historical barriers to inclusion, and increases the visibility of marginalised groups within a field, can have a much broader impact. "Putting one more BAME translator into the community when there are hardly any has a knock-on effect in terms of saying, 'Yes, people from this type of background can also do this'," explains Tiang. "It's about who is translating currently and therefore what the publishing industry thinks of as a translator. So it's really about being taken seriously by the publishing industry and being visible in a kind of 'a translator can also look like this' way." The hope is also that the mentees will carve a path for others to follow. "Together with Tilted Axis Press, we wanted to do more to encourage a diversity of voices in literary translation. Alumni of the scheme are able to encourage and advocate for others, and over time, we'd hope to see better representation," explains Bower. "I'd like to see the people that we mentor going on to translate books and build their reputation; I'd like to see them reaching out to other people who might want to enter the world of literary translation; I'd like to see them going as translation ambassadors into schools. I think it will cascade down as it becomes more established." Bhanot is already making a start, with initiatives such as Punjabi summer schools. Her Literature Must Fall symposium on decolonising translation, a one-day event in September 2019, "was very well attended," says Tiang. "I heard it raised a lot of visibility for different modes of translation, which shows how one person can have an effect." One scheme alone can't resolve long- standing inequalities, perhaps, but bit by bit, it can make a real difference. ADVOCATING CHANGE 2018 Tilted Axis mentee Kavita Bhanot speaks at her Literature Must Fall festival (left); and (above) mentor Jeremy Tiang at an NCW event

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