Translation: Our Most Difficult Translations (Readings From)

Yves Cloarec's picture

Your network editor has reposted this from H-Announce. The byline reflects the original authorship.

Call for Papers
March 23, 2017 to March 26, 2017
Maryland, United States
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Languages

NeMLA 2017 - Our Most Difficult Translations (Readings From)

Event: 03/23/2017 - 03/26/2017 
Abstract: 09/30/2016
Categories: Translation, Readings, Language, Linguistic Theory, Interdisciplinary.
Location: Baltimore, MD 
Organization: Northeast Modern Language Association


Our Most Difficult Translations

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis asserts that the structure of a language determines or at least greatly influences the modes of thought and behavior characteristic of the culture in which it is spoken. If this is true, how "good" can any translation ever hope to be? Translators are invited to read from their English translations that proved particularly difficult.

The words Bread in English and Brot in German convey nothing of the French Revolution and the beheading of a monarch the way “Le Pain” does in French; even the more linguistically-related Italian Pane conveys nothing of that context. Similarly, the Germanic gemütlich needs four or five synonyms in English to convey the totality of the feeling and atmosphere it is meant to convey. Cozy does not begin to adequately translate gemütlich, and yet that is the translation most often found because it is, alas, as close as English will bring us.

I remember surprising a colleague with the observation that there is no word in French which adequately translates the concept of home: la maison (the house) or ma maison (my house) is a most inadequate equivalent for home and all the Gemütlichkeit inherent in a home.

Regrettably, the translator must often choose only one word where many might truly called for, or risk being accused of being a poor translator. It isn’t just Poetry that is “lost in translation,” it is—for lack of a better word—a culture, a Weltanschauung.

Translators are invited to read 15-20 minutes from one or more samples of translation that they found particularly challenging for any number of reasons. The texts can be prose, poetry, plays or screenplays...and there is no restriction as to genre; the only requirement is that the source text presented a new or unusual challenge at the time of translation. After each reading, there will be 5 minutes of Q&A during which the presenter will be expected to articulate in as much detail as possible what the difficulty consisted in, what theoretical considerations came to mind, and what practical solutions were devised.

NeMLA formatting standards: Paper Title: 100 characters (including spaces) Paper Abstract: 300 words

Starting June 15th, please submit abstracts for this panel here:

48th Annual NeMLA Convention - Baltimore, Maryland | March 23 - 26th, 2017

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2016

Decision e-mails will be sent by October 15th.

NEMLA asks that accepted and confirmed panelists pay their membership/registration fees no later than December 1, 2016 in order to present at the 2017 convention.

Contact Email: