SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014 in Yokohama

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By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Thirty-one translators and future translators from throughout Japan (and beyond) gathered on October 18, 2014, at Yokohama International School for SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2014. This event was packed with sessions guaranteed to satisfy and inform Japanese-to-English translators of all interests and levels.

We participants gained valuable insight into many aspects of translation. Along with learning about theory, new trends, new equipment, resources available to us, and advice for doing a better job, we were encouraged by the need for translated children’s literature in the world as a whole, and in the English-language market in particular.

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Cathy Hirano discusses the importance of and barriers to children’s literature in English translation.

Cathy Hirano, translator of the Moribito series by 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Nahoko Uehashi, began the day with a moving talk about why she translates for children and teens in a translation-resistant environment. Juliet Winters Carpenter followed with a talk about translating voice, based on her work translating A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, which won the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award Grand Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association.

A Skype session followed with Daniel Hahn, program director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, about pathways to publication in the UK. Located in Karachi at the time, Hahn gamely used video, audio, and instant messaging to describe ways to approach British publishers.

Daniel Hahn appears via Skype from Pakistan.

Daniel Hahn appears via Skype from Pakistan.

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Juliet Winters Carpenter discusses developing characters in her translation of A True Novel.

After lunch, Carpenter offered a workshop in which she critiqued translations of two excerpts from A True Novel. Fifteen translators had submitted versions of one or both excerpts in advance, and Carpenter considered each submission in turn. Later, Carpenter selected and edited several translations of one passage for the SCBWI Japan Translation Group blog:

One Passage, Seven Translations—Minae Mizumura

After Carpenter’s workshop, Alexander O. Smith, translator of the Batchelder Award-winning novel Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe, demonstrated how he uses voice recognition software to translate first drafts. Finally, Lynne E. Riggs and Avery Fischer Udagawa spoke about resources offered by the organizations SWET and SCBWI.

Lynne E. Riggs introduced SWET and the book Japan Style Sheet, a guide to publishing in English about Japan.  Avery Fischer Udagawa next described SCBWI and its resource The Book, focused on children’s publishing.

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Alexander O. Smith (seated far left), among others, offered an impromptu seminar during lunch.

SCBWI Japan’s biennial Translation Days (see reports from 2010 and 2012 in PDF) are characterized by the intimacy of a small gathering. The YIS venue provides us with an ample, comfortable room and the equipment for presentations and workshops. Talks and breaks and lunch are all held in the same space, so there is a great deal of mingling. Friends enjoy time together, and we get to know people we usually only see on email lists and Facebook. At this year’s sessions, about half of the participants were “old hands,” and about half were younger translators and graduate students thinking about a career in the field.

Speakers at Translation Day are top professionals in our field. Some had traveled quite a distance to be there this year, and all had prepared well for their presentations. That, one might assume, would be sufficient, and yet each and every one of these talented people spent any free time they might have had answering questions and giving advice to anyone who cared to approach them. Most of us translators work in relative isolation, so we appreciate (more than words in any language can express) these rare opportunities for enrichment and networking.

Participants were delighted with this event, and non-SCBWI members commented on how impressed they were by its organization. The program was coordinated and emceed by SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa. Avery, based in Bangkok, together with Regional Advisor Holly Thompson, traveling in Massachusetts, and Assistant Regional Advisor Mariko Nagai in Tokyo, miraculously planned and executed Translation Day. YIS teacher and SCBWI member Trevor Kew kindly and efficiently took care of logistics. Many thanks to all in charge, to all who spoke and to the many translators who attended!

Most of the group at the end of a productive day—translators from all over Japan and beyond.

Most of the group at the end of a productive day—translators from all over Japan and beyond.

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