- There is a massive amount of illegal translations...
- We need to raise awareness on this problem
Perhaps not one of the hot topics which attract a great readership, but the problems Sri Lanka is facing in relation to quality translation certainly is an issue that needs to be fixed in a country which still seeks proper reconciliation among all ethnic communities a decade on from a brutal war.
It was best reflected few months ago during a TV interview when the Tamil youth Arulanandan Arun, who claims to be a part of what is called ‘Ava Group’ in the North, said that the biggest concern is accurate communications between the people of North and South.
Ten years on from the war, there is no secretes about tensions among some of the communities and one would look at the possibility of how translators could come in handy in sorting out this so-called problem in ‘communication.’
However, on the one hand, translation perhaps may not be ideal solution for all the issues connected to communication at the minute because it would not be unfair to say the standards of translation have dropped considerably in the recent years.
For instance, the Sri Lanka government was forced to apologize after local media exposed errors in translating official notices and documents into Tamil back in 2014.
Most notably, a sign that reads “Reserved for pregnant mothers” in Sinhala and English had been mistranslated as “Reserved for pregnant dogs” in Tamil.
One of the leading translators of Sri Lanka - Ganga Suduwelikanda believes that translation as a profession being commercialized drastically is one of the reasons for this apparent drop in standards.
“While some of us translators and publishers, I am sure, are trying to do the right thing, it is obvious that the rest of us are not. For an example look at the number of translations you can see at the September book fair: It seems that they all are in a great rush to translate and publish whatever books they can find. I believe, to do a translation, you need to be passionate about it. When there is no passion for what you are doing, your work will become a lifeless product. Most of these translations have been done without entirely being honest to the original book. There is no patience. Not taking enough time to proofread. Sadly, the readers spend money on these mistranslations. Also, the other issue is that most of these translators and publishers ignore the fact that they must obtain rights to publish these books. There is a massive amount of illegal translations being published every year. We need to raise awareness on this problem,” Suduwelikanda said.
"The future, however, could be bright as translation is now being taught as a subject in the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, University of Kelaniya and the University of Jaffna that offers a four-year special degree in Translation Studies"
She has translated numerous novels from English to Sinhala including ‘The kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini, ‘The lights between oceans’ by M L Stedman, ‘A thousand splendid suns’ Khaled Hosseini, ‘A strangeness in my mind’ by Orhan Pamuk, and And the mountain echoed by Khaled Hosseini.
However, she claims that in terms of resources for translators, there is a good improvement than since it was two decades ago.
“Twenty years ago when I first started translating, we didn’t have many ways to learn background information about the book we were working on. That was a real challenge. We had very limited resources. Now thanks to modern technologies, we can always find everything we need to know. Even meet the original authors and discuss the work and clarify the text that might not be familiar to us,” she added.
In Sri Lanka, not many people grow up wanting to be a translator. It is fair to say that most of the professional translators at present have fallen in love with translation accidentally which could have positive as well as negative impacts in the field of translation.
The future, however, could be bright as translation is now being taught as a subject at the Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, University of Kelaniya and the University of Jaffna that offers a four-year special degree in Translation Studies.