This page is a work-in-progress. Each month, I will be adding more resources from a variety of different categories, thanks to support from Patreon patrons.
First, a quick peek behind the curtain:
I would be remiss if I did not first acknowledge the team behind making this endeavor possible. The website hosting service I use is Fatcow, which is the best hosting service I've used to-date, hands down. Niki Smith is my cover designer, and Myriam Bloom created the little translator image on the left. My e-books' editor and formatter is Kristy Stewart from Looseleaf Editorial & Production, LLC, who is fantastic to work with. I've learned an enormous amount from her feedback.
Q1: What's your background in literary translation?
A:I began my language studies of French and Latin in junior high school. Though I dropped French in high school, I continued the full Latin program which in latter years consisted entirely of reading and translating texts. I also continued teaching myself French throughout high school and found many long-distance francophone friends in Canada, Switzerland, and France to learn from and practice my burgeoning language skills with.
After a false start as a Chinese major, I spent a year in France teaching English. I then switched majors and graduated with a bachelor's degree in French Studies with an emphasis in translation.
In my high school Latin classes, emphasis was placed on creating translations that were as literal and word-for-word as possible, to prove that we knew the language intimately. I won awards at that level, but as I matured, switched languages, and learned more about various schools of translation theory, my emphasis changed to creating an English translation that held up to the standards of English writing as well as one that stayed as true to the original text as possible: a much harder feat. However, despite my floundering attempts to accomplish this--or perhaps because of them--I was hired by my university's Humanities Department to translate three plays my senior year.
So far I've told you briefly about my experiences with language learning and translation, but literary translation is as much about knowing writing well as it is about knowing your languages. I have been writing stories since elementary school, and my writing addiction only increased exponentially in junior high and high school. At university I took several fiction-writing courses in addition to all the other non-fiction papers and projects I did for other classes.
After graduating university, I took a year and a half off to live and volunteer in Armenia where I contracted the chronic illness I have now. It took another few years after returning home to regain enough of myself to be able to translate at all. But then, when I felt ready to try again, I took one of Lisa Carter's online literary translation courses in spring 2013.
I should also note that as a student I was a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) and attended one of their conferences with my fellow students. Nowadays, I'm an active member of the Emerging Literary Translators' Network of America (ELTNA), which is free to join.
Q2: And how do I get started in literary translation?
A: Before you embark on your literary translation journey, there are a few things you should know.
First, you must have a deep love of reading and writing, since that is basically all translation is: reading in one language and then trying to capture the experience for others to enjoy, as well.
Second, you must enjoy language puzzles, because translation is like detective work: hunting down the best words and phrases to suit your needs out of hundreds and thousands of options.
Third, you must read a lot in both your languages and be well acquainted with the culture and background behind what you read, or be willing to learn and research it. Actually, you should love researching the strangest things because no matter how much you think you know, the author knows more, and there will always be at least one obscure reference to something you will need to look up.
Fourth, be aware that professionally you should only ever translate INTO your native language. This is one of the rules of the field you are about to embark in. You have all read bad English translations produced by non-native translators. We ask that you pay other countries/languages the courtesy of letting their natives handle their translations. ;)
So, now that we are on the same page, here are some resources to help you get started:
- Lisa Carter, an award-winning literary translator offers three online courses, one of which is specifically designed for the beginning lit translator just starting out: First Steps in Literary Translation.
- Joseph Lambert recently posted a good summary of what his translation drafting process is like.
- There are several literary translation groups you can join for free. One is primarily UK-and-Europe based: the Emerging Translators Network (ETN); one is Americas-based: the Emerging Literary Translators Network of America (ELTNA); and the last is for translators of the "diaspora," aka anyone who does not live in literary translation hotspots to easily attend events: Translators Association Diaspora (TA Diaspora).
- Three websites you should be aware of in your burgeoning career are Open Letter Books, Words Without Borders, and Asymptote Journal.
- If you have a Twitter account, you can connect with other translators using the hashtag #xl8.
Q: You're an extremely slow translator. I want more regional folktales translated into English! Where can I find some?
A: Coming soon.
Q: How do I find and purchase French-language books even though I do not live in France and do not have the funds to just jump on a plane and go shopping in French bookstores?
A: The first step in purchasing books is to figure out how to browse and find something you want to read. Here are a few ways to do that from a distance:
- If you search for the phrase "c'est lundi que lisez-vous ?" you will find all sorts of francophone bloggers and vloggers who talk about what they've read or are currently reading. They describe the book, talk about why they do or don't like it, and sometimes they even provide links so you can purchase it yourself. (Examples: SFFF 100% VF (blog), Margaud Liseuse (vlog))
- You can browse for books on retailers such as Amazon.fr, Décitre, and Fnac using their search categories and algorithms. More than likely, you won't be able to make a long-distance e-book purchase at any of these retailers due to geoblocking or credit card restrictions, though you can certainly use their site to browse and make your book wishlist. (Note: You can use Amazon.fr to purchase print books and ship them to you. I've found that shipping&handling costs from Amazon.fr turns out to be the price of another book.)
The second step, if you don't want to have to import print books, is to find an e-book retailer that 1) does not have their entire catalog geoblocked, and 2) accepts credit cards from other countries, whether via Paypal or otherwise. Here are a few websites I've found that sell French-language e-books around the world, however most of these have poor book-discovery methods, so I would suggest searching elsewhere before using these to purchase the books you want:
- Immatériel.fr used to meet all of the above requirements. Now, however, with the change to 7switch, only a selection of their books are not geoblocked. If the book you're looking for is published by a small press or is self-published, check here.
- Iggybook operates a lot like Smashwords. Any e-books they sell direct from their own store is available for purchase around the world.
- Youscribe is like the French version of Scribd and is reading-subscription based. However, the first month is free and you can also purchase and download individual e-books--even from major publishers.
Finding books to read in the public domain is much easier. Two major sites that have an extraordinary collection are
- Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) has a vast collection of scanned books and periodicals.
- Litterature Audio.com has thousands of audiobooks to listen to for free.
Q1: Your regional folktales have whet my appetite. Where can I find more information on Bretagne/Brittany, Lorraine, Alsace, and other regions around France?
A: Coming soon.
Q2: What about materials on regional languages and dialects such as breton, gallo, alsatian, and so on?
A: Coming soon.
Q: Where do you find all these folktales and fairy tales you're translating? Can you provide links so I can read more?
A: Of course! This list will be continually updated:
- La France pittoresque: a journal of collected articles describing the France of yesterday and today.
- Castles of France: Legends section
- Espace ressources Sàmmle, an organization for the preservation of Alsatian culture.
- Revue des traditions populaires: which has a section on Alsatian folklore gathered by Auguste Stoeber.