Lost and Found in Translation!

As I reckon the rhetoric hobbling around the phrase ‘lost in translation’ when many translated texts lack the subtlety of the original text, my conscience also suggests a different way out. For many readers, had it been possible to them, the best text to choose to read would be in original form. Unfortunately, the privilege of knowing many languages remains limited to some, let alone multi-lingual mastery. Not to be left out to embrace the beauty of their favorite writers’ work, many choose the texts translated into their languages. In the process, an optimal degree of ‘lost in translation’ strikes these readers most, a fear hovers around their mind, “Am I losing the best thing (of the book) in this translated text?”

Well, in most of the cases, the answer could be yes. In some cases, though, the answer is no!

Nepali translators did an early job (good? to be evaluated) translating some books inspired with political ideas and discourse. If I have to name a foreign book printed and sold as many as original Nepali books, it is undoubtedly Maxim Gorki’s Mother (titled as ‘Aama’ in Nepali). To most of the kids reaching an age to explore the world through reading, ‘Aama’ becomes the most available and the most read book written abroad. Obvious following up books are some more books on communist or Marxist literature. No wonder, why so many communists are in Nepal!

Nepal isn’t rich in translated literature if you let go some old political translations. The reading culture in Nepal is yet to be grow, access to the world’s literature has been limited by the language. In recent years, though, some efforts are being made to change the direction. In this process, a lot of books went lost in translation, while some stood out!

In 2008 Khagendra Sangroula, a Kathmandu based newspaper columnist and author translated John Wood’s book, ‘Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children’ into Nepali. Titled as ‘Microsoft Dekhi Bahun Danda Samma’ the book was very well received by Nepali readers and its selling broke a few records then. John, in his book, shares a lot of stories, aspirations, pain, joy, hopes and dreams about Nepal. Sangroula captured the essence so well: the subtlety of each emotion got very well featured; John’s odyssey in Nepal pushed the translator to go beyond translating but bringing a local voice and context into the translated version. Each of the stories connected to the lives described in the book shook the readers’ inner being amazingly and that in the local language. The result, thus, came beyond the translator or the author had ever thought: Nepali readers flooded the author and the translator with the vibes Nepali translation literature had ever seen. Many readers still describe the book as originally written by Sangroula.

A few years later, an autobiography of a Nepali singer and writer Ani Choying Dolma was translated into Nepali. Originally written in French, Girish Giri, a journalist and author based in Kathmandu translated the book. Titled after Dolma’s most popular song, ‘Phool ko Aankhama’ the book got an overwhelming response from Nepali readers. The sensitivity Nepali translator put into his work not only presented the best readable autobiography but also touched many hearts. The relativity of the book in Nepali context with the right, perhaps the most accurate and heart-pounding choice of words, sentence structure and overall presentation of the stories from the autobiography into Nepali version took Nepali book translation literature into a whole new point above.

In modern translation literature, Sangroula developed a strong foundation and Giri built a treasure out of it. Sangroula and Giri’s work presented Nepali people with a hope, and most importantly scope of translation literature. They proved that translation, in no terms, can be less effective than the original texts. Translated literature can be as sweet and smooth as the original texts, all you need to do is push yourself beyond ordinary.

Works of Sangroula and Giri presented what can be found in translation to Nepali people. The journey of finding in the translation has continued ever since. Many local theaters in Kathmandu are doing excellent jobs these days translating and adopting the world famous plays, which are very well received by the audience and critics alike. While there is more such work to come and heat the readers up, I foresee a bright future for Nepali translation literature, and for Nepali translators!

– Nikunja Bhandari

10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Translator in Nepal

Language translators and facilitators’ services in Nepal haven’t yet been industrialized. You cannot call it a fraternity yet!

Nepali language translators and facilitators’ services are mostly served by freelancing translators and only a few dedicated companies are in Nepali market. While you may be able to find a number of notary translators in the market, mostly served by the notary barristers, they lack expertise in other fields excluding the field they practice – law. Hence, finding a good and reliable translator can be an ordeal based on calculating individual skills. I am trying to solve the equation for you.

1. Find an agency

Working with a company is far more convenient than working with a freelancer. While companies give a number of reasons for you to choose them, the only thing that differentiates them with others is their market credibility and quality assurance systems. Thus, Googling about the agencies should first come into your mind while finding a translator in Nepal. Reaching to their websites and knowing more about their services will just help you to decide for the best. Agencies’ websites also serve as a point of reference.

2. Range of services

Translation jobs come with a range of services: simultaneous translation, consecutive translation, document translation including legal, medical and other fields. For you to find the right fit, you also need to be sure of your needs and requirements. Finding an agency that provides all range of services including legal or certified translation is a key to get your job done. Make sure you reach out to them to explore all the possible range including the language they offer their services on.

3. Quote

Translation business in Nepali is dominated by freelancers and so do their quotes differ. Differences in quotes are based on the type of translation services you are looking to hire. Document translation and simultaneous translation jobs are priced differently. Many translators in Nepal define their translation fee based on the pages translated with certain page attributes. Some translators charge based on the words in the source document, while some charge based on pages. On the other hand, simultaneous translators charge either on an hourly basis or daily basis. It is always good to know about their quotes in advance and validity of the same.

4. Discount and offers

Before settling down upon a price, it’s always good to negotiate for a discount or offer. Such discounts may depend upon your negotiations, but most of the translation agencies offer discounts based on the volume of work and/or time.

5. Tax obligations

Almost all translators are wary in Nepal of the taxes to be paid from their earning. Thus, while asking for a quote, just ask them to be clear on the tax rates and the party responsible for paying them off. Normally, when it comes to an agency 13% VAT is added to the price while for freelancing translators, 15% TDS (tax deducted at source) is payable from the translator’s earning. When you get into a point of negotiating, the price come from them is likely to be exclusive of taxes. You don’t run out of your budget for not discussing this in advance.

6. Logistic Arrangements

Part of your deal, in case you want your translator to travel and stay with you, will also cover logistic arrangement for the translators. Translators in Nepal assume that the client will have pay for any travel they would make for the work. You may not want to end up arguing just because you didn’t bring this thing while finalizing the deal.

7. Sectoral expertise

It is very hard to imagine for someone having expertise in a certain issue translating for an issue completely new to him/her. You always want someone with some knowledge about the field you work with to have as a translator. This is a very difficult thing for a freelance, but the agencies, on another hand, can provide you with the person matching the field of expertise you are looking for. Usually, the agencies maintain a pool of language translators coming from the diverse field of experiences and match their clients’ need accordingly. Additionally, providing a list of terminologies and the way of interpretation you want your translator to do is always helpful. Discussing liberty in terms of translators to translate word by word (for e.g. in case of verbatim) or making them little able to have some modifications without altering the sense would help them a lot.

8. Terms of payment

Assuming you would ask your translating agency to have a mutually agreed contract, make sure you thoroughly read and understand. Among others, terms of payment make a big sense here. It is imperative to know when your translator/agency can expect payment from you and in what form should be clearly dealt and mutually agreed upon before you start working. Not stating the obvious, having a copy of contract safe with you will also put you in safe side in case any tensions arise.

9. After sales services

It is difficult for a freelance to keep what I call: translation memory. Translation memory is a memory of terminologies is something you and your translator gradually build on while working together. Agencies play smart with this, they keep track on the translators their clients work with and also employ relevant software. Also, you can clearly know about after sales services agencies provide, which is not a clear option with freelancers. After sales services, for those uninitiated, includes incorporating and co-building final document with the client till a point of satisfaction is reached.

10. Find many in one!

For the majority of us, we want to have all document translation related services from a single vendor. Finding a translation agency can be a perfect match for the same. As localization agencies constantly try to widen their services, they may offer you with final designing and layout work, something without asking for an additional payment. Why bother finding different people for different works if you can find all your service requirement under a single name!

Good luck!

– Nikunja Bhandari