Book translations aping software localization?

More evidence of the cultural domination of ‘English’ content via literary translation. In a recent article by Pierre Lepape on the Frankfurt Book Fair in Le Monde Diplomatique:

Frankfurt reflects the increasingly one-way flow of trade between the United States and its sidekick, Britain, and the rest of the Western world. French, Spanish, Italian and German publishers all go to the fair with a single and near-impossible dream: to sell a book to the Americans even for a derisory amount, or to a British publisher as a first step to the paradise of the US market. They all know that this is a false hope. Of the 14,000 books published in Britain each year (twice as many as in France), only 3% are translations. The US manages only 2.8%.

Although I don’t have the figures, we all know that software localization over the past twenty years has also overwhelmingly involved tailoring English language content to other languages, even when authored in ‘non-English language’ cultures. To a lesser degree, the same must be true for films and a certain amount of TV content. Apart from grotesquely skewing the perception we might have of cultural production around the world, this one-way ex-Anglice flow of story-telling, knowledge, ideas, formal invention and expression is also extremely unfair to English translators.

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European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

Andrew Joscelyne

About Andrew Joscelyne

European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.

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