American Literary Translators Association Newsletter


Edith Grossman
Edith Grossman


In her forthcoming book, "Why Translation Matters," Edith Grossman, the celebrated Spanish-language translator of "Don Quixote" and works by García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, argues that a literary translation is a unique artistic artifact, and should be evaluated and respected separately from the original text. Grossman's book, which will be published this month by Yale University Press, is a passionate defense of the translator's art, as well as a swift rap on the knuckles of American publishers for their reluctance to take on translations of foreign works, depriving readers of new voices and new information. To read the complete article in the March 7 issue of the Boston Globe, click here. 


Creating a translation machine has long been seen as one of the toughest challenges in artificial intelligence. For decades, computer scientists tried using a rules-based approach -- teaching the computer the linguistic rules of two languages and giving it the necessary dictionaries. In the mid-1990s, researchers began favoring a so-called statistical approach. They found that if they fed the computer thousands or millions of passages and their human-generated translations, it could learn to make accurate guesses about how to translate new texts.

Google's quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems. The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world's largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology Google's free Google Translate service presently handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text.

To read the rest of this interesting article in the New York Times of March 8, click here.  On the following day, March 9, another article appeared with samples of literary works in French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic compared side-by-side with a human translation. To view the samples, click here. 


Marcela Jenney

When was the last time you asked your doctor or your lawyer to give you a discount on his/her fees? Unless your doctor or lawyer is a relative or good friend, it's very likely you wouldn't dare ask such a professional service provider to give you a discount, would you? So, if you consider yourself a professional translator, how come you continue to allow others to ask you to reduce your rates? Many professional translators are lowering their rates in a desperate attempt to get business, but there is another, more imaginative and productive way to go.

Actions suggested by Ms. Jenney include:

Price your services right ** Learn to say "no" ** Focus on your promise of value ** Improve your service offering ** Focus on your target market ** Create a strong brand. 

In the absence of value, price becomes the only decision factor. Do not reduce your rates; instead, increase your competitiveness and the value-added features to your services.

For details on all of these tips go to



Are you looking for book recommendations? There is an Internet site for that. When you log in, you are greeted as follows:

Bookseer web site
 You type in the name of your favorite book and its author, click the little arrow to the right, and the site will give you a list of similar books. For example, the title die Verwandlung by Kafka leads to 16 recommendations, some in German and some in English. The address is


(from Sibelan Forrester, Chair, Local Organizing Committee)

Dear ALTA members and other translators, 

Preparation for the conference in Philadelphia in October of 2010 is warming up even as the local weather improves! The following panels are still in search of additional participants - please scan this list to see whether your own interests would fit, or whether you could recommend the perfect additional participant. Feel free to contact the organizers listed, or contact the local conference organizer first if you prefer (, 610-328-8162). 

(My apologies if any of the information given is incomplete: in some cases I know that a panel organizer has found Someone, but not yet who.) 

"Imaginary Translators, Imaginary Texts," now including presentations on Armand Schwerner's The Tablets and George Economou's Ananios of Kleitor. Please contact Mark Weiss at

"Translating East Asia: China, Korea and Japan," now including a presentation on Korean poetry (Sowol Kim by Jaihiun Kim and Ko Un by Brother Anthony ) and hoping to focus on translation of poetry since the 1940s. Contact Byoung Park at

"Translating Children's Literature," now including a presentation on versions of Lewis Carroll by Vladimir Nabokov and Boris Zakhoder. Contact organizer Sibelan Forrester at

"Translating Hispanic Religious Worlds - Past to Present," now including two presentations on the impact of the often unconsciously Protestant receiving culture in English translations from Spanish. Contact Amanda Powell  or Amalia Gladhart

"Transporting the ID: Carrying the Foreign Text across the Language Bridge." How can words, terms and concepts that are foreign in the original (e.g., the French dialogue in Tolstoy's War and Peace) be "foreignized" in the translation? Contact Miriam Oneal at

"Characterization in Translation," or "Voice and Other Elements of Translation." Now includes a presentation on translating from English and French into Hebrew, and one on translating from Old French into English. Contact Shai Sendik at
There is still room for one presenter on the panel "The Translator Translated," which now includes a presenter whose fiction has been translated into Danish, Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Hungarian; one whose fiction has been translated into French and Dutch; one whose poetry has been translated into Slovenian and Finnish; and one whose poetry has been translated into Spanish. Contact Dick Cluster at

"Outside the Lines: Translating Creative Non-Fiction." Now includes a presentation on translating "voice" in the personal memoir (examples largely drawn from work translating from German). Contact Julie Winter at

"The Translator as (Unwitting) Sales Person," with particular focus on translators from small languages. Contact Dr. Seija Paddon at

On behalf of the ALTA 2010 Local Organizing Committee, 

Sibelan Forrester,
Anna Barker,
Sharon Marie Carnicke,
Ruth K. Crispin,
Reinhard Mayer,
Dana Pilla,
Juan Carlos Rodriguez,
Adam J. Sorkin,


2010 ALTA Travel Fellowship Awards -  May 15: awarded to beginning (unpublished or minimally published) translators to help them pay for travel expenses to the annual ALTA conference, this year in Philadelphia

ALTA 2010 NATIONAL TRANSLATION AWARD - April 30 : ALTA invites publishers to nominate translations published in 2009 for consideration for ALTA's National Translation Award.  The winner will receive $5,000, and the award-winning book and translator will be featured at ALTA's 33rd conference, to be held October 20-24 in Philadelphia.

The ALTA Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize - April 30 recognizes the importance of Asian translation for international literature and invites publishers and translators to nominate book-length translations into English of Asian poetry or source texts. Languages eligible are Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. The winning translator will be announced in the fall of each year and receive a $5,000 award.

For further details on all of the above awards, please click here 



The Spring 2010 issue of Source, the online publication of the ATA's Literary Division, has just been posted at This issue features a provocative POINT/COUNTERPOINT exchange, with Casey Butterfield making the case in favor of the Google Settlement and Liliana Valenzuela making the case against. The case, which is still under judicial consideration, has important copyright implications for authors and translators.

The next issue of Source will focus on the theme Women in Translation. Submissions are welcome and may be sent via e-mail to Michele Aynesworth ( The deadline is May 1.


To obtain affiliate status with the MLA, we must have ALTA panels at MLA two years in a row. We had one panel at the MLA meetings last December and would like to propose another one for their meeting in Los Angeles in January 2011. Can anyone out there (who will be or can be at the MLA meetings next January) propose a panel? -- Barbara Harshav



The original caption on this photo was tl;dr. If you want to comment in an Internet discussion forum that the preceding thread is way too lengthy to be interesting, the abbreviation says it all -- too long, didn't read.


ALTA  News is a monthly publication of the American Literary Translators Association. Please send all news items to

The next complete newsletter featuring Members in the News will be the June 2010 issue, deadline May 7.

Contact information:
ALTA Newsletter
Editor: Lee Chadeayne
Tel. 978-263-0613

Designer: Michelle Long
Tel. 972-883-2768

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