American Literary Translators Association Newsletter



Alexis Levitin


Alexis Levitin is interviewed by a reporter for a PBS television station about meeting one of America's most famous authors, J.D. Salinger. You can watch the extended interview in two parts on ALTA's YouTube channel. The first encounter took place in 1968 near Dartmouth College, where Levitin was teaching. It was followed by other meetings at the home of the reclusive author high on a hill with no visible access either by road or footpath. The interview is in two parts: Part 1, Part 2.



Jim Kates was featured in an interview in "Subtropics" the literary magazine of the University of Florida and asked to comment on the inspiration behind his translation of a sonnet by Olivier di Magny. The interview ranges through a great many interesting areas and, in fact, engendered a delightful original sonnet. To have a look go to Subtropics.

Erica Mena


Erica Mena has agreed to be the new moderator of ALTAlk. Please come and join the conversation, and thank you, Erica!




In a follow-up on recent discussion of  machine translation and the Google translation program, David Bellos has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times. He describes Google as "a statistical machine translation system, which means that it doesn't try to unpick or understand anything. Instead of taking a sentence to pieces and then rebuilding it in the "target" tongue as the older machine translators do, Google Translate looks for similar sentences in already translated texts somewhere out there on the Web. Having found the most likely existing match through an incredibly clever and speedy statistical reckoning device, Google Translate coughs it up... That's how it simulates - but only simulates - what we suppose goes on in a translator's head. But there are important limitations that users of this or any other statistical machine translation system need to understand...It is not conceived or programmed to take into account the purpose, real-world context or style of any utterance. That's what literary translation is about. For works that are truly original - and therefore worth translating - statistical machine translation hasn't got a hope. Google Translate can provide stupendous services in many domains, but it is not set up to interpret or make readable work that is not routine - and it is unfair to ask it to try. After all, when it comes to the real challenges of literary translation, human beings have a hard time of it, too. See the entire article in the March 20 New York Times.


European Parliament


According to a March 19 article in The Irish Times, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt demonstrated a new prototype of his firm's visual search application, Google Goggles at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It works with the company's MT technology, Google Translate, to make a smartphone application that can read a foreign language text taken by a camera photo, such as a menu or street sign, and get it translated instantly.

Google has also confirmed that it is working on a mobile speech-to-speech translation application that it expects to become available within a couple of years.Using existing technologies in voice recognition combined with Google Translate, the firm aims to have a system capable of understanding a caller's voice and translating it into something close to the equivalent in a foreign language. But it won't be anywhere near perfect. It is widely acknowledged that, despite recent advances, automated MT is still crude compared to human translations.

To read more, see the Irish Times of March 19.

Director David Bellos in class at Princeton
Director David Bellos


A new certificate program launched by Princeton this fall claims to be the largest, most extensive effort in the country to educate students about the important role that translation plays across academic fields and in cultural understanding. Students pursuing the new certificate can focus on the field of translation through a broad selection of courses in the arts, humanities and sciences, working with faculty from numerous departments. The program includes professors in 17 departments, programs and centers -- from language departments to psychology and physics -- and has attracted certificate candidates who speak numerous languages. For more on this new program, see the April 16 issue of News at Princeton.



Volta: A Multilingual Anthology is an unusual anthology containing eighty-two poems in eighty-two languages. Eighty-one of these poems are translations of one poem, the eighty-second. The anthology, which began in issue 9 of ILQ with seventy-five languages is still growing.

As Richard Berengarten writes in his introduction, this project is "a celebration of multiculturalism and diversity". Apart from invoking the pleasure of learning about different languages, the anthology opens up many questions. For example: How many languages could this project extend to? Is translatability a universal feature of language itself? What does 'originality' actually mean? What difference is there between writing and translating a poem? And could the fact that these poems come from all over the world bear out Octavio Paz's claim: "For the first time in our history, we are contemporaries of all humanity"? You can read the current issue of Volta by clicking here.



The following conferences may be of interest to members. The text in blue is a link to a site with further information:


May 27  - Art in Translation: International Conference on Language and the Arts - Reykjavik, Iceland


June 21 - VII International Conference on Translation: the Paratextual Elements of Translation - Bellaterra, Spain


June 24 - XIV Forum for Iberian Studies: The Limits of Literary Translation / Los límites de la traducción literaria - Oxford, United Kingdom


June 28  - The Author-Translator in the European Literary Tradition - Swansea, United Kingdom

July27  - Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies (UCCTS) -  

Ormskirk, United Kingdom


September 2 - WALTIC 2010 - (Writers' and Literary Translators' International Congress)  Istanbul Turkey


October20 -  ScreenIt 2010. The Changing Face of Audiovisual Translation - Forlì, Italy

October  29 - 6th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting - Manchester, United Kingdom


November 1  - Translation and Interpretation in a Multilingual Context - Bangkok, Thailand


December 3 -  Travelling Languages: Culture, Communication and Translation in a Mobile World - Leeds, United Kingdom






If you have not yet paid your ALTA dues for 2010, here is your opportunity. The following site is security-enhanced for financial transactions, and you can do it now by clicking here!  Alternatively, you can download the Membership Renewal form and send your payment by mail. Please contact the office (972) 883-2093 if you have any questions.




The online poetry magazine "Rattle - Poetry for the 21st Century"  appears twice annually, every March and September. It is emailed to subscribers and available for download. The Spring issue has just come out and is available by clicking here. To subscribe, send a blank email to:



The newest issue of Two-Lines (2009) published by the Center for the Art of Translation and edited by Margaret Full Costa and Marilyn Hacker, is now available. For further information about the Center and events taking place there, go to




Linda Marianiello

Linda Marianiello is an active member of ALTA and participant in many online discussions on ALTAlk. She is both a literary translator and musician who lived for more than 10 years in Germany with her opera conductor husband, Franz Vote. Maestro Vote served on the music staff of the Bayreuth Wagner Festival (1989-1991) and as a principal house conductor for the Metropolitan Opera (1990-2001).

Linda has a B.A. Magna cum laude from Yale University in Liberal Arts as well as an M.A., Summa cum laude in Music Performance with German-language qualification from CUNY-Brooklyn College. In addition to German, Linda has studied Spanish, French and Italian at university and still enjoys reading in them.

Linda is currently working on a book, Germany's Prophet: Paul de Lagarde and the Roots of Modern Antisemitism, to be published jointly by Brandeis University Press and the University Press of New England.

Linda and Franz recently moved from Chicago to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her husband has his roots and Linda feels equally at home. They have brought their music with them, as Linda is still teaching. Her website includes several pages of Internet lessons, enabling people to study with her from anywhere in the world with the proper computer setup. Her most recent music CD will be released in 2010 on the MSR Classics label.

Linda has been a guest flautist at major European and American festivals, and has recorded extensively for MSR Classics and the Bavarian Radio in Munich. Her recordings are available as downloads at Verne Q. Powell Flutes, where she is a Recording Studio Artist.




Welcome to ThesaurusDEADLINE REMINDER

(prompt, cue, warning, notice, admonition, note, memorandum, memo, hint, suggestion, etc.)

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 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.

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