Whether we’re aware of it or not, we spend much of our time in this globalised world in the act of translation. Language is a big part of it, as anyone who has fumbled with a phrasebook in a foreign country will know, but behind language is something far more challenging to translate: culture. As a traveller, a mistranslation might land you a bowl of who-knows-what when you think you asked for noodles, and mistranslations in international politics can be a few steps from serious trouble. But translation is also a way of entering new and exciting worlds, and forging links that never before existed.
Linda Jaivin has been translating from Chinese for more than thirty years. Her specialty is subtitles, but she has also translated song lyrics, poetry and fiction. She has interpreted for ABC film crews, Chinese artists and even, on one occasion, the English singer Billy Bragg. In this free-ranging essay, she reveals the work and the world of the translator.
Listen to Linda talk about Chinese literature in translation with Alice Liu in this Sinica podcast, recorded in Beijing in 2013.
And here, she talks to David Marr on the Midday Show, Classic FM (ABC) in a wide-ranging discussion on the subject of translation.
‘light and witty yet strongly argued’ – The Echidna and the Fox
‘wide-ranging, entertaining but also passionate’ Whispering Gums
‘A strength of Jaivin’s essay is to entertain us with numerous examples of what can be lost and gained in translation and why the topic is so important.’ The Australian