Judge's comments

Comments of the panels of judges on the winners in the 2012 SATI Prizes for Outstanding Translation and Dictionaries

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Literary Translation

The winner of the 2012 SATI Prize for Outstanding Literary Translation is Linda Rode for Bitter Heuning, the Afrikaans translation of Hermione Suttner’s English novel Bitter Honey, published by Kwela Books in October 2011.

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The renowned translation scholar André Lefevere’s term ‘rewriting’, which refers to the manner in which a translator adapts a source text at a socio-cultural, ideological and literary level for a different cultural group, is highly apt to describe this new jewel in the treasury of Afrikaans literature. The deft way in which Linda Rode rewrites the source text linguistically, idiomatically and stylistically enriches the translated text to such an extent that it is of even better quality than the original manuscript. The text grips the reader from the first word and at no stage is one aware that this is actually a translation. The unique Sandveld Afrikaans used in the text appeals to the eye, the ear and the tongue – one would hope that its exposure in the translation will see this regional dialect preserved as a cultural gem. The interesting relationship between the source text and Rode’s creative rewriting of it promises to make a significant contribution to this exciting topic of research in translation studies.

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The judges also commended Daniel Hugo for Tikkop, his Afrikaans translation of Adriaan van Dis’ Dutch novel of the same name, published by Protea Boekhuis in 2011.

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The translation of Tikkop into Afrikaans creates an insider version of an outsider's perspective on a country where insiders no longer quite know how to speak to each other, despite the plethora of languages, vocabularies, codes, statutes and constitutional keywords at their disposal. The matter of interpersonal hermeneutics, originally explored in Dutch in this searching exploration of available ways of seeing, and speaking, in post-transitional South Africa, becomes hauntingly urgent when rendered in a close and familiar Afrikaans. Daniel Hugo's translation is tight, smart and supple, leaving readers with an important addition to the canon of SA writing in Afrikaans.

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Translation of Children’s Literature

One often reads that the problems faced by translators for adults and children are essentially the same. After all, the whole duty of any translator is to render the work under his or her hand as clearly and accurately as possible, and to carry over from the original as many of its peculiar qualities as possible. Just like translators for adults, those for children should attempt to render the culture-specific details of the translation, and make them clear to the reader without interrupting the flow of the story.

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The success of a good translation depends to a large extent on the knowledge of the culture in which the original text is embedded and on the ability of the translator to raise the illusion in the reader’s mind that he is also part of that culture. The translator has to consider whether the reader will be able to digest the experience of foreign cultures and their peculiarities. It therefore poses this constant struggle between consideration of the original, and regard for the intended readers. And it is exactly here that the difference in translating for children and adults comes to play. It is simply more difficult to ‘raise up in the mind of the child reader an illusion’, than for an adult reader. Young people do not have the knowledge and experience that adults have to sufficiently form these ‘illusions’ and to help the translator in crossing the bridge between the different cultures. Their different stages of emotional development make it even more difficult and then there are the additional matters of influence of various intermediary groups – the parents, teachers, publishers, etc. – and pedagogical considerations. In the meantime all the literary standards have to be met as well. Because of all these additional considerations that play a role, children’s books translators are usually allowed (or even expected) to manipulate the original text to fit in with all the requirements.

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Translators have been described as secondary authors, associate creators, language mediators, cultural messengers � they are clearly special people. And as I have tried to indicate, translating for children requires even more special abilities. The winning translators therefore deserve the recognition that goes along with the SATI Prizes.

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Only four books were submitted for the first SATI Prize for children’s book translations in 2012. The fact that there were 11 nominations in 2012 is of course a positive development. Children need to have access to the best children’s books of the world and translations make this possible. However, it has to be said that one can only hope that publishers do not focus on translations and co-productions, which is much cheaper, to the expense of publishing original books in the indigenous languages and developing new authors.

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The panel of adjudicators, consisting of Franci Greyling, children’s book author and lecturer at Northwest University Francois Bloemhof, author for young adults (and adults), and Thomas van der Walt, lecturer at the University of South Africa, had a hard time in coming to a decision. In the end it was rather difficult to choose between three translations/books but the final decision of the adjudicators is that the winner for 2012 is Elsa Silke for In the Never-Ever-Land, the translation of In die Nimmer-Immer-Bos by Linda Rode and published by Tafelberg.

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The translation of folk tales has been described as a ‘complex process that cuts across semiotic boundaries’, a process whereby the folktale, which normally are transmitted in oral performance, is rendered into the medium of print – and where the first recording already meant a compromise. With folktales there are so many aspects involved: watching, listening there are the gestures, pauses, the performance – and then the recording. The recorder and re-teller of the folk tales have to walk a tightrope between these aspects, and afterwards the translator has to deal with whatever they came up with.

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Silke managed admirably to produce a fluent and entertaining text that lost very little in translation. She is praised by the adjudicators for the playful dealing with word and sound and for the way in which she succeeds to retain the modality of the original text in her innovative translation. See for instance her portrayal of the relationship between Jackal and Wolf in ‘Jackal the trickster’:

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The Afrikaans: ‘Wolfie-Kedolfie’, sê Jakkals en sy stem word sag en glibberig’ is translated with: ‘Wolf, my brother’ said Jackal, and his voice grew slick and slimy.’

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Her choices of names for the characters are creative and in some cases even more striking than the originals. One example: ‘Miserman’ and ‘Very Miserly man’ for the Afrikaans ‘suinige man’ (‘Sweet little reed’).

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The translator is lauded for the accessible and idiomatic text. Her free translation of songs and rhymes is particularly effective, as well as the retaining of language, cultural and setting-specific words that contribute to the atmosphere in the stories. Silke created stories with their own voice. This is very difficult in the case of folk tales, and, once again, especially difficult with translations of folk tales. Because there are so many voices involved: the ‘primal orator’ the storytellers afterwards the scribe, and then the translator. Her translations reverberate the implied rhythm of the original text and she succeeds, seemingly without difficulty, to retain the playful and folkloric elements, very often combined with humour.

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The translation of the original Afrikaans text into English makes it theoretically possible that an international audience may now be able to appreciate this exquisite collection of folktales. In the Never-Ever-Land is a beautiful book and the publisher and the illustrator Fiona Moodie have to be congratulated, together with the re-teller of these stories in Afrikaans, Linda Rode.

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The Prize, however, goes to Elsa Silke for her outstanding translation. This is in fact her third SATI award. She previously won the Prize for adult fiction for her translation of Karel Schoeman’s Hierdie Lewe and she also won that for non-fiction for her translation of Ek leef my droom by Chris Karsten.

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The adjudicators would also like to commend two other books.

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First, Jaco Jacobs for his Afrikaans translation, Ek soek ’n tier, of the original I want a mini tiger by Joyce Dunbar, published by Lapa. Jacobs is one of our top Afrikaans children’s authors, and also a previous recipient of this prize. The adjudicators laud his supple and creative use of language and the effective interaction between his ‘new’ words and the ‘old’ illustrations. His entertaining text is described as just as fresh as the original, and in some cases even appears better than the source text. His use of rhyme, rhythm and wordplay come together brilliantly to overcome the linguistic and cultural barriers in his translation.

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The second book that we would like to commend is My name is Vaselinetjie, and once again the translator is Elsa Silke. The original Afrikaans text, Vaselinetjie by Anoeschka von Melck, received several literary awards, and is a challenging text to translate. The adjudicators refer to the excellent way in which Silke succeeded in keeping the language register. She found alternatives to create the same atmosphere as the Afrikaans text. This, as well as her creative use of names and nicknames, but also the retaining of certain Afrikaans terms and cultural elements, ensure that the original atmosphere of the story is largely kept.

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Dictionaries

The unanimous recommendation of the representative jury appointed by the SATI Council is that the bilingual Oxford IsiZulu–IsiNgisi Isichazamazwi Sesikole / English–IsiZulu School Dictionary should receive the SATI Prize for Outstanding Translation Dictionaries.

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The dictionary met the following criteria:

  • The dictionary is of a high standard in terms of appearance and quality of printing and allows for easy referencing.
  • The macrostructural elements: each side of the dictionary contains about 5 000 headwords in isiZulu and 5 000 in English. The selection was based on frequency of use of which only the most frequent senses have been entered in the dictionary. A star system indicates frequency of usage.
  • The microstructural elements: significant information is provided in the dictionary articles. The information provided is relevant in terms of the target users (learners), with an indication of parts of speech, information categories, and example sentences in both languages. The data is, however, not always reversed (cf. English lemma million 1 > yisigidi -yimiliyoni 2 isigidi imiliyoni – but the reverse lemmas are not in the isiZulu side).
  • The dictionary complies with the structure of the dictionary typology – i.e. a bilingual bidirectional learner’s dictionary. The compilers did in-depth research on the principles and practice of learner’s dictionaries before compiling the dictionary.
  • The front matter assists with dictionary usage and complies with the needs of the target users. The front matter gives a clear indication of the dictionary features in both languages. The introduction in both languages explains the reasoning behind the compilation of the dictionary regarding specific needs and lexicographical procedures followed.
  • The study section in the middle of the dictionary gives assistance with various dictionary activities, assistance with formal and informal letters and e-mail and electronic messages. It also supplies information on dictionary usage procedures. This is followed by a short guide on isiZulu pronunciation and assistance with irregular verb forms in English, English pronunciation and English spelling. The back matter contains a reference section with illustrations of various objects (animals, fruit and vegetables, the human body, sport, etc. named in both languages. It also contains useful information such as a map of South Africa the names of the South African languages phases of education numbers weights and measurements and the answers to the dictionary activities. These information categories assist with dictionary usage and comply with the needs of the target users.
  • The nominated dictionary is able to stand as a reference tool in its own right.
  • This dictionary is a significant source to assist the target language communities since it caters for the needs of learners in both languages. It is a bridging dictionary between isiZulu, which is the largest language group in South Africa, in combination with English, which is not only a major world language, but also the lingua franca of South Africa.
  • The dictionary succeeds in transcending linguistic, cultural and even scientific and technical barriers since it contains curricula-related terms.
  • This dictionary contributes towards promoting discourse in the source and target languages since it contains the words most likely to be searched for.

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The well-researched material fills (even if not perfectly) a huge void that has existed for decades and hampered the natural evolution of Zulu as a literary language. At this juncture Zulu is this country’s biggest spoken/understood language by far – both natively and as a second language but remains challenged as a medium of learning instruction owing, among other things, to a dire general shortage of effective lexical instruments like this dictionary. It is not surprising that many younger folk are migrating en masse to English as the medium already best suited for all-round communication.

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The compilers have gone the sorely needed extra mile to present the text in the most user-friendly way possible, given the current constraints of the conjunctive orthography of the Zulu language. This is particularly helpful to people learning Zulu as a second language – even though one of the adjudicators (a mother-tongue speaker of isiZulu) maintains that transferring to a disjunctive writing convention like the other non-Nguni indigenous languages would maximally reduce the problem.

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The lexicographical principles and procedures followed by the compilers of the dictionary indicate that they are professionals in the trade. They are also language practitioners who are proficient in the source and target languages.

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It therefore gives us pleasure to recommend the bilingual Oxford IsiZulu–IsiNgisi Isichazamazwi Sesikole / English–IsiZulu School Dictionary to receive the SATI Prize for Outstanding Translation Dictionaries.

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