30 Sep 2023  |   04:55am IST

Bridging the gap between two languages

September 20 is earmarked as World Translation Day, highlighting the importance of the role of translators in introducing new worlds of literature. In Goa too, there is an increase in translated material, yet there is a long way to go when it comes to bringing rich literature to light through translations
Bridging the gap between two languages

Dolcy D’Cruz

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 2017 declaring September 30 as International Translation Day, an act to recognise the role of professional translation in connecting nations. This day is observed alongside the feast of St Jerome, a patron saint of translators, who translated the Holy Bible. This year, the theme is ‘Translation unveils the many faces of humanity’. In Goa, the need for translations has increased and now from literature it has progressed to official documents and court orders. 

Damodar Ghanekar has an undying love for languages and he has worked on dictionaries from Konkani to English, English to Konkani and in 2022, he worked on the Marathi to Konkani dictionary. “Languages have to be translated to know the culture, history and regions of the world. English is the most read language but translations from any language can help understand different aspects of other cultures too. However, while working on translations, one has to careful with documents. It is certainly good news that translations are encouraged as it was recently announced the High Court of Bombay in Goa has started translating it’s judgements to Konkani and Marathi for the public. I am working on the revised edition of the English to Konkani dictionary which will include around a thousand more words. The dictionary will be out in another 3-4 months,” says Panjim-based Damodar Ghanekar. 

Prof Ramita Gurav has translated Damodar Mauzo’s two Konkani books into Hindi which includes ‘Sapanmogi’ to ‘Swapnapremi’ published by Rajkamal Prakashan in 2022 and a collection of short stories, published by Vanni Prakashan in Hindi as ‘Mannat’ this year. She is currently working on Damodar Mauzo’s recent novel, ‘Jeev Dium kai Chya Marum’. 

“Regardless of whether the books are doing well, the importance of translations reaches a wider readership. Sahitya Akademi has been translating books into Indian languages and now other publishers are also showing great interest in translations. If it was not for English translations, we would not be able to read Indian writers like Rabindranath Tagore. Translations are vital in understanding various cultures and places. Social media can play a negative part if the translations are not correct and can create more confusion. One cannot depend on Artificial Intelligence for translations as it requires sensitivity, sensibility and creativity. Important documents require technical translations while literature requires creative translations,” explains Prof Ramita, who has been a professor of Hindi at St Xavier’s College, Mapusa since 1995. 

Noted writer Uday Bhembre explains the evolution of translation in India, “India is a multilingual country and the India States were carved out based on languages so that the citizens would be proud of their language and language would be the vehicle to keep their culture alive and well preserved. However, these states would be cultural islands with no access to the literature of the neighbouring states. For a long time, the Government of India worked on finding a solution and they realised that translations could solve the problem. National Translation Mission by Central Institute of Indian Languages in Mysore began in 2005 but they are still restricted to documents and have not gone to literature.” 

Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, and National Book Trust have been translating books into 24 Indian languages. Sahitya Akademi also offers an annual award for best translations which encourages translators. 

Speaking about the richness of translations in Goa, Uday says, “Many people about two generations back were reading German writers in Goa. That’s because the Portuguese used to immediately translate books coming out of Europe to Portuguese. These books were later available in lyceum schools in Goa. Around 55 years back, when Konkani was not recognized as an official language as the controversy of dialect was still going on, Secretary of Sahitya Akademi, Dr Prabhakar Machwe came to Goa to guide us. He told us to translate Konkani into English, Hindi or any other Indian languages. It’s the efforts by Sahitya Akademi, National Book Trust, private publishers and writers that translations are encouraged.”

He further adds, “When Kala Academy announced the first Kala Academy Konkani Natak Mahotsav in 1976, it had a condition that there has to be a minimum of five entries. It was not held till 1979. I was the president of Konkani Bhasha Mandal then, and I asked theatre artists why they were not submitting their entries. Their major problems were finance and scripts. We assigned several writers to translate plays from different languages and built a bank of plays. In 1979, the first competition was held but we lost three years. Now, the same competition has awards for best script/ translation and receives at least 20 entries.” 

Goa, 1556, an alternate publishing house by Frederick Noronha has published translated books but still Frederick feels that there are many challenges to overcome. “A lot more can be and should be done in translations but private publishers are not the best to take it forward. It requires the building up of the skill and there is a big mix-match,” says Frederick. Goa 1556 has published books like ‘Espi Mai Is Stuck Again... And Other Goan Tales’ by Anita Pinto which was translated from English to Portuguese, Konkani (Devnagri), Konkani (Romi) and Marathi, ‘Battles Waged, Lasting Dreams by Silvia Braganca was translated from Portuguese to English and ‘Lengthening Shadows: An Anthology of Goan Short Stories’ by Paul Melo e Castro from Portuguese to English. 

“Goa is not viable for the numbers required to sell translations. There is a market as Goa has multilingual languages but the size of the market is a problem. Literature cannot be literally translated and the translators should be well versed if not professional trained in both the languages. There are many good books waiting to be translated especially important Goa-based thesis from Portuguese to English,” says Frederick, who is currently focusing on releasing books on the e-portal. 


Idhar Udhar