The Lives and Labors of Professional Translators and Interpreters
Friday, February 19, 2021, 12:30pm – 2:00pm PST
Click here to register for the event.

Seattle-area translators and interpreters will join the UW Translation Studies Hub community once again to discuss the practical and ethical dimensions of working in their professions. Topics will include translator/interpreter training and education, the joys and frustrations of the working life of a translator/interpreter, the tension between accuracy and efficiency, and the prospects and perils of artificial intelligence/machine translation in the field. Featuring:

  • Yasemin Alptekin, specialist in literary, legal, medical, and educational interpretation/translation. Yasemin Alptekin studied linguistics, literary translation theory and techniques while pursuing a BA in Western Languages and Literature at Bosphorus University in Turkey. She specializes in legal, medical and educational interpretation/translation as well as literary, and has an academic interest in translation theory.
  • Chris Kunej, Manager of Interpreter Services at King County Superior Court, Seattle Washington. Chris Kunej is currently the Manager of Interpreter Services at the King County Superior Court in Seattle; the program schedules interpreters for 150+ language events daily and has covered 170+ languages. Chris is a certified court interpreter in over 10 US states, is a published linguist in both the US and internationally and has taught advanced language and culture at a major US university as an Adjunct Professor.
  • Yvonne Simpson, Director of Interpreter Services at Harborview Medical Center. Yvonne Simpson is Director of Interpreter Services at Harborview Medical Center. She is a DSHS and nationally certified medical interpreter. Yvonne began her career 15 years ago in Arizona after completing her Master’s in Spanish sociolinguistics.
  • Mia Spangenberg, literary translator, Finnish and German to English. Mia Spangenberg is a literary translator who translates from Finnish and German into English. She is particularly passionate about children’s literature and a regular contributor to the WorldKidLit blog.
  • Moderated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega, freelance literary translator, Russian to English


Translating Poetry and Teaching Translation for Publication
Presentations by Paul Atkins, Justin Jesty, and Ping Wang, UW Department of Asian Languages & Literatures

Friday, January 15, 2021, 12:30pm – 2:00pm PST
Click here to register for the Zoom meeting.

WANG Ping (Asian Languages & Literature)

Translating “Nature” and the Nature of Translating: Classical Chinese Poetry as a Global Phenomenon

Poetry written in the Classical Chinese language may have suffered the first setback when China ushered in the twentieth century—an era marked by incessant revolutions and drastic measures to modernize the nation. In recent decades, however, Classical Chinese Poetry has made a comeback through translation and introduction to a global audience. In particular, the discovery of “landscape poetry” aka “nature poetry” seems to have resulted from non-native scholars who utilized translation as a major research tool.

WANG Ping is Associate Professor of Chinese Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has previously taught at the University of Colorado, Boulder; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Princeton University. Her research focuses on the history of Classical Chinese literature, poetry and poetics, and translation and criticism. She is the author of The Age of Courtly Writing: Wen xuan Compiler Xiao Tong (501-531) and His Circle (Leiden: Brill, 2012) and co-editor of Southern Identity and Southern Estrangement in Medieval Chinese Poetry (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015).

Paul Atkins (Asian Languages & Literature)

Translating Medieval Japanese Zen Poetry

Zekkai Chūshin (1336-1405) was a Japanese Zen abbot and poet who lived in China for eight years at the beginning of the Ming dynasty and left behind about 170 poems in classical Chinese.  My current project is an English translation of Zekkai’s selected poetry, with annotations and an introduction. 

In this talk, I will discuss some of the choices one faces in translating classical Chinese poetry into English, from format to form to meaning.  Then I will address the triangulated nature of interpreting Zekkai’s poetry, as nearly all of the extant commentary about it has been published in Japanese. 

Paul S. Atkins is professor of Japanese in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, Seattle.  He teaches and writes about classical Japanese language, literature, drama, and culture. His publications include Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017) and Revealed Identity:  The Noh Plays of Komparu Zenchiku (Center of Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2006). He was awarded the William F. Sibley Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature and Literary Studies by the University of Chicago in 2011 for his translation of the 18th-century puppet play Nagamachi onna harakiri (Harakiri of a woman at Nagamachi).

Justin Jesty (Asian Languages & Literature)

Teaching Translation for Publication

I will introduce my work with advanced Japanese language students, using materials that we intend to publish in English when complete. (Intended) publication creates a horizon wherein typical language-classroom questions of correct/incorrect or competent/incompetent must be supplemented with the more ambitious and nebulous goals of optimization, even perfection. The prospect of judging “perfection,” however, opens up a field of pragmatic considerations such as the context and intended audience of the original production, the age, gender, race of the speaker/writer, as well as the situation and intentions of us as translators. The question I have been working through is how to navigate this operation where the historical contingency of judgments of quality presents itself most clearly and urgently in a situation where we are forced to make singular, finalizing judgments about quality.

Justin Jesty researches the relationship between art and social movements in postwar Japan. He recently published the book Art and Engagement in Early Postwar Japan (Cornell University Press 2018), which was awarded the 2019 ASAP Book Prize by the Association for the Study of Arts of the Present. He is currently researching contemporary socially engaged art. In 2017 he edited a two-part special issue on the topic in FIELD: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism. He has also published several articles on postwar social documentary.

Presentation by Vicente Rafael, UW Department of History
Friday, December 4, 2020, 12:30pm – 2:00pm PST
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Vicente Rafael (History) compares in this talk the practice of translation between the Spanish Habsburg and contemporary US empires. He focuses on what they have in common – an enduring attachment to logocentrism, or a metaphysics of the sign – and shows how the practice of translation alternately enables and disables this metaphysic from functioning in such disparate areas as Christian conversion, counter-insurgent warfare and the work of the Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the Univ. of Washington. He is the author of several books and works on the cultural and political history of the colonial and post-colonial Philippines and occasionally writes on the United States and the Spanish Pacific. Currently, he is finishing a book on the necropolitics and aesthetics of authoritarianism, Sovereign Trickster: Death and Laughter in the Age of Duterte (Duke University Press, forthcoming).

Human + Machine Translation
Friday, October 30, 2020, 12:30pm – 2:00pm PST
Click here to register for the Zoom meeting.

Machine Translation dates back to the 1940s and rose in popularity in the mid-1990s with the advent of the World Wide Web. However, we know little about how people use machine translation in their lives. Daniel Liebling will present a brief history of machine translation, followed by some state of the art results. To what extent do algorithmic measurements correlate with end-user satisfaction? He will then cover recent ethnographic and systems research on how well machine translation currently serves its users, followed by opportunities for translation studies scholars to inform the development of future human + machine translation systems.

Daniel Liebling (he/him) is Staff Engineering Manager at Google Research where he leads a team of scientists and engineers on human language technologies like speech recognition and machine translation. Before Google, Dan worked on human-computer interaction and information retrieval at Microsoft Research. He has over 40 publications and 15 patents. Dan holds a M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from UW and a B.S. in Engineering and Applied Science from Caltech.

Classics of Translation = Translation of Classics
Friday, October 9, 2020, 1pm – 2:30pm PST

Featuring two presentations by faculty from the UW Department of Classics:
“Inspiring Revelations: Simultaneous Classroom Translations of the Old and New Testaments in Greek and Latin,” presented by James Clauss
“Drawing on Multiple Translations of Homer in the Classroom,” presented by Olga Levaniouk

Aria Fani on the Allure of Untranslatability and Hamza Zafer on Translating Quranic Narrative
Thursday, February 13, 2020, 12pm – 1:30pm PST

In the first part of this talk, Prof. Aria Fani (assistant professor of Persian and Iranian Studies) will do a presentation on the idea of untranslatability, which has been used as a normative framework for the discussion and analysis of linguistic and cultural difference. Whether done in the name of cultural recognition or cultural chauvinism, he argues that the rubric of untranslatability places too many restrictions on our understanding of linguistic and cultural difference. In fact, untranslatability is best viewed as a remnant of romantic nationalism and its monolingual ethos. This presentation will engage the work of a prominent Persian-language scholar in conversation with theorists of untranslatability in comparative and world literature today.

In the second part of this talk, Prof. Hamza Zafer (assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies) will do a presentation on the challenges and strategies of translating Quranic narrative as the citational, non-linear style of Quranic narrative poses a unique set of challenges to the conscientious translator. The presentation will focus on translating “The Surah of Noah” (Q. 71), the Quran’s highly stylized retelling of the Noah story from the Book of Genesis. Most translations of this Surah attempt to coordinate the Quran’s idiosyncratic telling with its Biblical Vorlage. In so doing, they inadvertently frame Quranic narratives as disjointed or confused Arabian “translations” of pristine Biblical “originals”. The presentation will explore translation strategies that preserve the interpretive agency of Quranic narrative and highlight the rhetorical force of Quranic narrative through the use of sound and structure.

Roundtable: The Lives and Labors of Professional Translators and Interpreters
Friday, January 17, 2020, 12pm – 1:30pm PST

Seattle-area translators and interpreters join the UW Translation Studies Hub community to discuss the practical and ethical dimensions of working in their professions. Topics include translator/interpreter training and education, the joys and frustrations of the working life of a translator/interpreter, the tension between accuracy and efficiency, and the prospects and perils of artificial intelligence/deep learning in the field.

Shelley Fairweather-Vega, freelance literary translator, Russian to English
Tim Gregory, FBI linguist, Arabic-English
Norma Kaminksy, medical translator, English to Spanish
Frazier Lowell, court interpreter, Mandarin-English
Mary McKee, freelance technical/business translator, Spanish to English
Yuliya Speroff, community interpreter and interpreter trainer, Russian-English

José Alaniz and Jason Groves on Russian Comics and “Weak” Translation
Friday, November 22, 2019, 12pm – 1:30pm PST

In the first part of this talk, Prof. José Alaniz, associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Comparative Literature (adjunct) at the University of Washington, Seattle, examines the theory and practice of translating comics (graphic narrative), with an emphasis on Russian comics.

In the second part, Prof. Jason Groves attends to, and tentatively advocates for, the low threshold of plausibility and admissibility for “translation” in a range of literary texts and practices, following recent articulations of “weak theory” and “weak environmentalism”—with “weak” variously understood in non-derogatory senses of partial, provisional, centrifugal, leaky, impromptu, reparative, etc.

Amelia Glaser on Teaching Translation Studies: A Literary Science for a STEM Campus
Tuesday, October 29, 2019, 12pm – 1:30pm

The humanities and sciences often appear to fall on separate sides of an academic culture divide. At a moment when many universities are becoming increasingly STEM-focused, the study of literature is both challenging and necessary, and translation offers a way of bridging disciplines by emphasizing language and interpretation. At the undergraduate level, translation courses offer an opportunity for student collaboration, experimentation with language, and a discussion of disciplinary differences in language. Amelia Glaser, who has developed translation curricula for a variety of contexts and levels, from K-12 to graduate study, will share methods and observations from her experience developing a large lower division translation course for undergraduates at U.C. San Diego.

Translation Everywhere
Monday, October 7, 2019, 2:30pm – 5:00pm

This is the first of a series of working colloquia and guest lectures, featuring three presentations:

“Translation and its Publics”
Richard Watts (UW French and Italian/Canadian Studies Center)
“Translation, Circulation, the International Prize System, and World Literature”
Heekyoung Cho (UW Asian Languages and Literature)
“How Kovačič’s Fur Coat Is Made: What a Formalist Analysis Tells Us about the Art of Translation”
Michael Biggins (Slavic Languages and Literatures)