The Chronicles @Crossing Border [Literature + Music Festival] – Unlimited

The story of The Chronicles is a story of literature coming down from the “Ivory Tower” of elitist outreach by bringing it “to the streets”. It happens during the Crossing Border Festival, the annual Literature and Music feast in The Hague (NL) and Antwerp (BE) in November with borders mingling in various dimensions (national, arts genre, origins, ages). During the Festival, young international authors are invited to share their impressions in own languages about the city of The Hague within the Festival context. The Chronicles also bring to our attention young translators who get a unique opportunity to be in the spotlight of the stage.

Prologue – About getting there

The Chronicles started with the idea of making literature more accessible to people, especially to a younger audience. While in the first year of the project contributing writers were Dutch, the international aspect came into place for the first time one year later, in 2007 – a natural direction taking into account the character of the Festival itself. [Worth noting, the first international partner to be involved was the British Council Netherlands with whom Crossing Border brought young British and Dutch writers from and to the UK].

The Chronicles were celebrating their fifth anniversary this year in the good company of the authors Ben Brooks (UK), Peter Zantingh (NL), Pola Oloixarac (AR), and Sacha Sperling (FR). The participating translators were: Anne RoetmanAstrid Huisman, Beth Fowler, Katinka Staals, Laura Williams, and Vivien Doornekamp-Glass.

The Language Rich Europe project proudly supported the initiative.

The Chronicles – About the columns

It all starts before the Festival itself with a prologue column from the young writers. They write about their expectations, excitement about being translated into languages they do not know themselves, or simply travel. As Sacha Sperling, a young French author, notes “Aujourd’hui, les mots sont devenus mon passeport.” [Words became my passport today].

07-11-2011 Prologue                          Pola Oloixarac (Argentina, 1977)

En fin, no sé qué me espera en el festival europeo. ¿Podré, como mi paisana Máxima, alcanzar cierto trato principesco? ¿O me pareceré mas a mis compatriotas sudamericanos que llevan a cabo trabajos mal remunerados para subsistir en tierra neerlandesa? ¿O se parecerá a la zona roja de Amsterdam; un festival que incluye la celebrada carne argentina a manos de una dominatrix holandesa entrada en carnes? Really can’t wait…

During the Festival, each author writes one column per day in her/his own language – each year Dutch, this year also French, Spanish and English. They are immediately translated into other languages. As Federico Fellini said “A different language is a different vision of life” and columns capture it well. In different languages, they allow us to see the Festival and The Hague through eyes that see the world from different perspectives. Young authors enjoy much freedom of expression in relation to the subject – it is about their personal experience and in a loose relation to the Festival, which makes texts varied and also intimate. All the versions including translations can be found on the Crossing Border blog and during the Festival are available fresh from the press to the audience.

18-11-2011 Column 2                           Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)

Does the ‘joy spring’ from the reinterpretation of a good text because the text is good, or is it because the act of translating that makes translation fulfilling. I’m not sure how much sense that made. It’s hard to talk about. Is cooking, or eating the most fun. You have to eat, but you don’t have to cook. And someone else can always cook for you, but they can’t do your eating.

19-11-2011 Column 3                           Ben Brooks (United Kingdom, 1992)

We went to the ‘afterparty’ and the DJ was very bad and the only drinks you could order were ‘wine’ and ‘beer’ and ‘bacardi and coke already mixed in a can’. It was fun. I smiled at people and walked around. I talked to Adam Levin a lot and he is one of my favourite authors in the world and I think the way I talked was similar to the way a twelve-year-old girl would talk to Justin Bieber. Sorry, Adam. It is exciting and cold here. Everyone is everyone.

 20-11-2011 Column 3 (La dernière nuit)      Sacha Sperling (France, 1990)

Au milieu de la nuit, j’ai regardé par la fenêtre. La rue déserte. Spui. On aurait dit une route. J’entendais l’écho des voitures fantômes. J’ai regardé la lune (elle était rousse), et puis de nouveau la rue. Un camion est passé. Un camion énorme. Je n’ai pas eu le temps de lire l’inscription sur le côté. C’était un trente cinq tonne dont les phares projetaient une lumière féroce. Je ne pouvais pas détacher mon regard. Il avançait doucement à travers la brume. Comme en apesanteur. J’ai pensé à la route. Zone de passage. Non lieu. Désert organisé. La route qui donne le sentiment que les choses flottent. Qu’il est facile de flotter soi-même.

The Festival also gives the stage to both writers and translators (on the photo to the left, Ben Brooks on being translated). It is possible to meet them in person and listen to their reflections on the writing and translation processes, which are both very intense taking into account the timelines.

And the last words are written down after the end of the Festival – the last words within The Chronicles as the conversations behind the stage go on… Unlimited…

30-11-2011 Epilogue            Peter Zantingh (The Netherlands, 1983)

Elke ochtend schreef ik een column. Op zaterdag las ik op het festival voor wat ik die ochtend, in mijn pyjamabroek op de hotelkamer, geschreven had. Wat ik maakte had direct een publiek. Crossing Border was het mooiste dat me overkwam sinds het boek er is. Echt. 

Maar nu wil ik weer schrijven waar niemand het ziet.

Epilogue – About the influence

The Chronicles are more than chronicles of the Festival. More often than not, the project acts as the first Dutch publisher and helps to introduce a new young international writer or translator to the market. The project underlines the importance of translation by raising awareness and appreciation of translation among the audience and also the young writers themselves. After the festival, a selection of the columns is published in The Chronicles magazine (usually in the beginning of the following year). The Festival creates an opportunity for young writers to meet their favourite writers and build on their international network.

All the literary events are combined with various concerts, which definitely makes literature friendlier to the wider audience and more fun to the authors themselves. We are already looking forward to the next year, but first the publication!

A big thank you to Jessa Bertens, Project Coordinator of The Chronicles for all the information and contagious enthusiasm!

Sign Language – making literature more accessible

This year the Edinburgh International Book Festival piloted a new scheme which offered British Sign Language interpretation by request for any event. This built on previous years where BSL interpretation was offered at a number of pre-decided events. The festival ended on Tuesday and now with some time to reflect, Amanda Barry, Marketing and PR Manager has kindly shared some of the background to the initiative with the Language Rich Europe blog:

Why was the decision made to start this initiative?

We have a set budget for BSL interpreted events and were choosing the events ourselves which seemed the wrong way round. People who book events because they are BSL events rarely make themselves known to us, so we are never sure how many people actually use the facility. The events we used to pick to be BSL interpreted were often the more popular events and would sell out very quickly and we wanted to allow for later bookers, be able to assess how many people actually wanted/needed a BSL interpreter (given we are a book festival about language and words and many deaf people struggle with this) and wanted to give bookers some flexibility in what they could attend.

Although the response rate to the initiative was described as ‘low – about 6 people requested BSL interpreted events’ with no plans to expand upon it in the immediate future, the pilot recognises the importance of  sign languages in making book events more accessible with Press Manager Frances Sutton explaining that the festival wanted ‘to give our hard of hearing customers a wider range of events they can see and enjoy.’

Edinburgh is not the only book festival to include sign language in their programme. Last year, Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival launched the first British Sign Language translation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This book enables readers to read the text in English while following video clips of the BSL translation. According to publisher DeafEducate’s website, this is an important resource for language learning:

For people who use British Sign Language as their first language, eBooks will enable them to acquire confidence in reading and understanding English, and likewise for people who use English and want to learn British Sign Language.

Similarly, the European Commission funded project SignLibrary provides access to world literature which has been translated into Sign Language. Texts can be downloaded or read directly on the site and members can create their own stories or translate books themselves which can be uploaded to the Community area.

Initiatives such as these support the European Parliament’s call ‘to promote sign language and to ensure deaf people can work and learn in their preferred language’ and the European Commission‘s acknowledgement of sign language as ‘an important part of Europe’s multilingual diversity.’ There are many more excellent sign language projects and events happening across Europe, a few of which are listed below, but we would love to hear of others in the Comments section:

A big thank you to Amanda Barry, Frances Sutton and Colin Fraser at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for answering my questions and Kathrin Tietze at the British Council for providing information on other sign languages events.

Edwin Morgan – Poetry’s Ambassador for Multilingualism

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the death of Edwin Morgan, one of Scotland’s greatest poets. Born in 1920 in Glasgow, Morgan was Professor of English at Glasgow University until 1980 and went on to serve as Glasgow’s first Poet Laureate until 2002. In 2004 he was appointed the first ‘Scots Makar’, a position created to recognise Scotland’s rich history of poets (makar is a Scots word for poet).

Edwin Morgan loved language and languages, playing with how words sound and, through his concrete poetry, how they look on the page. In his poems he gives voices to unexpected objects including computers and an apple, and gives language to Mercurians and the Loch Ness Monster. He also translated poems from a number of languages including German, Hungarian, French, Spanish, Latin, Italian and English (into Scots) and published a book of Collected Translations in 1996.

One of my favourite poems by Edwin Morgan is the science-fiction poem ‘The First Men on Mercury’, which sees humans and Mercurians swap languages. Here is an excerpt, but you can, and should, read the poem in full on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website.

- We come in peace from the third planet.
Would you take us to your leader?
- Bawr stretter! Bawr. Bawr. Stretterhawl?
- This is a little plastic model
of the solar system, with working parts.
You are here and we are there and we
are now here with you, is this clear?
- Gawl horrop. Bawr Abawrhannahanna!
- Where we come from is blue and white
with brown, you see we call the brown
here ‘land, the blue is ‘sea’, and the white
is ‘clouds’ over land and sea, we live
on the surface of the brown land,
all round is sea and clouds. We are ‘men’.
Men come –
- Glawp men! Gawrbenner menko. Menhawl?

The Scottish Poetry Library is home to the Edwin Morgan archive, and yesterday the Director, Robyn Marsack posted a tribute to the poet on their blog Our sweet old etcetera…

Shakespeare in different languages during the Olympics

It has long been recognised that Shakespeare, as well as a great playwright, has become an international language. We want to celebrate this international affection by welcoming Shakespeare enthusiasts – producers, performers and audiences – to experience his work in their own languages and dialects.

says Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe’s artistic director, as it is reported the BBC News website

And it is exactly what the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will do during the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, giving the opportunity to the international audiences to experience Shakespeare in their own language(s), inside the Globe Theatre. Companies from around the world will participate in this special season, starting on 23 April and lasting 6 weeks.

Audiences will see The Taming of the Shrew in Urdu, The Tempest in Arabic, Julius Caesar in Italian, or Troilus and Cressida in Maori. Other languages will also include Lithuanian, Greek, Spanish, Turkish, …

A celebration of multilingualism, this project is also a very good way to open up to more international collaborations.

There is no information yet on the Globe’s public website, but you can read the press release with a list of the languages and plays to be performed.

Déjeuner thématique à La Monnaie: Eine Diskussion am Mittagstisch

RAB/BKO – Réseau des arts à Bruxelles/Brussel Kunst Overleg have organised a meeting about multilingualism in cultural institutions last month at the Brussels Opera House La Monnaie/De Munt. Our colleague Julia Kofler, from the British Council in Brussels, attended the event and is reporting back for the Language Rich blog… in German.

Donnerstag 31 Maerz : Reseaux des Arts Bruxelles, das franzoesischsprachige Netzwerk der kulturellen Institutionen in Bruessel und dessen flaemisches Pendant, das BKO luden zu einem Gespraech mit Broetchen ueber zwei und – Mehsprachigkeit im Bruesseler Kulturbereich. Die Veranstaltung fand, gerechter- und erfreulicherweise, auf Niederlaendisch  und Franzoesisch statt.

Els Van Volsem, Ausbildungsleiterin bei La Monnai/De Munt…oder bei De Munt/La Monnaie, ganz nach Bedarf, trug vor, wie die Thematik in dem staatlich subventionierten Konzerthaus und der Bruesseler Langzeitinstitution verarbeitet wird.

Bruessel ist in erster Linie der Sammelpunkt der flaemischen und wallonischen Kultur und Sprache. Was zusammenfuehrt, kann aber auch entzweien. So wird versucht, dem auf regionaler Ebene gegenwaertigen Kulturkonflikt, zumindest in der Hauptstadt entegenzusetzen und stattdessen Modell zu stehen fuer ein gegluecktes sprachliches Zusammenleben.

Bei La Monnaie/De Munt wird der franzoesisch-sprachige Text des Programmheftes ein Jahr auf die linke Seite und der flaemische Text auf die rechte Seite gesetzt, und das Jahr darauf das Ganze umgekehrt. Die Auskunft meldet sich hoeflich mit Bonjour, La Monnaie, comment je peux vous aider/ Goede dag, DeMunt, hoe kan ik u helpen ? Als waere dem nicht genug, wird den Mitarbeitern nahegelegt, doch bitte stets zu wechseln. Beim darauffolgenden Anruf heisst es dann: DeMunt, Hoe kan ik u helpen/ Bonjour, La Monnaie, comment je peux vous aider?

Aber nicht nur der Sprachgebrauch intern und mit dem Publikum, auch die Einstellung zu fremden Kulturen allgemein wurde angesprochen. So hat das Bruesseler Kulturangebot an exotischem Flair reichlich zugenommen: Afrikanisches Theater, Chinesische Oper, Balkan Festival und vieles mehr hat Einzug genommen in den staedtischen Saaelen. Und mit Erfolg: mehr und mehr werden dadurch die jeweiligen Gemeinschaften dieser Kulturen ins Theater oder ins Konzert gelockt. Das ist natuerlich ueberaus lobenswert, aber wie steht es mit der kuturellen Vielfalt innerhalb des Kulturmangements? Selten findet man Mitarbeiter aus anderen Laendern oder exotischem kulturellen Hintergrund, dabei ist Bruessel zu 47% anderssprachig , das heisst, Einwohner, die nicht franzoesische oder niederlaendische Muttersprachler sind: Ein klarer Nachteil fuer Sprachenvielfalt und –austausch innerhalb des Sektors.

Die Frage am Rande: Das Profil der Teilnehmer des Mittagsgespraechs bestand zum grossen Teil aus mittlerem Management und war weiblich. Kultur und Kommunikation sind an sich fast “naturgegeben” ein von Frauen sehr geliebter Bereich. Oder muss gefolgert werden, dass Sprachen und Sprachengebrauch von, im Kulturmanagement wie andersweitig meist maennlich besetzten, hoeheren Etagen weniger ernst genommen wird

Tire ta langue!

Tire ta langue est un programme radio sur France Culture qui explore la langue française et le multilinguisme à travers des discussions avec des philosophes, auteurs, acteurs, essayistes, linguistes, journalistes et autres.  Créée au milieu des années 1980 par Olivier Germain-Thomas et Jean-Marie Borzeix, directeur de France Culture, le programme était sous la responsabilité d’Antoine Perraud de 1991 à 2006.

Comme expliqué sur le site de l’émission, Tire ta langue explore différentes pistes à travers le thème de la langue:

  • La défense et l’illustration du français et de la francophonie, mais aussi la découverte d’une langue étrangère (Sommet ou journée de la francophonie. Quelle langue pour la science ? Le français malmené à l’ONU. Comment travaillent les commissions de terminologie ? …)
  • L’évolution du français contemporain, de ses variantes régionales ou corporatistes ; ceux qui s’en saisissent, ceux qui étudient une telle évolution (Les nouvelles formes d’argots. De la langue populaire au parler populiste. La langue de la Chine et des puces. La langue de l’écologie…)
  • L’analyse d’un auteur ou d’un genre littéraire (La langue de Marivaux, de Guyotat. La langue du canular. La polémique. Les comptines enfantines…).

 Vous pouvez écouter les différents entretiens sur le site de l’émission Tire ta langue sur France Culture.

Words Without Borders: ‘On Reviewing Translations’ Series

The online magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders, has launched a series to explore the ways that book reviews handle translation. As it is explained on the WWB website:

Reviewers and translators each have varied opinions on how translations should be discussed, and on who should be doing the discussing. At a recent panel on the future of book reviewing, review editors stressed the importance of translation coverage, though one admitted that he would rather pass on a translated book than assign it to a reviewer who might not “get it right.”  (Getting it right, according to him, means finding a reviewer with the ability to determine whether the translator has been faithful to the original language, and whether or not the translation “sounds” anything like the original text.) The issue came up again the following week, at a subsequent panel of book review editors. One made the point that there are essentially two kinds of reviews for translations, one for books that are appearing in the language for the first time, and another for books that have been translated before. Another editor said he expects an overall level of expertise from his reviewers on both the writer and the language, and a third said that a reviewer does not need to be a specialist in the language the book was written in, in fact she encouraged people to cover works from languages outside of their knowledge to follow their interest in contemporary literature.  

So far, WWB has published five articles from literary translators such as Edith Grossman, Daniel Hahn, Lorraine Adams and more. You can find a list of the published articles here.

Stephen Fry on Language

This brilliant and intelligent audio essay on language by Stephen Fry has been really nicely presented with kinetic typography by Matt Rogers, a graphics artist from Australia, on this video. You can also download an audio version from Stephen Fry’s website. This talk is not about multilingualism but about the use of language and certain people’s conservatism towards ‘new’ uses within language.

Language no problem!


Language No Problem!

In many many Dutch theatres and cultural venues, you can see a LANGUAGE NO PROBLEM message that will tell you that to enjoy a day or night at their venue (the Amsterdam Fringe Festival being one example among many), you don’t need a Dutch language course. All you need to do is look for the LNP marker (sometimes a logo, sometimes only a message) to find the shows that speak to you without any language barrier.

On this new season, if you are a non-Dutch speaker living in the Netherlands, you can watch several shows in a wide range of venues:
- Edit Kaldor’s C’est du chinois at Theater Frascati in Amsterdam, which tells the story of five Chinese citizens, determined to open up to the public despite the fact that the only language they speak is Mandarin. They will use the possibilities of theatrical representation and teach the audience basic oral comprehension of the Mandarin language, just enough to understand the gradually unfolding narrative.
- Steen Papier Schaar, a musical and theatrical adventure without words for children at De Krakeling in Amsterdam.
- The Hermitage Museum has a Language No Problem activity list on its website, including music and film programmes.
- The EYE film institute also has a Language no problem statement on its website that explains many films are in different languages, including English, French, German, or Spanish, and that they are mostly subtitled in English.
Depending on the artists and the works shown, the meaning of “Language No Problem” differs from “in English” to “no words”. Edit Kaldor’s performance is really interesting in that aspect because it tries something different. It is however really helpful for a non-Dutch speaker to be able to browse on a theatre or museum programme and be guided towards activities that will not require knowledge of Dutch. Although the LNP statement is in English, which still does require you to at least know a bit of that language, the initiative does manage to create awareness about multilingualism in theatre, film and other art forms, and that audiences can still access these events, beyond language barriers.

Language Rich Blog

Welcome to our Language Rich Blog, an online space especially built in the frame of the British Council’s Language Rich Europe project.

A great number of authors from across Europe will post articles related to various issues around multilingualism: British Council project managers working on Language Rich Europe, language experts, teachers, artists…

Our aim is to share knowledge, expertise, good practices, information… that will help us and our partners in advocating the necessity of multilingualism across Europe and beyond. For this we will use a wide range of categories and areas of work like the arts, governance, policy, migration, education and more.

Enjoy reading and don’t hesitate to leave your comments!

The Language Rich Europe team.