Many Chineses, Many Englishes

Jeremy Tiang, New York University
Monday, November 19, 2018 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm
144 Louis A. Simpson International Building
Monday, November 19, 2018 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

Translation is often spoken of as if texts have a straightforward path between one unified language and another, but languages are not as monolithic as that would imply. As translators, how do we navigate linguistic and cultural variance? In translating books from Singapore and Hong Kong that use Cantonese as well as Mandarin, as well as Taiwanese novels that emphasize the difference between the Mandarin spoken in Taiwan and Mainland China, I have come to appreciate the nuances of Chinese dialects, and thought about how to render these differences in English. Similarly, approaching the target language is not just a question of British or American, but must also take into account the source culture, e.g. English is spoken in Singapore/ Malaysia/ Hong Kong, and so when translating Chinese texts from these places, local nomenclature must be considered, even when it goes against American house style (eg. "secondary school" vs. "high school"). Overall, we should consider the larger implications of language hegemony behind the terms "Standard Chinese" or "Standard English." What does that mean for people outside the standard?

Jeremy Tiang has translated more than ten books from Chinese, including novels by Li Er, Zhang Yueran and Yeng Pway Ngon, and most recently, Jackie Chan's memoir Never Grow Up. He has been awarded an NEA Literary Translation Fellowship and a PEN/ Heim Translation Grant. He also writes and translates plays, and is the author of State of Emergency (winner of the Singapore Literature Prize) and It Never Rains on National Day. Jeremy is the Managing Editor of Pathlight journal, and a founding member of the translation collective Cedilla & Co. He lives in Brooklyn.

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Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication