Panacea for language needs of publishers

Translations are getting recognised like never before. Various publishers have started a new imprint for translations. Here, Vidula Tokekar, Director, TranslationPanacea shares her journey as a translator.

Vidula Tokekar, Director, TranslationPanacea
Vidula Tokekar, Director, TranslationPanacea

I am a believer of two things: one — almost everything can be ‘processised’ and two — ‘Creativity is discipline.’ This is reflected in the methods, philosophy, workflows and delivery of TranslationPanacea. Translation was a buzzword in Marathi books scene when we started working and I had a conviction that we can contribute not only to Marathi translation, but for other language pairs as well,” tells Vidula Tokekar, Director, Translation Panacea.

The journey was tough, but the dreams were high

“It was however, not an easy job to transfer this conviction to publishers. One, I was not known to anyone in publishing, so I had to establish my credibility. Though I had about 10 translations to my credit till then, it was hard. Manjul Publishing House, Bhopal were the first one to trust me, may be because I had done fairly good job of translation of a couple of books for them. The journey started from there, and we feel really privileged to have worked for various large, prestigious and quality conscious publishers in India. We went to publishers with the idea of outsourcing complete language edition to us. It included finding the right translator for the title, get it translated within time, get the translation edited, proofread, typeset and deliver the print ready file to the publisher. Once started, we had case studies and we kept learning. Learning about how to offer value, bridge gaps in the workflow, outperforming publishers’ stringent quality norms, the deadlines, confidentiality, compulsions…. It kept on challenging our processes and improving our delivery,” shares Vidula.

The projects handled

“So far we have delivered more than 250 translated titles to publishers in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Gujarati, Urdu, English, Arabic and Spanish. I feel really fortunate that we could work with renowned and highly professional publishing houses like Sage India, Yatra Books, Bloomsbury, Orient Blackswan, Rajpal and Sons, Macaw Books, Storytel, Westland Amazon, Saraswati Publishing, Vishwakarma and other publishing houses. We could learn from each of our clients and we incorporate that learning into all our projects,” she says.

Talking more about the books she handled, Vidula shares, “We have handled a variety of domains, ranging from mythology, indology, spirituality to romance, suspense to statistics, economics, management. A few books dear to my heart are Anuja Chauhan’s Battle of Bittora, David Silverman’s Qualitative Research, Pankaj Tandon’s A Textbook of Microeconomic Theory, Satya Nadela’s Hit Refresh, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Advantage India…oh, this list won’t end!”

The team

“This is possible only because of the excellent team of language professionals. Also our translation process and quality norms are equally responsible for this. To maintain the quality, consistency, time frame, minimising the loss in translation are some of the key issues. Our editorial support plays an important role in the whole project. Based on the input each project gives us, we regularly conduct online trainings for our translators,” she says.

Challenges in translating

“Once our translations started performing, publishers were more comfortable in trusting us. The next challenge was to train and develop good translators. Unfortunately, languages get such a ‘second-citizen’ treatment throughout the education system, that getting multilingual people is a challenge, plus we need them to have translation skills, plus they should want to have a career in languages and have an assurance of earning a decent lifestyle through translation. Another challenge is unreasonable expectations from publishers. We have to politely refuse the idea of distributing a 300-page novel to 7 translators to get the translation in 7 days. We are not simply capable of that,” tells Vidula.

“Also there is really a dearth of good translators who can translate from one Indian language into other. Earlier at least citizens living in border cities used to have mastery over both the languages. That species is disappearing fast. Due to lesser importance given to languages, translation skills are missing. We have started creating a repository of translators who can translate between Indian languages. It’s very satisfying to identify such skillsets, add technology use to it and train them to be competent literature translators,” she adds.

“Besides, there is a lot of curiosity about machine aided translation and there are advocates of both sides. As far as Indian languages are concerned, machine aided translation is — to put it mildly – far from satisfactory. I have some funny stories how the MT vendors encourage to write simpler and simpler. Somewhere we need to tell them that authors write for humans, not for machines,” tells Vidula as a matter of fact.

From translations to comprehensive language service provider

“Though we started with translation, the vision was clear to ‘be a comprehensive language service provider to publishers’. Publishers need various language services like language editing, proofreading, indexing, review of manuscripts or translation, typesetting, pre-production, web pdf, ebook conversion, writing reviews of published titles and so on. We are happy to have developed all these capabilities as a third party vendor, that too, in various languages,” she says.

“Another attempt that attracts publishers is our capability of direct translation between languages. For example, you can have direct translation from Spanish to Marathi, or Russian to Hindi, or German to Tamil and so on. We also have some interesting Indian language pairs for translations. Some of them are Malayalam-Marathi, Kannada-Marathi, Telugu-Tamil, Hindi-Gujarati, Hindi / Bangla/ Tamil / Gujarati from and into Marathi and others. In international languages, we have Spanish, Russian, German and Arabic with some Indian languages,” she adds.

Readers profile…

“Who reads translations? For self help books, we know that upwardly mobile individuals prefer to read the self help, management books and biographies. Interestingly, there is a good readership for fictions typical to a region. A very urban story that has sold well in English may or may not have enthusiastic readership in Indian languages. However, readers are really eager to read what is happening in minds of people from other regions, why an award winning author in one Indian language is so, what are their boys going through and what are their girls’ aspirations. Fictions that tell stories of a region arouse interest in readers and it actually creates bonding between two regions. Sounds too idealistic? It’s a happy fact. A first hand account of a gay Kannadiga awakens hope and reassurance in a mind of someone staying at Dhule or Nandurbar, small cities in Maharashtra. Publishers usually don’t share the numbers with us, so I am not able to comment on any sales figures,” tells Vidula.

“There are however limitations on translations to reach various reader groups. The content is moving from pages to screen…and to headphones. If the translation rights are only for print, it may not be able to reach the young readers and listeners. There are also cases where the publishers have done away with print completely and have published translation only in digital media,” she adds.

On a concluding note…

“Speaking or writing in an Indian language with lots of English words has become very fashionable. Writing in a pure Indian language is regarded as ‘vernac’ with a justification that this is the way people talk now-a-days. As a language lover and a translator, I feel it our responsibility to save the words and expressions on the verge of getting extinct,” opines Vidula.

“Being able to do what you like the most everyday is so refreshing! I am happy that I can bring this joy in the lives of many,” concludes Vidula.

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