Zoom in to the Spanish-English collaborative translation group

by Gabriella Munoz

Earlier this year, TransCollaborate invited me help to facilitate a Spanish-English collaborative translation group.

I sent invitations to friends, colleagues and Latinx Facebook groups to join the project and the response was overwhelming. Given the COVID-19 situation in Australia and the challenges it brought, we started the group with three source collaborators and a target collaborator in June this year. The COVID-19 restrictions meant our evenings of translation took place in Zoom – a first for TransCollaborate – and that collaborators from all Australia, not only from Victoria, could join.

As a facilitator, it was important to ensure the texts the collaborators were going to translate from Spanish to English were challenging and also a reflection of our times. For the first session, the group worked on the poem ‘Un dia’ by Argentinian poet Alfonsina Storni and the micro-play ‘Un Mundo Entero’ by Mexican writer, director and producer Alejandro Ramírez. Storni’s poem reflects on what could happen after two individuals reunite and try to recognise each other and Ramírez’s micro-play introduces us to four characters who are looking for a home and what that means for them.

The group worked using the Zoom chat function to exchange ideas and work on the translation. The chat allowed me, as a facilitator, to see how they worked with language and made me part of their project in a way that, perhaps, wouldn’t have been possible in a physical space. As the session progressed, the participants found a rhythm of their own, working on the translation collaboratively and taking time to discuss what certain words could mean for Spanish speakers in Mexico and for Spanish speakers in Argentina before weaving their translation into English of each text.

During the second and third sessions, the collaborators worked on a fragment of the short story ‘Corredores’ by Nabucodonosor, which examines the estranged relationship between a father and his son. The short story posed a different set of challenges for the group as they embarked on a longer project which required two sessions to be completed.

The sessions also triggered several questions, for example, when we translate Spanish collaboratively and people from different Latinx countries participate, is there a need to first discuss and agree on the meaning and nuances of certain words and then translate to English? How would these translations look if the group decided to mix both English and Spanish, allowing themselves to experiment with multilingual writing? These and other questions remain open.

The collaborators and actors from La Vida Teatro will read online the micro-play ‘Un Mundo Entero’ in Spanish and English and discuss the translations process on 23 October. You can register for the event here.

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