Thu 09 January 2014

Notes from the Underground #27

Students of Dutch of the Universities of Sheffield, Nottingham and University College London got their teeth into Wim Brands' citybook on Ghent. Christina Barningham, student of the Department of Germanic Studies at Sheffield University tells us more about the translation project and proudly presents the result: The Brass Band That Ate An Elephant.

Translation project

Sheffield, Nottingham and UCL have joined forces for an exciting and innovative Dutch translation project. Students from the three universities have collaborated with the aim of translating the citybook by Dutch author Wim Brands. The story The Brass Band that Ate an Elephant takes us on a journey over the cobbled streets and through the historical squares of Ghent in Flanders.

What makes this project so special is that we, fourth year students studying Dutch in the UK, have crafted a literary translation that will be published as part of With the input of a professional translator, Jonathan Reeder, we had an in-house expert at our disposal. Throughout the process, Jonathan guided us with valuable translation tips and suggestions.

During the first phase of the project, the text was divided into eight sections and translated by all students individually. This showed up different interpretations and translation strategies. An online learning platform offered the possibility to communicate with our fellow group members at different locations. During the group phase, we would meet here ‘virtually’ to conduct discussions and debates about various interpretation options such as: “Do we translate the names of iconic monuments into English? And how do we translate an idiomatic expression?” During this stage it became clear that the group translation process was not only an exercise in linguistic competence but also a valuable practice in diplomacy and teamwork.

After the group stage came the final collaboration where all three institutions met during an online videoconference. We could finally put faces to our virtual translation partners. Consistency is the key to any translation and together, the groups had to agree on the final details. Even such minor nuances such as a comma here or a comma there can prompt fiery debates! Together with Jonathan Reeder, we held a plenary discussion and a final, fluid translation was agreed upon. Thanks to our editing team, who dotted the i's and crossed the t’s, our translation is now complete.

To be part of a professional publication was a fantastic opportunity. For most of the students it was the first time that we had been involved in something like this. Through our language expertise, teamwork and enthusiasm we have experienced how a translation is formed. The number of students studying Dutch in Great Britain is small and it is wonderful to be able to work together in such an engaging project.

Christina Barningham (Student at the University of Sheffield, Department of Germanic Studies)


Read more and watch a video about the project

© Henriette Louwerse


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