Translators Aloud: Showcasing the Voices of Translators Around the World

By | February 18, 2021

It’s been around five years since I’ve started doing translations of Japanese to English literature and other fiction, and it’s been a very rewarding, if not challenging experience. While I’ve gotten used to the process and been able to gradually increase my translation quality and speed, the fundamental difficulty of translation never goes away; it almost always takes a great deal of thought, trial and error, and even inspiration to make what I feel is a respectable translation.

Apart from the linguistic details of translation itself, I’ve gradually learned more about the translation industry as well, for example the struggle to have translators properly acknowledged for their efforts. Knowing the work that is involved, of course I am on the side of wanting translators to get as much recognition as possible. However, I also can understand (to a certain extent) the feelings of those who aren’t familiar with the challenges of translation, especially if they have never tried it themselves. This is a complex subject, and involves not only the perceptions of writers and publishers, but also readers themselves––something especially relevant given the extremely low percentage of translated literature published in English. 

Fortunately, I’ve also found about the wonderful community of translators who work together to help each other and communicate the best interests of the group to the world. At first I was surprised to hear about events which focused on translators, but now I think those types of activities are extremely important for the solidarity of the translator community. In the current day and age, meeting face-to-face is sometimes difficult, though there have been some online events recently that involve highlighting translators or translated works. 

One great example of this that I recently learned of is “Translators Aloud”, a YouTube channel devoted to sharing the work of translators, read by the translators themselves. The group has been active for the last eight months, publishing new videos on a pretty frequent basis, generally at least once a week. The excerpts are sometimes from translations of works who are searching a publisher, and sometimes from those which have already been published. 

There is a very diverse set of languages showcased (over 20 according to one of the videos that gave some statistics), but while listening to a few of them the thing that really stood out was how passionate the translators were towards their own works. Personally I enjoy reading my own translations out loud (I feel this is an important part of the editing process) so perhaps I should have expected the same from all the other translators on display here. I said the translators sounded passionate, but my actual first impression for some of the entries was closer to “wow, this person is really good at narration!” I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them had experience using their voice before.

As you might expect, soon after finding out about Translators Aloud, I contacted them to see if they would list a narration of one of my own translations. It took a few weeks (they seem to be getting many requests) but it is online as of today. You can see it here: 

Translators Aloud has amassed a pretty large number of followers, especially considering they have been working at this less than a year. I wish them the best of luck in continuing this program, and also highly recommend everyone to check out their channel, whether it is to learn more about translators from various countries, or to find some read-worthy translated works.

Here is the link to the Translators Aloud channel again. (Note: For some reason WordPress doesn’t seem to support embedding channel links.)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjaq9OSpoEeohPmK8ZT-C7w

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