The job of the translator is quite serious, challenging and very responsible. It requires great concentration and broad knowledge. Many translators specialize in a given type of translation – some deal mainly with document translation, others specialize in a given industry or become professional literary translators. Regardless of their sphere of competence, translators know that they need to constantly update their knowledge and follow the industry trends in order to continue offering consistent services.  

Hand in hand with all its responsibility, translation can be fun too. It is a job that helps you learn new things, explore new horizons and possibilities and last but not least express yourself. Despite the fact that translators merely render the message of the author into another language, they also have their own style, especially when it comes to literary translation. One of the ways to show their abilities is to participate in a translation slam. 

What is a Translation Slam? 

The translation slam was inspired by the poetry slam movement that is a competition between poets who read or recite original poetry. It originated back to 1984 in Chicago and the idea was to popularize poetry. The competing poets were judged either by a panel or by the audience. 

The idea of the translation slam is to set two translators in a duel. They have to present their art of rendering the authors words in the best possible way while working under pressure.  

As a result, the translation slam also turns into an open forum for translation specialists and is generally for people interested in the art of translation. It is a great way to promote the profession of the translator and attract more young people to it. 

What type of texts and translators participate in a translation slam? 

Translation slams focus on different specific types of translation but most often this is literary translation. There are three popular styles that are the focus of such translations duels: 

  • Poetry 

The translation of poems is the closest equivalent of the poetry slam that is the forefather of the translation slam. A battle that features translation of poems is gentle and provoking to all the senses of the audience. It reveals the choices made by each translator in the attempt to present the author’s idea in the best way. The words and phrases adopted by the translator represent their signature style. Quite often we like the poems of a given foreign author thanks to the skillful translation of the professional who presented them in our own language. A translation slam focused on poetry is to be held at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York on April 19 as part of the Pen America: World Voices Festival 

  • Prose  

Book translations are also quite often the base of the translation slams. Translators working with the same language combination and usually in the same genre, compete with one another to translate paragraphs of a given book. Sometimes, the translators say that they are fighting for some of the fame that the author of the book has, while participating in such contests. The benefits for the audience is to listen to two unique translations of their favorite author.  

  • Comics  

An interesting challenge for the participants in a translation slam is to translate a passage from a comic book. Last year, on November 2, the 2017 edition of the Translation Slam held in Lucca featured an Italian-to-English translation of comics for the first time. A team sent by Europe Comics participated as judges in the event.  

No matter which is the category that you are professionally dealing with, participating in or attending a Translation Slam is a worthwhile experience. 

Why Participate in a Translation Slam? 

Translators are often described as writers with less ego and by participating in a translation slam can give them the opportunity to taste some of the glory. It is a unique experience for anyone who translates for a living.  

If you are the one competing on stage, you have to prove your qualities in a different setting. You get the chance to reveal your unique translation technique to like-minded professionals, who can truly see the difference an expression makes to the entire text of the translated document. 

The translation slam is worth attending, even if you are going to simply sit in the audience and admire those who dared to challenge one another. You get the chance to see professionals at their best and “steal” a bit of the magic from their craft.  

Besides, the translation slam is a great networking event and it is usually easier and cheaper to attend than a translation conference. It is quite easy to find the next translation slam as most are posted online. Just choose the one nearest you and mark it in your calendar. Allow yourself to witness the charm of a translation slam personally and why not participate in one in the future? 

As you can see, the translation slam is a great, yet a little offbeat way to meet new colleagues and grow your professional network. It is also a funny and light-hearted linguistic duel that gives the translator the opportunity to be in the forefront. It is fun both to participate in and to witness such a “fight.” You should definitely give it a try.  


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