Languages, with their multitude of associations from identity to communication to education, are of essential importance. Languages also transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way.

To honour this, International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The promotion and dissemination of mother tongues not only encourages linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also helps to develop greater awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world, as well as understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

To mark this annual celebration, we are hosting a free, online conference for budding literary translators called Manchester in Translation, reminding everyone of the incredible linguistic diversity that Manchester is home to. We asked translators who are taking part in the panel sessions and workshops on the day to tell us about how they got into translation, and what inspired them to do so.

Anjum Malik, Urdu-English translator

“I got into translation when I left the police working as a police officer; they didn’t want me to go and asked if they could call on me to help as an interpreter, I agreed. I went onto work for police forces around the country, the courts, immigration and hospitals. I really enjoyed being in different settings, helping people in difficult situations. My love for interpreting and translation continued when I became a poet and script writer and continues through my work with individuals, communities and organisation using my art forms. I also use translation in my own writing, details of my latest drama series using this are here.”

The Book of Jakarta
image credit: POST Bookshop

Khairani Barokka, Indonesian-English translator

“Like millions of people around the world, I’ve been translating between cultures and languages, and had them translated for me, my whole life. I began doing so for pay at around 12 or 13, for Indonesia’s biggest news magazine.”

Sophie Hughes, Spanish-English translator

“Like many literary translators, I was drawn in to the professional not by any course or innate sense of vocation – but by a book! Iván Repila’s beautiful novella El niño que robó el caballo de Atila kept me up all night, made me miss my bus stop, all the old (and true) cliches. I loved the book so much I wanted to turn it inside out, get as close as possible to it, carry it across to my first language, English, and above all share it. I wrote to his agent in Spain, who was happy to hear from a reader who shared her great enthusiasm for the book, and I translated a sample for her, which Pushkin Press picked up, and the always supportive Adam Freudenheim took a chance on a novice and hired me. The result is a book I’m very proud of: The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse. The rest – the fifteen or so books I’ve worked on, as well as all the enriching collaborations, workshops, teaching and editing opportunities I’ve had in my capacity as a translator – is history!”

Europa28: Writing by Women on The Future of Europe

Kavita Bhanot, Punjabi-English translator

“I think I’ve been translating all my life, for family, in my English language fiction writing, since I write about Punjabi characters/lives. I’m especially interested in translating Punjabi literature for second third generation diaspora who don’t understand/read the language.” 

Sawad Hussain, Arabic-English translator

“I originally got into literary translation because I was consumed with trying to get readers to question their assumptions and challenge their biases about certain parts of the world, or certain communities. However, as the years have rolled on, it’s now just about sharing poignant stories and stirring literature.” 

Ruth Clarke, Spanish/French/Italian-English translator

“When I was in secondary school I discovered that my favourite part of French lessons was actually something I could make a career of! Durham’s Modern Languages course allowed me to split my modules equally between language and literature, and that has always been the combination I wanted to work with. I went on to do an MA in Translation Studies and took an in-house job at a firm specialising in a different area of interest, legal translation. A few years later I went freelance and, beginning with the BCLT Summer School, started to incorporate more literary translation and bring my work back in line with the original plan.”

Manchester in Translation is a free, online conference taking place 16-18th February 2021 and is open to budding translators and language enthusiasts from across the UK, with limited spaces reserved for Northern translators in each session.

Book your place at the keynote here.

Book your place at Panel Session 1 (feat. Sophie Hughes) here.

Book your place at Panel Session 2 (feat. Khairani Barokka & Sawad Hussain) here.

Book your place in the Urdu workshop (run by Anjum Malik) here.

Book your place in the Punjabi workshop (run by Kavita Bhanot) here.

Find out more about the programme of events taking place across Manchester as part of Manchester City of Literature’s International Mother Language Day 2021 programme here.

For more resources for aspiring translators, head to the dedicated page on our website here.

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