Cooperative Translation Workshop in Barcelona – Review

On Thursday May 18 2017, a Cooperative Translation Workshop took place at the Official (=National) Foreign Languages School in Barcelona (Escola Oficial d´Idiomes Barcelona-Drassanes), with the help of Sylvia Kouveli and Violetta Tsitsiliani from The Language Project team and the experience they bring in organizing Translation Slams. The workshop took place in a room especially set up for this, with two long tables around which the participants were placed in two teams headed by the professors and professional translators Montserrat Franquesa and Quim Gestí, who each lead the translation process and discussion of their team. The translators, as well as the participants were all previous or current students of the Modern Greek department of the School. The department, headed by professor Kleri-Fotini Skandami, had undertaken all of the preparation and the co-organization of the workshop.

The text that we selected for translation from Greek to Catalan was two pages from the first chapter of Petros Markaris’ detective novel “Nichterinó Deltío”, a book that has not been translated into catalan and that due to its genre and style presents particular interest: vernacular, police terms, dialogue changes and descriptive paragraphs, etc.

We divided the 13 participants into two equal groups, since the level of Greek ranged from low to very high (beginners to very advanced). As for the target language, the majority was native Catalan speakers. The non-native speakers, one in each team, were an Italian and a Spanish student from the Basque Country who were both translators and polyglots. It should be noted that on one of the teams, one of the students who is a police officer contributed greatly to the accurate translation of the text, due to her professional experience. Also, one Greek and one Spanish student of the Translation department of the Autonomous University of Barcelona audited the workshop. On each team’s table we had placed several dictionaries. One member of each team undertook the task of typing and saving the translated text, along with the different linguistic choices or expressions that stood out.

The organizers had already provided us with clear instructions regarding the time allotment for each part of the workshop, something that proved valuable given that the School always closes at 9pm. The workshop began with a short presentation of The Language Project and its translation events, the workshops collaborators – Literature Across Frontiers and the Foreign Languages School, and the two translators who would be coordinating the teams. Then, the writer Petros Markaris, a well-known and loved writer in Spain, and his novel were presented. After that, the teams got to work and the were conversations rolling. Grandmothers and grandfathers who “when I was little, they’d say…” arose in the conversations to give a helping hand to the aspiring translators. Words were passed on until their exact meaning was encountered, expressions, proverbs.

And when the voices started to escalate, Sylvia Kouveli and the undersigned, who during the length of the workshop walked around the tables to observe the process and encourage the participants, would tone things down again, since each team could not know the other team’s linguistic choices. The final translations will be presented in September in an open Translation Slam event, so it was necessary to keep their final form a secret.

The workshop was conducted in a friendly and pleasant atmosphere and quite admirably, both teams completed their translations within the given time frame. The organizers as well as the participants feel that the workshop was carried out successfully and we are all looking forward to the next stage, the Translation Slam.


Kleri Skandami

Modern Greek Professor