A ‘Translator’s Day’ for Egypt

Sure, there is already an International Translation Day celebrated on September 30th, to coincide with the feast-day of St. Jerome. This day has gotten some traction in the English-scribbling world, with an annual event at the UK’s Free Word Centre (since 2010) and steady promotion by the Federation of International Translators (FIT). But now there’s one just for Egypt:

Of course, it is a bit strange to have an “International Translation Day” affiliated with the saint of one particular religion. Yes, yes, the FIT says the day is “secular and non-denominational” — and St. Jerome was appropriated into, for instance, Islamic art — but after all the fellow was best-known for translating the Bible.

Now Egypt’s National Center for Translation has launched its own “Translator’s Day.” It’s set for October 15, the birth date of Rifaa al-Tahtawi (1801-1873).

El-Tahtawi, author of the recently translated An Imam in Paris (2011, trans. Daniel Newman), is a worthy choice. He translated a great many texts into Arabic — particularly in the field of medicine — established a school for translation, and was active in a number of other fields.

According to Ahram Online, Translation Center head Camillia Sobhy “called on all institutions concerned with translation in Egypt — including universities, libraries and foreign cultural delegations — to participate in the day.”

Hopefully, the Translation Center will also suggest FUN activities for the day. What would you suggest? As for me:

*Translator smackdown: Two competing translations, and the audience votes on which one is best. Or there could be a panel of distinguished, snarky judges. Or….

*The announcement of new translation awards/grants/competitions.

*Translated poetry open-mic night: Translators come read the original (any language) and their translation of poems from around the world. Open to all! Could be from any language into any language, or from any language into Arabic.

*Group translation project, a la the Poetry Translation Centre. Could be sponsored by the British Council or one of you cultural centers.

*Group/audience attempt to translate a humorous text or script, guided by a professional translator.

*A reading of prose translated from fos7a to Egyptian a3meya. Or to Iraqi Arabic or Sudanese.

*Readings of al-Tahtawi in Arabic, English, French, …?

*A panel of selected translators and authors, being frank about the difficulties in this relationship.

*A workshop on translating children’s literature. Cross-lingual readings for children. A workshop FOR children on translating children’s literature, where the children do the translating and the result is published.

*A translation dinner — a plate of “pasta” as imagined by Italians, French, Arabs, Chinese. Food in translation.

*Important, sober events, too.