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April 4, 2018
About the Merck Social Translating Project

Sunanda Mahajan
Photo: Goethe-Institut Korea/OZAK

By Sunanda Mahajan. Translating a literary text is always a daring feat. When the Goethe-Institut asked me to participate in the Social Translating Project, I naturally looked forward to the project. At the same time, it occurred to me that I first needed a proper explanation of the term. I suddenly asked myself: “I will translate, but what is so social about it?”

Translating a literary text is always a daring feat. When the Goethe-Institut asked me to participate in the Social Translating Project, I naturally looked forward to the project. At the same time, it occurred to me that I first needed a proper explanation of the term. I suddenly asked myself: “I will translate, but what is so social about it?” There was a lot of excitement when I flew to Seoul in November. The meeting with the team at the Goethe-Institut ― whose staff had designed and initiated the project both in terms of the content and technical aspects ― and the founder of the Lectory platform was very productive. We became familiar with technical aspects and other things, and the mode of virtual communication on the Lectory platform was explained and practiced. Furthermore, the dialogue with the other translators provided insight into various translation practices. Unfortunately, Thomas Melle, the author of the text we were to translate, was unable to attend due to illness. The translators in attendance very much missed having direct contact with him. His presence would have added another dimension to the meeting. But thanks to modern technology we were able to schedule a video conference with the author, which went very well and proved to be a good substitute.

At the beginning, I had no idea how much the virtual meeting and the option to insert questions, answers, comments, and audio-visual references supports the actual translation process. But after taking my first somewhat uncertain steps, I quickly managed on my own and the Lectory communication was useful. My experience with translation is that with every text I have to search in a lot of dictionaries, track down lots of other sources, and even have to consult a friendly native speaker in order to understand contexts, references, and allusions to cultural, social, and political details. With social translating I was able to spare myself these detours. I have nothing but praise for Thomas Melle in this regard; his input was always the best guidance. He not only gives the reader new insight into the text, but also points out other ways to approach the text. Interaction from other native speakers on the Lectory platform with our group of very diligent and efficient translators had very positive effects on our discourse.

I assume that the Lectory platform can also be used productively for teaching, particularly in literature classes. It could help students to read more intensively and to share their opinions more freely, which is not always easy in seminars.
 

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