–Is your Spanish good enough to translate Garcia Marquez?
–The question should be, Is my English good enough to translate Garcia Marquez?
—from an interview with Gregory Rabassa, translator of One Hundred Years of Solitude
Word for Word offers Columbia University’s School of the Arts students a unique opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural literary translation exchange. Students from Columbia and writers from a partner institution are paired together, and translate one another’s work into their native language. The exchange takes place over the course of the academic year, during which the Columbia students spend at least a week visiting their partner’s country to collaborate on their work, and culminates in the publication of an annual Word for Word anthology in which the participating writers’ work is published in facing-page translations. This exchange program is open to writers from across the genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and playwriting, and is open to 2nd-year students and Research Arts students.
Translating literary works into English, and participating in the translation of one’s own stories and poems into a second language, can expand and enhance a writer’s linguistic imagination. Literary translation also engages writers with their own writing: to re-create voice and tone, to be true to meter and rhyme, to convey humor and beauty, requires a special mastery of one’s own language. When writer/translators work in concert, they are inspired to consider their own words and work from new perspectives. Bridging cultures and languages through the medium of literary translation is especially important to the future of international literature in a time when too few works of literature are translated and published in America.
Now in its second year, the Word for Word program was launched in 2011 with an exchange between students from Columbia University’s School of the Arts Graduate Writing Program, and the German Creative Writing Program at the University of Leipzig (Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig - DLL). Beginning in 2013, the School of the Arts will work in partnership with Columbia’s Global Centers to expand Word for Word to other languages and sites around the world.
Word for Word reflects the Columbia Global Centers’ commitment to deepening the relationship of American culture to world culture by supporting, facilitating, and initiating cross-cultural exchanges and engagements between the Columbia academic and artistic communities, and the cultures of other countries and regions around the world.