A significant paper reading session on translation of texts from Myanmar into English

  • By An Observer

Recently, I happened to attend a paper reading session. Exactly, it was held on 2-3 November this year. It was indeed a paper reading session on translation. How- ever, it was quite different from the ones held in the past. This one is the paper reading session on translation from Myanmar into English.
It was organized by the Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD), Ministry of Information. The paper reading session was held at the Printing and Publishing Department of the ministry on Theinbyu Road in Yangon. It was known as the 27th Paper Reading session. Likewise, it can be said to be the 5th Paper Reading Session on Translation.
These paper reading sessions contribute much to the development of Myanmar literature. The former ones were organized by Sarpay Beikman of Printing and Publishing Department under the Ministry of Information. On 16-20 September in 1965, the first paper reading session on ‘‘Children’s Literature’’ was held at Sarpay Beikman, 529- 531, Merchant Street in Yangon. In its early days, that paper reading session was known as a ‘Symposium’.
At that time, I could not attend that symposium as I was not in Yangon. On 23-27, September in 1969, a symposium on translation was held at the Gandhi Hall at the corner of Merchant Street and Bo Aung Kyaw Street. From that time onwards, I never failed to attend almost all the paper reading sessions. It was the first and foremost paper reading session on translation and eleven veteran translators and scholars read their papers.
After 18 years later in March 1987, the second paper reading session on translation was held and 8 papers were read by 8 professional translators.
Again on 19-20 June, 2000, another symposium (paper reading session) on trans- lation was held at the Sarpay Beikman Printing Plant formerly known as Sorrento Villa at 361, Pyay Road in Yangon. That symposium was the third paper reading session on translation.
Then paper reading sessions lay dormant for 17 years. The fourth paper reading session on translation was organized by the Sarpay Beikman and held at the Printing and Publishing Department on Theinbyu Road.
As for the fifth paper reading session on translation held recently, it could be said that it was a unique one. The previous symposiums made efforts to gain world literary heritage through Myanmar literature. As they focused on translation from English to Myanmar, there were no specific papers on translation from Myanmar works into English.
That is why, the fifth paper reading session is said to be unique. Unlike the previous ones, the little read ‘‘Paper Reading Session on Translation from Myanmar into English’’. In other words, the symposium has taken a step towards making Myanmar known to the world.
The fifth paper reading session was attended by Minister for Information Dr. Pe Myint, Union Minister for Education Dr. Myo Thein Gyi, scholars and enthusiasts. In his opening address, Union Minister Dr. Pe Myint stressed the need to make Myanmar known to the world, works in Myanmar language had to be translated in English (and other international languages). And he also urged to organize workshops on translation (from Myanmar works into English) occasionally in cities like Yangon and Mandalay. As a matter of fact, what the Union Minister urged may be a clarion call to action for professional translators.
On the morning of the first day, Dr. Aung Gyi read the paper ‘‘A Comparative Study on Translation Texts of Meza Mountain Yadu’’ and Dr. Zaw Tun read the paper ‘‘A Feeling for Cho-Mya-Mya Pyar-yay-zek as the Sweet Honey Drop’’. The two papers were quite advantagerous to those who were crazy for choice of words on aesthetics.
In his paper, Dr. Aung Gyi showed us the different styles of works translated by Sayagyi U Pe Maung Tin, Dr. Ba Han, U Khin Zaw (K) and U Win Pe (Mya Zin). They set an example not only to the young translators but also to scholars.
Dr. Zaw Tun revealed the translation work of aesthetics through the examples from his work ‘‘The Sweet Honey Drop on the Sharp Scalpel Blade’’ of which original Myanmar text ‘‘Htet-myet-thaw Dah-thwar Pau-ga Cho-mya-mya Pyar-yay-zek’’ by Saya Nyi Pu Lay. His clear presentation was based on the eight methods of translation by Peter Newmark. The audience was much heartened by his presentation.
In his paper of ‘‘A Glance at the Translation of Legal Terms and Notions from Myanmar into English’’, Dr. Myint Zan pointed out the importance in translating laws in Myanmar into English. In doing so, he took out so many examples of legal terms used in the times of Myanmar monarchs and the present era. Regarding the State Constitution (2008), he showed us good expressions for comparison with the original legal usages in the text of the constitution. These are noteworthy expressions for those who are practically doing translation works on legal terms.
Through the paper, “Translation from Myanmar into English and the Role of New Generation” read by U Maung Hlaing, we learned that Myanmar monarchs encouraged the younger generations who were going in for English and that scholars wanted to nurture the young translators. His paper also urged all the stakeholders to bring about in-service training courses for translation or training school for translation sponsored by the government. This is heartening information for the young who take happiness in translation industry.
Sayagyi Dr. Tin Hlaing (Po Hlaing) read a paper “Plain English and Experiences on Translation.” His valuable paper revealed the techniques of translation for the enthu- siasts. According to his paper, we came to know that plain English is necessary to translate Myanmar works into English. Sayagyi also pointed out the need to know the importance of the norms of Flesch Readibility and Gunning Fog Index.
The paper “Experiences and Views of Translating Myanmar News, Articles, Short Stories and Poems into English” was read by U Cho Tun. As he once worked as an editor in the Guardian Daily (and monthly magazine), he paved the way for the raw hands based on his working experiences of translating Myanmar fictions and non-fictions into English. And he also touched some useful methods of translation.
U Mya Tun (Saya Mya-MOFA) is well experienced translator who is practically translating various Myanmar subjects into English. His paper titled as “Translating Myanmar Works into English within a Brief Time” drew the attention of the audience. He mooted “five general levels for those who want to be professional translators (5 levels)” and “Eight points of impetus to become a good translators (8 Points)” are to be the factors that novices and those who are pursuing translation should know.
The paper, “An outlook on Translation and Language” was read by Saya Nyunt Wai Moe. He extracted the mistakes made by the translators based on four levels — text level, content level, word level, and sentence level. And he put forword a proposal to prescribe the Translation Studies as a post- graduate subject.
U Aye Min Soe read the paper “An Analysis on Translation of News into English”. He himself is the Actiong Chief Editor of the Global New Light of Myanmar. Being an editor of an English language daily, he extracted usefut techniques from his life experience in this field. In translating (Myanmar) news into English, he revealed three norms, four methods of translation, code of conduct of translators and basic methods of translation which can be called a golden gate for new generations.
What I noticed was that the audience had a liking for the session of questions and answers. Objectively, those who attended the paper reading session were interested in translation industry. Especially, they had more interest in translation from Myanmar works into English. That was why, they raised questions based on difficulties and mistakes they encountered in translating. The question and answer session, indeed, made the audience happy and educational.
In his opening speech, Union Minister Dr. Pe Myint said, “ Workshops to exchange experiences of professional translators and enthusiasts should be conducted.” What he said may be the future hope of the audience. The guidance made by the Union Minister is in tune with what the former scholars of translation wanted.
At the symposium of translation held in 2000, translator scholar Maung Hsu Shin urged that momentum should be kept in holding talks and training courses including English language courses for the development of translation literature. It is assumed that his desire is chimed with the Union Minister’s speech delivered at the opening ceremony.
Similarly, A proposal to include translation studies at the post-graduate level and another seeking that the government conduct training schools for translation caught the attention of the audience. To my opinion, these proposals are revelatory for the future.
The marked difference I noticed was that the service personnel of IPRD entertained the audience to luncheon and light refreshments were served during the break. We who attended the symposium got the papers read by the scholars. (But some did not.) (however, they sent the papers by e-mail on the request of the audience.) We could have our lunch and tea for free. Besides, it was educational. I for one, who attended such a significant paper reading session, have no doubt that it was an enthralling symposium! Thanks are due particularly to the Ministry of Information, the IPRD service personnel who were as busy as bees at the paper reading session and responsible committee members.

(Translated by Maung Hlaing)

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