- By Maung Hlaing
It was on the morning of 6 August, 1945. A B -29 bomber of the United States Army dropped the first atomic bomb on the centre of the City of Hiroshima, Japan. According to the records of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the bomb destroyed about 13 square Kilometres of the city. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people were estimated to have been killed.
Again on 9 August, 1945, Nagasaki, another city of Japan was destroyed by the second atomic bomb used in warfare. The blast destroyed 4.7 square Kilometres in the heart of the city. It injured 40,000 people, and 40,000 were killed or missing. In consequence, more people died later from the effects of atomic radiation.
Who was to blame for the evils of atomic warfare?
Translators said that the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had cropped up due to a journalist who erred in translating the title of a news story. Instead of writing the news title as ‘U.S. ultimatum postponed’ the journalist wrote the title as ‘U.S. ultimatum ignored’. Sayagyi Thakhin Ba Thaung said so while I was studying the art of translation under him. (Sayagyi Min Thu Wun also told such a story to us.)
Believe it, or not. Although some (historians) said it was a cock and bull story, we the translators should take salutary lesson from the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Regrading the history of translation of Myanmar, we cannot help thinking about the Bagan Dynasty and the emergence of Burma Translation Society (BTS).
A review of Mya Zedi Stone Inscription reveals the dawn of literature of translation and literature of aesthetic. We can say so because Mya Zedi Stone Inscription of Bagan Dynasty was written in four languages__ Mon, Myanmar, Pali and Pyu. The theme was about a son who felt conscious of his father King Kyansitthar’s gratitude and pro¬found deeds of merit to repay it. What I want to say is that even from the early days (of Myanmar history), translation from Myanmar into other languages has been evidenced.
According to the booklet on Sarpay Beikman (printed in September, 1958), Myanmar scholars had been making endeavours since 1939 for the emergence of translation literature. Although a translation bureau of the government was established in 1939, their endeavours were nipped in the bud due to the war.
However, the endeavours of Myanmar scholars resumed on 6 June, 1947. On that day, representatives, economists and officials met to deliberate on the national rehabilitation needs under the leadership of Bogyoke Aung San, the architect of Myanmar’s independence. They drafted a Two-Year Plan on Economic Development of Myanmar after regaining her independence. The plan was known as ‘Sorrento Villa Plan’ after the venue of the meeting.
‘‘A translation department should be established to translate useful books and
have them published in the interest of the people,’’ said Bogyoke Aung San, who chaired the conference, in his speech. We can vividly see his farsightedness that paved the way to save the people from the age of darkness. In order to implement his speech, the Burma Translation Society (BTS), or Sarpay Beikman, was established on 26 August, 1947.
The motto, ‘‘Ahmaung khwin-ywe Alin Hsaung-unt’’, written in Myanmar by Sayagyi Min Thu Wun, was translated into English as ‘‘Light, where darkness was’’ by Sayagyi U Khin Zaw (K).
The two main objectives included in the rules of BTS were:
(1) To undertake the translation into Burmese of any publication in English or other foreign language which is likely to be conducive to the intellectual and cultural development of the indigenous races of Burma; and,
(2) To undertake or encourage the translation into any foreign language of any ot the standard works in the Burmese language or any of the (indigenous) languages of Burma. (Excerpt from the Rules of the Burma Translation Society.)
As regards the BTS, we should not ignore a noteworthy remark made by former UN Secretary-General U Thant (then Secretary of Information) at the British Council on 5 April, 1950. He said, ‘‘The Burma Translation Society was founded in August, 1947, sponsored by Premier Thakin Nu, who is himself a writer and translator of no small merit. In fact, the Burma Translation Society was his life-long dream and it was his idea to make modern and scientific knowledge available to the country at large by means of translation.’’
Thanks to the encouragement of those who played the leading roles in the political, economic, social and literary arenas, Sorrento villa Printing plant came into being and translated works and books on various titles came out. In this way, pioneers in the field of translation paved the way for the posterity, and the successors were able to bear the banner.
Throughout the ages of Parliament Democracy, Revolutionary Council, lanzin Party, or Burma Socialist Programme Party, State Law and Order Restoration Council and State Peace and Development Council, professional translators exerted much effort under the strict censorship of the then Press Scrutiny and Registration Department.
However, paper reading sessions on various subjects including translation genre could be held under the aegis of the Ministry of Information between 1965 and 2000. formerly, the paper reading sessions were known as symposiums or literary seminars. The last literary seminar or paper reading session was held on 19 and 20 June, 2000 at the Sarpay Beikman Printing Plant, previously known as the historic sorrento villa where the immediate post-war government mapped out national reconstruction and development projects. It was known as the 24th session.
Among them, paper reading sessions on translation were held three times in 1969, 1987 and 2000. After paper reading sessions were dormant for 17 years, a paper reading session on translation appeared in the time of popular government in 2017. Generally, these four sessions on translation focused on translation from English (other languages) into Myanmar. Through the paper reading sessions, veteran professional translaters disseminated their views gained by experience. Most of them were quite advantageous to the reading public as well as new talented translators.
On 2 November this year, a paper reading session on translation— from Myanmar into English— will be held by the Information and Public Relations Department under the Ministry of Information. Such a paper reading session is quite different from the ones held in the past and it is unique to novices and experienced translators who were interested in translation from Myanmar to English.
Today, we can say that translated works especially the works on fiction and nonfiction are making headway or making money compared to the situation of a few decades ago. Translated works in book form are coming out every now and then. However, most of them are translated from other languages especially from those written in English.
However, we are still in need of letting the world know and understand Myanmar art and artifacts, Myanmar culture, in its variegated forms encompassing traditions. What the readers want to see is not only the inflow of ideas and cultures of other lands and people but also the outflow of things on Myanmar in English or other foreign languages. Such a task can be performed if we are to succeed in our endeavours in translating Myanmar (literary) works into English which is a universal language.
Practically, in translating, to turn Myanmar idioms or national indigenous language into that which fits another language is a gigantic task easier said than done. I do not want to deny that because I myself find so many difficulties and dilemma in this field. When I came across some slangs and street words, they become a headache to me. Sometimes, we are able to translate some speech or artical into English within a short time. But at other times, we have to take time to translate even a sentence or a paragraph.
Once, writer C.T Aung (U Aung Chan Tha, a retired diplomat and regular contributor of ‘The Guardian’, (both the daily and monthly magazine) revealed the difficulties in translating ‘Shwe Thway’ , a bilingual weekly children’s journal published by Sarpay Beikman as follows:
“One occasion, I came across the expression ‘Karuna Dosa’. This is very well known among the Burmese but I had a fairly difficult time looking for a suitable English equivalent. A comic journal by its very nature contains many informal words and expressions. Every living language changes and some erstwhile slang words come to be accepted as regular ones. I’d been somewhat out to touch with some of the latest expressions (particularly those used by the young) but the present duty has compelled me to overcome this failing as much as possible. (The Guardian Magazine, Vol. 27, No.5. May 1980, P-20).
If the old-hand translators encounter such difficulties, as for raw beginners, they may face so many problems for sure. Anyway, it is very heartening to see both old-hand and raw-hand translators who are translating Myanmar news stories and articles int English in the Global New Light of Myanmar. But we can count them on our fingers. The old-hand translators who are playing a leading role in this field were able to gain golden opportunity in the time of parliament democracy. Among them, some have done their best and now earned their rest in peace. Due to the so-called new education system throughout the ages of darkness, there emerged a yawning gap. To fill this gap is a must duty that should be carried out by the older generation. Another important duty we should urgently carry out is to nurture or produce more and more promising prospective translators and the birth of a new generation who will shoulder the responsibility.
The paper reading session on translation (from Myanmar into English) that will be held on 2 November this year will contribute much to the world of translation. It will be held with the objectives — to bring about the development of translation industry; to disseminate knowledge and skills regarding the translated works from Myanmar into English; to work for the emergence of high-quility translation on fiction and non-fiction; and to enable the new younger generation to have interest in translation industry.
If we really want to keep abreast of the world, we should not fail to establish a task force of translation industry of two ways — from English into Myanmar and Myanmar into English. The veteran translators who are getting long in the tooth are eager to relay what they have in their hearts. Before the aged breathe their last, new generation of translators must inevitably follow in their footsteps.
Young talents who aspire to be well efficient translators are cordially welcome to the paper reading session.
Let us build up the world anew through the translation industry!!
Ref: 1. pmayAdrmefpmwrf;rsm; waphw apmif;? ,rif;? pmayAdrmef? 2007 (yxr tBudrf)
2. The New Light of Myanmar, 6-8-2013