The Annual National Literary Prize Awarding Ceremony

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A periodical of The Burma Translation Society. The Burma Translation Society was renamed "Sarpay Beikman" (Palace of Literature) in 1963.  PHOTO: Printing and Publishing Department/MOI/File

By Lokethar

The Annual National Literary Prize Awarding Ceremony was held in Yangon on the 15th of December 2020.The opening ceremony was addressed by His Excellency The President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on-line from Nay Pyi Taw. The following paragraph of HE The President’s address, expresses clearly the aim and objectives of holding the event. To quote from his speech “Literature can be a great tool to promote democratic practices and knowledge of the citizens, to appreciate democracy, to understand and appreciate diversity and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among ethnic people” unquote. President’s speech also retraces the origin of the literary event and the Burma (now Myanmar) Translation Society, as HE The President mentioned “was established under the guidance of the architect of Myanmar’s independence Bogyoke Aung San in August 1947. It became “Sarpay Beikman” in May 1948 , a well known literary enterprise”.
Bogyoke Aung San knew that after attaining Independence, the majority of the people of Myanmar would need broadening their knowledge in all spheres to understand and appreciate the practice of democracy in Myanmar. He knew that there was a vast expanse of knowledge in different languages that would need to be translated into the Myanmar language so that all people of Myanmar could access the world of knowledge in the Myanmar language. That was the reason he advised setting up of the “Burma (now Myanmar) Translation Society”, which later became the “Sarpay Beikman”.

Many translated works
In his speech, HE the President pointed out that the Sarpay Beikman had produced many translated works for promotion of general knowledge about the world at large for the citizens of Myanmar. It had also been able to present awards to promote Myanmar literature, in all it’s forms.
What I would like to emphasize here is the need for people to access the vast literary resources of the world to gain knowledge and insight into matters that would rightly guide their thoughts and actions and enrich their lives. As such, it calls for the world of knowledge and information to be presented to the people in the language they can read and understand. This in fact had been the initial mission of the Sarpay Beikman (The Burma Translation Society) set by Bogyoke Aung San.
As we are all aware, knowledge in every field has been increasing exponentially around the globe. In particular there is a vast amount of knowledge on every aspect of life and living available over the “Internet”, much of which need to be translated into Myanmar language for the Myanmar peoples’ knowledge base to be up to date in this “Digital” age.
However the knowledge is also available in print form for those who would like to “read” and acquire the knowledge and information. The knowledge and information is likely to be in various languages not familiar to the majority of “readers” in Myanmar. Hence translation of the printed material into Myanmar language only can help serve the majority of Myanmar people in their quest for knowledge.

Various aspects of Myanmar life
Another equally important aspect of translation is the need for translating informative material from Myanmar language to English and other foreign languages for the benefit of foreigners who wish to know more about the various aspects of Myanmar life and culture as well as about doing business in Myanmar. Many foreign entrepreneurs would particularly want to know about the various laws and rules relating to doing business in Myanmar. At the present time the laws that have been enacted or amended by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw are in the Myanmar language with “official translation” in English language of only a few. Hence more laws need to be officially translated into the English language for foreigners to comprehend them. Such laws would include laws relating to business ventures, intellectual property matters, rights of workers, dissolution of business, taxation, transfer of funds and so on; need particularly to be translated into English for the benefit of foreign entrepreneurs. As regards translation of Laws and Rules it is learned that there is a “Legal Translation Commission”. Perhaps translation sub-committees on specific areas such as “Social Laws”, “Business Laws” and so on could be formed under Commission for better coverage and speedier translation of the laws that would be of use to foreign investors. Besides, accounts of historical interest and cultural heritage of Myanmar written by well known Myanmar writers could be translated into English for the benefit of foreigners who visit Myanmar as tourists.
As there are, in Myanmar, many competent translators of foreign languages (particularly English) to Myanmar, perhaps the Sarpay Beikman could organize the task of translating a wide variety of non-fiction, factual written materials in a foreign language and publishing them in the form of affordable print material for the benefit of the people as was and still is, it’s mission. Of course it’s current “Translation Awards” conforms somewhat to the idea, but then it focusses on a single person’s translating ability with many participants vying for the same prize, translating the same “Book/Printed Material” which is not very productive from the point of view of the reading public.
The Sarpay Beikman, was formed in the first instance as an enterprise to carry out it’s mission as the leading translators, printers and publishers of reading material to serve the Myanmar public. It is hoped that It would also be the “Beikman” for spreading of “Myanmar Literature” of all the Nationalities of Myanmar.
With charity to all and malice to none.

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