German Book Office in New York Announces Translation Competition Winner

> The German Book Office’s (GBO) first-ever translation competition has been won by Kurt Beals, who was awarded a $600 commission to translate the first 15 pages of Nora Bossong’s novel “Gesellschaft mit beschraenkter Haftung” into English.

Ethos of the competition

The competition launched in autumn 2012 in a joint attempt by the GBO and the Goethe-Institut’s New York offices to bolster German-language translations in the United States.

The organisations worked together to put aspiring German language translators in contact with US editors and to kick-start beneficial relationships within the industry. Importantly, applicants could not be well-established translators, were limited to having one translated book published in English and needed to be US-based.

Once Kurt Beals, a PhD Candidate in German Literature and Culture at Berkeley, completes his translation, the book’s German publisher, Hanser Verlag, will send it to US publishing houses to get it acquired.

Process of elimination

The competition’s debut received nearly 60 applicants, with translator having to convert a 700-word extract from Nora Bossong’s novel. The extracts were judged by a jury of American editors with no knowledge of German to create a short list of nine, judged purely on their merit in English.

A second jury of established German-to-English translators – Susan Bernofksy, Burton Pike and Ross Benjamin – reviewed the shortlist by comparing the English translations to the German originals and selected three finalists.

On 12 December 2012, at the Goethe-Institut in New York, the three finalists were invited to a panel discussion where their work was discussed and Kurt Beals was ultimately announced as the winner.

German Book Office New York

The German Book Office, which ran the competition, is an influential non-profit organisation in New York, founded in 1998. Funded by the German Foreign Office, its main purpose is to promote German books for translation into English.

The focus on English translations is well-researched – English is essentially the world’s language and will open up German literature to an incredibly wide audience, much to the benefit of German literature at its writers.

The competition is a positive step to increase the quality and accuracy of literary translations. No matter what the original language, it is essential to take great care to ensure translations reflect the original text fluently.

The debut of the GBO translation competition has been a success in discovering new talent and raising awareness of the expertise and skill required in the translation industry. Hopefully, its profile will rise in the coming years, making it a formidable force in literary translation.

Encouraging high-quality translations

Of course, English speakers will also benefit from this initiative, as placing a focus on language can greatly support business relations with new and emerging markets. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and a major power in trade and for the import and export of goods in the EU. Greater exposure to the German language will help strengthen business ties with Germany and other German-speaking countries, Switzerland and Austria.

Although English is often the lingua franca in business, having other language skills can often strengthen a relationship while also opening new doors. Companies are realising that not all partners or competitors have a grasp of English, making language expertise or translation services are a must.

For all international, cross-lingual business communication, it is always important to engage professional translation companies. They will ensure that no miscommunication occurs during important business meetings or contracts.

At Today Translations, we have a team of professional translators, interpreters and linguists with many years of experience in literary translation. Their fluency and linguistic knowledge are combined with cultural understanding to create accurate translations from different types of texts on a range of subjects.

To discuss your translation requirements, please call us on +44 (0) 207 397 2770, or email us at [email protected].