Translation @ Sarai is a collaborative practice to create a dialogue across languages and their specific public domains. There is a general paucity of reflective material and basic resources in Hindi on themes that concern us. While we aim to create these resources, we also work with the belief that English publics would be well advised to keep checking out Indian language productions. So translation for us is at least a two-way process.
Now there are different registers of Hindi and we believe that confining the practice of translation to any one mode fails to capture the diversity the language is capable of representing/negotiating. The twentieth century war of languages in North India ended up impoverishing both Hindi and Urdu. As language practitioners dealing with themes such as urbanism, media, Information Technology and Intellectual Property we can not afford to shut out a whole range of words and usage dubbed as Urdu. So we try to make use of best resources from both these languages and try to work with a middling language, for which Hindi cinema itself provides a very good metaphor. Cinema had it easier in the sense that it only needed to refine the wisdom and resources of already existing performative forms like Parsi theatre and Nautanki. However, the resources in social sciences, media studies and computing world would not have a similar indegenous linguistic richness of reflection and resources to fall back on. So we take up the challenge as a team to find equivalents for conceptual and descriptive categories that leading social scientists like Ashis Nandy, Partha Chatterjee, Shahid Amin or Software programmers and theorists like Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond deploy.
Translation demands a degree of reflexivity and rigour which can best be produced in collaborative contexts. This is how we go about it. We choose texts and give them out to one of a whole network of translators we have developed. After the translators come up with their versions, the editors sit with them and try to refine each text before it goes out for web or print publication. Readabilty, communicabilty and lucidity are our criteria for judging a translated work.
We also translate basic softwares like desktop interfaces - and the community of translators associated with us have consistently produced usable versions of popular desktops of free softwares like .Kde and Gnome. But translation of a software tool can not be validated unilaterally by the translators and editors only. So we call upon the larger community of users - lay language practitioners like teachers, students and journalists to see if our translation makes sense. The work remains in the public domain and is open to any number of suggestions and modifications. Sometimes a discussion list throws up interesting ideas. 'Simsim' for 'password' is what we got from a discussion list and it has caught on. So translation in itself can be a lonely exercise but we try to make it as creative and collaborative as we can. You are invited to check out our Localization efforts either www.indlinux.org or at this site under Indic Localization.
By virtue of our location in Delhi, Hindi remains our mainstay but we have worked with Kannada and Bengali in the past and we hope to publish books/articles and softwares in Bengali, Urdu and other Indian languages. If you are happy working with a couple of or more languages and if you consider translation a creative exercise, you are welcome to get in touch with us.
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