OPINION

2nd-class languages?

« Oh come on, you’re translating from Albanian,» said a Greek editor to a translator he was interviewing before offering him half the going rate. «The language gets the same treatment as illegal immigrants – it has fewer rights from the start,» Bulgarian-Greek translator Panos Stathoyiannis told Balkan writers at a conference in Rhodes. «But we want to read these books,» writer Aris Maragopoulos, one of a 100-strong panel of judges, told the conference. Yes, but how can we read the books if they remain untranslated? Maragopoulos himself only managed to read the few books on the shortlist that had been translated into English or French. Indeed most Balkan authors have reached us third hand, via translations of other translations, Stathoyiannis added. The press packet included a leaflet outlining the aims and activities of the new but influential Athens-based European Center for the Translation of Literature and the Human Sciences (EKEMEL). EKEMEL teaches translation to and from English, French and German – the key languages in education, science and culture. But, with some governmental support, surely EKEMEL could include Serbo-Croat, Turkish, Bulgarian, Albanian etc in its repertoire, thus paving the way for the translation of a wealth of unread material? But this cannot happen if we regard the translating of Balkan languages as a second-class profession.