The SATI Award for
Outstanding Translation 2003

The South African Translators' Institute (SATI) at its AGM in June 2000 announced the introduction of a prestigious translation award for work in the official languages of South Africa - the SATI Award for Outstanding Translation. This award is a first for South Africa, and it is intended to encourage the publication of translations of original works in the indigenous languages of the country.

The award is made every three years on or around International Translation Day (popularly known as St Jerome's Day), which is celebrated on 30 September. The first award - which went to Leon de Kock for his translation of Marlene van Niekerk's Afrikaans novel Triomf into English - was made at the Aardklop Arts Festival in Potchefstroom in 2000.

Some amendments were made to the rules in 2003, with the number of categories being increased to five. A winner was announced in each category, and the overall winner was selected from the category winners. The category winners each received a certificate of merit and a cash prize and the overall winner in addition received the floating trophy and an additional cash prize. The prizes were supported by the SATI Development Fund.

The Language Clause in the Constitution challenges everyone involved in language matters to promote the use of all the languages of South Africa, and in particular to develop the previously marginalised indigenous languages. SATI believes that language practitioners, in translating and interpreting into and from these languages, are pivotal "mechanisms" in fostering the process of indigenous language development. As far back as 1993 SATI decided to implement strategies to facilitate the use and development of the indigenous languages of South Africa.

The objectives of the SATI Award for Outstanding Translation are -

  1. to promote the translation and publication of fiction and non-fiction work into and/or from the official languages;
  2. to improve the quality of such translations;
  3. to promote multilingualism and in particular the use and development of the indigenous languages;
  4. to promote cross-cultural understanding; and
  5. to raise awareness of the role of translators in uniting the people of South Africa.

An excellent selection of translations was received for this year's award. A total of 25 entries were nominated in five categories - fiction, non-fiction, poetry & drama, service translation and dictionaries. The nominations were in six of the country's eleven official languages - Afrikaans (11), English (8), Sepedi (1), Setswana (1), isiXhosa (3) and isiZulu (1). The dictionary entry was in English and Afrikaans. The source texts were mostly Afrikaans or English, but the entries included a Dutch-Afrikaans, a Latin-Afrikaans and an Italian-Afrikaans translation. The latter two are classical works that add to the academic corpus in South Africa: a translation of Erasmus's In Praise of Folly and a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

The nominations included some very exciting works, among them three translations of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, three translations of The Plays of Zakes Mda and Antjie Krog's recently released Met Woorde soos met Kerse.

The full list of nominees is as follows:

Fiction

Non-fiction

Poetry and drama Service translation Dictionaries The overall winner of the 2003 SATI Award for Outstanding Translation was well-known South African author and poet Antjie Krog for her anthology Met woorde soos met kerse, about which the judges had the following to say to back up their choice:

"In Met Woorde soos met Kerse Antjie Krog's words have the effect of shedding more than candlelight on the poetic heritage of the other indigenous languages in South Africa - rather, she puts it under a spotlight, showcasing these cultures and opening them up to yet another indigenous culture - Afrikaans - in a society where they have been rubbing shoulders for more than three centuries without really "knowing" one another! Her work thus provides a major boost in addressing the "invisibility" of the marginalised languages - many of these poems were previously available in translation only in English and the work in the smaller languages had not been translated at all. At the same time the anthology is a tour de force in the target language itself, another indigenous language and culture. The value of this book of indigenous verse undoubtedly lies in the light it "shines" on all the indigenous languages of South Africa.

"This work breaks new ground in a variety of aspects. In addition to the range of languages and cultures it covers, Krog has used a highly innovative translation procedure, consulting widely with both language and translation experts as well as some of the poets themselves and often examining more than one translation, in both English and Afrikaans, of a piece of work before creating her own version. Her notes in the Introduction regarding her choice of poems and on translation problems and procedures are extremely illuminating. A translator who is able to reflect so profoundly on selection and procedure is a true master of the craft.

"The notes that appear at the start of each chapter and the commentary on many of the poems gives further insight into the cultures and peoples in question, exposing this to fellow South Africans who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to appreciate these works. Add to this the fact that the translations and reworkings have been done by one of South Africa's foremost poets and writers and the winning formula is complete - the target language itself is fine-tuned to offer a perfect vehicle for promoting cross-cultural understanding. Met Woorde soos met Kerse is a prime example of the way in which translators assist in uniting people."

The category winners are as follows:

The judges had the following to say about the category winners:

Harry Potter en die Beker Vol Vuur
"In a country still largely without a culture of reading and book-buying, an outstanding translation of a Harry Potter book is an important occurrence, even for the Afrikaans-speaking community, with their more established tradition in this regard. Janie Oosthuysen's Harry Potter en die Beker Vol Vuur gives Harry a genuinely Afrikaans voice and allows him to take his place among a series of Harry Potters speaking different languages around the world. Her translation is technically proficient and she finds ingenious solutions to the quirky challenges faced by a translator in recreating the involved world of a British boy magician for Afrikaans readers.

"Harry Potter en die Beker Vol Vuur is a worthy winner in the fiction category of the SA Translators' Institute's Award for Outstanding Translation. Janie Oosthuysen's translator's wand has conjured up a unique new place for Harry Potter in Africa - an achievement that will hopefully prepare the way for similar translations in the other indigenous languages of South Africa and indeed of Africa."

Uhambo Olude Oluya Enkululekweni
"The quality of this translation reflects the greatness of the source text itself and brings Nelson Mandela's words closer to the people. The translator's linguistic competence has enabled him to produce a translation that is a pleasure to read, with its smooth, flowing and idiomatic language. The translation is creative and establishes a platform from which the author's message can be clearly heard. This is the beauty of translation, for it transcends linguistic barriers and makes information accessible. In this way it is able to help fill the void that has long existed in our country in the writing of African literature in the indigenous languages and to create a pride in the use of these languages."

Met Woorde soos met Kerse
"This work was truly inspired in bringing together the elements of the Rainbow Nation and could almost have been conceived expressly to fulfil the aims of the SATI Award for Outstanding Translation! Although it features only one of the official languages, it presents work in all other nine official indigenous languages and also a non-official indigenous language. In this way, it showcases the talent and abilities in all these cultures. The notes that appear at the start of each chapter and the commentary on many of the poems gives further insight into the cultures and peoples in question, exposing this to fellow South Africans who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to appreciate these works. Add to this the fact that the translations and reworkings have been done by one of South Africa's foremost poets and writers and the winning formula is complete - the target language itself is fine-tuned to offer the perfect vehicle for promoting cross-cultural understanding. Met Woorde soos met Kerse is a prime example of the way in which translators assist in uniting people."

Potyi Books - a multilingual foundation phase graded reading series
"This series of school reading books is another inspired project that embodies the aims of the Award for Outstanding Translation. Taking an English basis for each book and simultaneously rendering it into isiXhosa and Afrikaans, adapting as necessary as part of the development process rather than an add-on, is true multilingualism at work and the perfect embodiment of the Award aim of promoting "the use and development of the indigenous languages". The language used in the books may be simple, but the translators were challenged by the requirement to maintain parity between languages with widely differing structures. Further emphasis of the success of this effort in achieving the aims of the Award is to be found in the fact that Maskew Miller Longman has bought the series and is developing it to cover the other South African languages as well. The initial Afrikaans/English/isiXhosa books have proved their worth in actual multilingual classrooms, encouraging and enabling children to learn other languages at this receptive stage of their lives."

Modern Political Dictionary
"Without correct terminology translators cannot produce work of a high standard. Just as an artisan cannot do his work without the necessary tools, a translator needs his/her tools and a specialised dictionary like this one is a translation tool par excellence.

"The advent of full democracy in SA with its concomitant broadening of the horizons resulted in a plethora of new political terms and usages. The compilers of the dictionary have recorded these terms, added contextual notes to provide greater clarity on the meaning of some terms and also given guidance on correct usage. Quite often obsolete or deprecated terms are left out of dictionaries, but the way the compilers handled this sensitive issue greatly increases the value of this dictionary. In a way, this also gives the user an overview of the political developments of the past decade.

"All entries and lists are given in strict alphabetical order and are fully bilingual. This makes the dictionary extremely user-friendly. The eight annexures, ranging from acronyms and abbreviations through parliaments of the world to nicknames of political personalities, add extra value to the book. The explanatory notes among the front matter give explicit guidelines on how to use and interpret the dictionary.

"The outstanding standard of the terminology together with the excellent methodology makes this dictionary ideal to serve as a basis to which equivalents and explanations in the other official languages can be added. This could eventually lead to a multilingual explanatory edition, thereby making an outstanding contribution to the promotion of multilingualism and the development of the indigenous languages of South Africa."





E-mail any comments or suggestions to: Marion Boers

Last updated 28 June 2004

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