Translating Peru

2013-2014 Issue 1

ERU, NORTH COAST | 200 B.C.-600 A.D. | MOCHICA | FRONTAL ORNAMENT: FELINE HEAD AND OCTOPUS ARMS ENDING IN CATFISH HEADS | LIMA, MUSEO DE LA NACIÓN | PHOTO : 2011 JOAQUÍN RUBIO

ERU, NORTH COAST
| 200 B.C.-600 A.D. | MOCHICA | FRONTAL ORNAMENT: FELINE HEAD AND OCTOPUS ARMS ENDING IN CATFISH HEADS | LIMA, MUSEO DE LA NACIÓN | PHOTO : 2011 JOAQUÍN RUBIO

Montrealers didn’t have to go far to visit Peru this past summer. The South American country was as close as a visit to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition, which ran until mid-June, featured treasures from the pre-Columbian, colonial and indigenous eras, including paintings, sculptures and gold and silver artifacts.

An exhibition steeped in history and culture has a de facto educational component, and visitors need context for the remarkable objects it featured. One of the ways the museum provides this context is in the form of audioguides available in English, French and Spanish, with versions for both adults and children. Two students from the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) Translation Program, Rosa Maria Neyra Burga and Jorge Bravo, handled the translation of the audioguides to Spanish, as part of a translation practicum supervised by SCS lecturer Daniel Zamorano.

Museum staff must have thought they had stumbled onto a new gold mine. In addition to being skilled translators, both Neyra Burga and Bravo have roots in Peru, and Neyra Burga has some familiarity with Quechua, best known as the language of the Incas, which came in handy for certain items in the exhibit. Project supervisor Zamorano has won awards for his translation work in theatre, where, as for the audioguides, texts are meant to be heard rather than read.

The team’s background was important, because as Neyra Burga explains, “If you don’t know the culture, it can be hard to transfer the message.” But in spite of their familiarity with the culture, there was still a great deal of research involved. “We took a lot of time looking for terms, and there was much information to go through before even beginning the translation,” Neyra Burga says. “The other challenge was making the end product as understandable as possible, and the audioguide for children had to be even simpler. Plus everything had to be in short sentences to be easy for the narrator to read.” Clearly there was much more to consider than just words.

This sort of partnership between SCS and the community is a winning proposition all around. The museum reaped the benefits of the students’ conscientious work, and the students earned university credits while gaining unique experience that will serve them well in the future.

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