“The world is going to be looking at this”

2014-2015 Issue 1

TurkeyGhostDebbie Blythe has had a dual role as both a professional translator and a lecturer in the Translation and Written Communication Unit at McGill’s School of Continuing Studies for over 20 years. During that time she has translated a wide variety of French-language texts into English – a screenplay, documentaries, and countless legal, medical, and commercial texts. This past summer, she dedicated herself to a very special project.

Blythe’s translation of Turkey and the Armenian Ghost: On the Trail of the Genocide by Laure Marchand and Guillaume Perrier was published in March by McGill-Queen’s University Press. Its release was timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide on April 24, 2015.

The timing was one of the reasons Blythe “leapt at the chance” to work on the project, but getting it done on time was also a challenge. Not only was a historical deadline looming, but “the book is dense,” says Blythe. “Each page is packed with information – cultural, historical, and political. Pretty much all translation requires research, and I felt an enormous responsibility to both the authors and readers to get the facts right.”

As a result, Blythe immersed herself in the subject, studying many of the books quoted, historic documents, government Web sites, and newspaper articles. It was a huge project, as well as an emotional one.

“It’s a painful subject, and the world is going to be looking at this. I was honoured to play even a small part in raising awareness of these tragic events and furthering the goal of genocide recognition.”

With the work now published, Blythe is pleased to share her experience with her translation students. “Working full-time as a translator and part-time as a teacher allows me to constantly upgrade my skills and expertise in both areas. My students are adults who’ve had their own real-world and work experiences, so I learn from them, too.”

“I’m a better teacher because I translate, and I’m a better translator because I teach. I wouldn’t want to do one without the other.”

Update: Debbie Blythe’s translation of Turkey and the Armenian Ghost has been shortlisted for the QWF’s translation award. Award winners will be announced on November 18, 2016.

Turkey and the Armenian Ghost: On the Trail of the Genocide is currently available from McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Click for more information on Translation courses at the McGill School of Continuing Studies.

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