The National Centre for Gaelic Translation
Ionad Eòghainn MhicLachlainn
Ewen MacLachlan (1775–1822) was a prominent Gaelic writer of the (primarily) nineteenth century, who worked at the University of Aberdeen as the librarian at King’s College. In addition to his scholarly and poetic works, he is particularly remembered for his translation of classical literature into Gaelic. MacLachlan’s translation of a substantial portion of the Iliad into Gaelic is still admired today and remains one of the masterpieces of translation into the language. For these reasons, it was felt entirely appropriate to attach MacLachlan’s name to the National Centre for Gaelic Translation, which is based only yards from where he worked some two centuries ago.
The Centre, Ionad Eòghainn MhicLachlainn, has as its purpose the promotion and enhancement of translation out of and (most especially) into Gaelic. The main activities focus on publishing support, translator training, and consolidation of expertise relating to translation. Although there is cross-over relevance with the translation of functional materials, the Centre concentrates primarily on supporting the translation of fiction.
Enjoyment of reading is of tremendous importance on many levels when it comes to the esteem and status of a language. Being able to select from a wide range of engaging texts is also extremely important when learning a language or when making the decision to dig in and make that long, sustained extra effort necessary to go from competence in a language to mastery. This is why it is so vital that the Gaelic writing community make the most of the experience and technical knowledge that has developed in other languages already. Languages and literatures flourish when in close contact with other languages and literatures. Translation theorists around the world advocate the empowering influence of translated works on the literary systems of the language into which they are translated. The Gaelic novel and short story are only around a century old, having got off to a shaky start in the early twentieth century. And, although they are now on a much firmer footing, they are still in the fledging stages in terms of genre development, canon formation, technical exploration and critical appreciation. The simplest and quickest method to begin to tackle some of these challenges is to look to exemplars from other cultures, including those that have a more developed fiction industry.
The Centre is directed by: Professor Moray Watson (UoA), translator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Hobbit; Mr Gilbert MacMillan (UoG), translator of Tintin, an abridged 39 Steps, German poetry by Heike Winter and numerous children’s books; Dr Gearóidín Uí Laighléis (DCU), a scholar of Irish literary translation with an interest in Gaelic translation and publication history and practices; Dr Petra Johana Poncarová (Charles University Prague), translator (to Czech) of Deireadh an Fhoghair and other Gaelic texts.
The Centre’s first major activity is a conference in May 2022 funded by the Colm Cille project, via Bòrd na Gàidhlig. The theme of the conference is ‘Challenges and Benefits of Translating Gaelic and Irish’. We would encourage contributors to emphasise translation into the Gaelic languages of Scotland or Ireland, but we would also be pleased to accommodate contributions dealing with translation in the other direction. The call for papers, registration and other details are on the dedicated conference website.