From Albanian to Yiddish - how does Shakespeare translate?

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Swansea researchers, from languages and computer science, are leading a fascinating project looking at Shakespeare's global rewritings. This means translations, adaptations and different versions, in all languages (including different Englishes), and from different historical periods.

But it's not just about Shakespeare.  The project is creating innovative digital tools for exploring world culture by comparing how the same text -- any text -- is translated differently many times over, in different times and different places.  The aim is to create a "Translation Array", an online interface combining text analysis and data visualization tools.

The project's crowd-sourcing website is collecting versions of one tricky couplet from Shakespeare's Othello.   Volunteer researchers, students, translators, and interested readers from around the world are being asked to send in versions of this couplet, in as many languages and translations as possible.

The couplet is the last words spoken by the Duke of Venice in Shakespeare's Othello. It's Act 1, scene 3.

“If virtue no delighted beauty lack, Your son-in-law is far more fair than black”.

These lines raise controversial questions for readers, actors, directors, critics, and editors, as well as translators.

The team expects to collect over 300 versions, in perhaps 100 languages.  Already, the team has received translations in over 20 languages, including Albanian, Catalan, Finnish, Kiswahili. Macedonian, Persian and Ukrainian. 

The multidisciplinary project team is led by Dr Tom Cheesman (Languages,Translation and Communication).  It includes: Dr Robert Laramee (Computer Science, Swansea), Dr Jonathan Hope (Dept of English, University of Strathclyde), research assistant Kevin Flanagan (a Swansea PhD candidate in Translation Technology), and interaction design consultant Stephan Thiel, Berlin.

The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and by the Bridging the Gaps programme, which is funded by the EPSRC.