The Growth of English to Tamil Tranlations

Olympia Shilpa Gerald writes about the vernacular publishing space which presents a goldmine of opportunities for students who are competent in English and Tamil.

Walk in to the ongoing Puducherry book fair and it’s not uncommon to see an English book sitting cheek by jowl with its Tamil translation. Be it contemporary Indian writers, literary giants from across the world or self-help books, Ramachandra Guha, Gabriel Marcia Marquez and Norman Vincent Peale are lined up in book fairs today in their Tamil avatars. Going by what booksellers say, the Tamil publishing industry is gung-ho about translating any bestseller into the vernacular.

But does the upsurge in preference for translated works create a lucrative career opportunity? For students who can claim competence in English and Tamil, a whole new world of prospects may open up if the trend continues.
Postgraduate centres like the Kanchi Mamunivar Centre for Postgraduate Studies encourage students of English literature and language to look beyond the theory of translation. Familiarising oneself with translating short stories and essays from English to Tamil or vice-versa is a good start, believe lecturers.

Students and research scholars are also encouraged to contribute to Transfire, a journal of translation from Indian languages into English, and participate in translation contests. Practice in this domain is emphasised, though no one is perfect in translation.

While Tamil publishers jump at an offer to translate an English or an internationally acclaimed book into Tamil, there is not much enthusiasm to publish an English translation of a Tamil work, as publishers are sceptical about the reader base, says Mr. Raja, currently working on a compendium of short stories, novels and literature of Puducherry, translated from Tamil, for Oxford University Press.

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