Translators Lab

Want to learn how to translate like a professional literary translator? Want to have your translation published? Join the Translators Lab, an innovative translation programme that combines both online and face-to-face classes.


Organised by The Select Centre in partnership with Writers' Centre Norwich, the Translators Lab provides excellent tutelage in a supportive environment. Whether you are tackling literary translation for the first time, or you have already started but want extra guidance, this 8-week course is for you. It will run from 12 Sep – 2 Nov, 2015.

About the Lab

The Translators Lab will apply the framework of consensus translation to encourage collaboration and peer learning. Through the course, participants will learn about the essentials of literary translation; how to examine a piece of literary work from a linguistic, cultural, historical and creative perspective; how to apply the tools of creative writing and editing in literary translation; and best practices in the translation industry.

The Lab offers a space for the participants to share their ideas and discuss the challenges they face in translating, with the text in front of them as a starting point. We will have three language tracks: Translating Chinese, Malay, and Tamil to English. Each language track workshop will have a Singapore writer-in-residence, and will be led by an internationally renowned translator, or workshop leader. The workshop leader will facilitate the whole process, encouraging the group to discuss all the possible translation options and solutions to particular challenges within the text, and to engage with the author and one another in a creative, collaborative exercise. The workshop leaders are:

  1. Chinese to English, led by Shelly Bryant
  2. Malay to English, led by Harry Aveling
  3. Tamil to English, led by Lakshmi Holmstrom and Subashree Krishnaswamy

They will be translating the fiction works of Singapore writers Wong Koi Tet (Chinese), Dr Sae'da Bte Buang (Malay), and KTM Iqbal (his poems in Tamil) and Indian writer Dilip Kumar. Each language track workshop is limited to no more than 10 participants.

Please click here for the bios of the workshop leaders and writers, or download here.

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Programme structure

The Translators Lab will run for eight weeks from 12 Sep – 2 Nov, 2015. There are three parts to the Lab:

  1. One-day creative writing workshop in Singapore conducted by Singapore writer Felix Cheong (12 Sep);
  2. Online course lasting seven weeks from 19 Sep – 24 Oct;
  3. Three-day literary translation boot camp in Singapore from 31 Oct – 2 Nov.

The participants will present their final translations at the Singapore Translation Symposium on 3 Nov. The venues for the creative writing workshop and boot camp are TBC.

We recognise that literary translation is a form of creative writing. Hence we kick off the Lab with a writing workshop to get the participants to think about the writing process and craft from the outset.

Please click here for the Lab schedule, or download here.

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How does the online course work?

The online course is designed so that you can work at home at a time that suits you (there are no set class times). You can download course materials from the course website (you will be given personal log-in details). The materials will include exercises, reading materials and written tasks to complete to a specific deadline.

For each language track, we will select up to four stories by one writer. Each story will be assigned to a pair, or group of three participants, who will work together over the seven weeks of the online course to co-translate the story.

Your workshop leader will give you written feedback on the translation and the exercises, this bespoke criticism being invaluable in your progression as a translator, and far out-weighing the level of personal feedback you could expect in an average course.

The participants will also share their translations in progress for feedback, and the completed first draft at the end of the online course. They will also be able to ask advice about thorny issues. By the end of the online course, the participants will have their co-translations ready to be edited during the boot camp.

There will be two sets of exercises/assignments devised by the workshop leaders. The exercises/assignments may include some literary criticism, looking at issues such as context, themes, structure and use of language. They may also explore particular challenges faced by translators working in that language combination, such as metaphor, tense, and other grammatical issues.

Participants will share their assignments online with the rest of the group. The workshop leader and other participants in the same group will give their feedback and draw out the learning points.

How does the boot camp work?

After seven weeks of online course, the participants will finally get to meet their workshop leaders in person as well as the writers for a three-day boot camp. The boot camp will focus on consensus editing. Each language group will work together to edit the translations they have been working on together during the online course. There will also be general discussions on the principles of editing and other issues. The workshop leaders will work intensively with the groups to get their translations to publication-ready standard.

We will invite an editor to conduct a couple of sessions with the participants. The editor will be given their translations beforehand, so that he/she can go through with them during the boot camp and give editorial feedback. The editor will also take part in the discussion on the principles of editing.

The participants will present their final translations at the Singapore Translation Symposium, which will follow the boot camp. The symposium is part of TranslateSingapore, a translation festival organised by The Select Centre. The Symposium will take place on 3 Nov 2015. More details to follow.

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How to Apply

The Chinese to English track is now closed. We have extended the deadline for the Tamil and Malay tracks to 26 Sep, so you can still join the online course. The course fees for the Translators Lab are SGD440 (standard) and SGD300 (students and senior citizens). The fees include tea breaks and lunch during the three-day boot camp. Participants will also receive a complimentary pass to the Singapore Translation Symposium on 3 Nov 2015. More details will be sent to the participants.

You can apply now for the Lab and select your language track Malay or Tamil. Please select your language track and send us some samples of your translation work, where available. Each language track workshop is limited to maximum 10 participants.

For more information, please email us at programmes@selectcentre.org.

The Translators Lab is supported by the National Arts Council.

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