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Word for Word: Literary Translation Exchange Program


Word for Word: an international literary translation exchange program

Word for Word is an international exchange program furthering the art of literary translation.  Building on the Writing Program’s translation curriculum—Literary Translation at Columbia (LTAC), a joint course of study created in 2009, directed by Professor Susan Bernofsky—Word for Word is a unique literary and educational experiment. Conceived by Professor and former Program Chair Binnie Kirshenbaum, Word for Word brings SoA students together with emerging writers from different countries and languages to collaborate on translating each other’s work.

Over the course of an academic year, students from Columbia and writers from a partner institution are paired together, and translate one another’s work into their native language. The exchange takes place over the course of the academic year, during which the Columbia students spend a week visiting their partners’ country to collaborate on their work, and culminates with the students’ partners coming to Columbia for a week to participate in a final workshop and a public presentation of their finished translations. At the conclusion of each year’s exchange, all the participants’ translations are published in an anthology with facing-page translations.

This exchange program is open to writers from across the genres: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and playwriting, and is open to 2nd-year students and Research Arts students.

Now in its fourth year, the Word for Word program was launched in 2011-12 with an English/German translation exchange partnering students from the Writing Program with students from the German Creative Writing Program at the University of Leipzig (Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig - DLL). Beginning this year, the School of the Arts is working in partnership with the Columbia Global Centers to expand Word for Word to other languages and sites around the world. Currently, two new exchange programs are underway, matching Writing Program students with students from Barcelona, Spain, and Turin, Italy (translating English, Italian, Spanish, and Catalan). These two new programs have been created in association with the Columbia Global Center | Europe (Paris). Our European partners are the Institute Ramon Llull and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona (with generous support from the Fundació Han Nefkens), and the Scuola Holden in Turin. In addition to support raised by our European partners, the Writing Program has received a grant from AVK ARTS, based in Los Angeles, to support expansion to the two new sites.

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