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  • Nick Drew

Indian Translations



In India, as many as 780 different languages are spoken and 86 different scripts are used throughout the country.


While it's good to celebrate the diversity of the country, the sad part is nearly 250

languages have been lost in the last 50 years or so. Twenty two of the 780 languages are scheduled as Indian languages. Of them, 122 have been declared by the census as spoken by a population exceeding 10,000 and the rest are spoken by less than 10,000 people. Compare that to the Uk where English and Welsh and twelve other indigenous languages are spoken in the UK, including Breton, Irish, Gaelic, Cornish, Manx, Scots, and three sign languages.


So which languages do you use to reach a specific creative audience in India? For the India-UK Creative Industries at 75 Project, we chose seven; English, Bangla, Hindi, Maratha, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.


I designed the India-UK Creative Industries report for Dr Rajinder Dudrah of Birmingham University, UK, in English and then five additional summary reports in six Indian languages. The translations were provided by Dr Chauhan of University of Delhi, India, who asked students who could read and speak the languages to provide the translations. I sent an English proof of the summary report to Dr Chauhan with instructions to fit the text over the original English text. This meant getting the line length and leading of the text to match so it would fit the space.


Anyone working with translations will be well aware of how many extra characters may be used in a different language in an effort to say the same thing, necessitating a lot more space to fit text in. The way we say something in one language can be very different from how we say it in another, there sometimes isn't a matching or similar word and a phrase can replace a word. The idea of getting the text to match to fit the space provided was a fall back option so, if there were any problems, I could simply convert the text to a jpg and place it like an image.


I have produced a huge range of documents translated from English to Welsh which usually requires reducing text point size to fit the same text in, but the Welsh written language still uses English script and fonts, just spelled in a different way. In this case, the Indian text, supplied in Microsoft Word documents, and used fonts that contained a line known as a shirorekhā, showed up in the word document but didn't work when placed in the Adobe InDesign artwork file on my Mac computer. I had to find free to use screen fonts that worked on my computer, then copy and paste the text in place, though it didn't stop the weirdest things happening with the text. This necessitated checking every line on the Word document with what was showing in the InDesign artwork to make sure it was correct. Some fonts didn't work at all and showed characters differently which meant looking for other versions of the fonts to use. Some parts of the document entailed going back to the original Word document and saving sections as jpegs to use as the only work-round. Proofing was also a problem as the students translating would often find alternative or better ways of wording the text, which could change the whole formatting, and it wasn't always obvious where changes had been made, so it was safer to replace all of the text.


It did take a little more time to produce than planned, but it hit the deadline and the Dr's were happy, so that's what it's all about isn't it?


The project was led by Professor Rajinder Dudrah, Principal Investigator, Birmingham City University, UK, Dr Vishal Chauhan, Co-Investigator, PGDAV College, University of Delhi, India, and Dr Julia Szivak, Project Co-ordinator, Birmingham City University, UK. It was a 9-months research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Innovate UK, running from 1 February to 31 October 2022. It brought together 30 artists in India and the UK across three strands from the creative industries: screen industries, live performance, and fashion. Together, the artists shared examples from their crafts and engaged in dialogue regarding the possibilities, challenges and resources that have affected their respective industries past, present and future, but with a particular focus on working through the COVID pandemic. The project provided an opportunity for networking and the creation of 9 new short collaborative artistic outputs.

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