On June 5-7, I attended the 6th International Translators and Interpreters Conference organized by the Brazilian Translators Association (ABRATES) in São Paulo. It was my first time attending this annual event, which brings together language professionals from all over Brazil (and the world!) Besides learning a lot with presentations on a variety of fields, an event like that is a meeting point for companies, translators and interpreters with different backgrounds. Among old friends and new acquaintances, it was a great chance to expand my network, exchange experiences, listen to fascinating stories from more experienced colleagues and, of course, have some good laughs.
Presentations started on the second day of the event. Subjects were comfortably divided by rooms, and Room 5 was reserved for literary translations. Since that is exactly my niche, I was pretty much glued to my chair all day long.
The 2:40 p.m. slot featured one of my subjects of interest: Translating Fiction for Teenagers, Young Adults, and New Adults. It was presented by Cláudia Mello Belhassof, a translator, copy editor, and text reviewer since 2003. Fluent in English since her teenage years, Claudia has a teaching degree and majored in Business Administration, but books have always been her passion. After a few professional experiences, she found her calling in languages and literature, and has been translating different book genres for publishers like Rocco, Verus, and Bertrand Brasil. Her expert field, though, is working on books for young readers.
Cláudia explained that, in Brazil, books for children and young adults used to be divided into two groups until a very recent past: children's books (up to 12 years old) and teenage books (12-18 year olds). Today, these groups are more targeted and the categorization is more subtle. There's still a children's audience, but books for teenagers are mixed in with books for adults in the Young Adult and New Adult genres.
YA explores the dreams and dilemmas that are typical of this phase in life, that usually goes from 14 to 17 years of age, and it includes discovering love―but not yet sex. The NA genre reflects the life of people 18 years old and beyond, when teenagers have finished high school and left home, so books may include contents of a sexual nature. There's also a subdivision called "Hot NA," which emphasizes on this last subject.
It's important to keep in mind that these ages are a reference to the characters of the book, not necessarily to readers themselves. The age groups these books attract are far wider, and aren't limited to teenagers alone.
According to Cláudia, the audience is very diversified and includes people who:
- Really like reading
- Can read the originals in English
- Enjoy writing (and write well)
- Are mostly young women
- Are very discerning
- Prefer books in print, instead of ebooks, because they like asking for autographs and adding to their collection
- Are fanatics!
Cláudia entertained attendants by showing a video in which teenagers, in ecstasy, were giving a standing ovation to an author who was visiting Brazil. She also shared a Facebook message written by the daughter of a friend, who professed her deep love for her favorite author.
The speaker also highlighted the joy of translating books for a young audience:
- The language is more laid back and informal, which allows her to mix formal and informal pronouns on the same sentence―as long as the publisher is okay with it.
- Slangs and cuss words can be used.
- Stories are entertaining.
- These books usually deal with characters overcoming problems, among other universal issues.
However, Cláudia also talked about some of the challenges she often faces:
- Slangs and expressions are usually tricky
- Researching is crucial―as it happens in every genre―especially in regards to drug use and baseball terms!
Lastly, the presenter shared some tricky expressions she has encountered on the books she translated. I'd like to highlight two here:
- “Don’t get blitzed on SoCo” ― SoCo stands for Southern Comfort, the alcoholic beverage.
- “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” ― It refers to the collective suicide of a religious sect in 1978, when people drank the artificial juice that was poisoned by potassium cyanide. In the context it was being used, the expression simply meant "don't buy everything people are telling you" or "don't do what people ask you to do without thinking things through first."
We laughed a lot and absorbed a lot of information, and her session did not let anyone down, considering the number of people who, despite feeling sleepy after lunch, didn't think twice after seeing that the room was crowded and decided to sit on the floor and take notes on everything Cláudia was saying.
I'm looking forward to more opportunities like this during next year's event!