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ITI Stars - the results are in

Written by Catherine Park

The results are in for the Institute’s ITI Stars campaign, recognising the greats of translation and interpreting – both the famous and those who have simply inspired ­– as our way of celebrating International Translation Day (30 September).

This is the culmination of a programme which started in August, when we asked for suggestions on who should be included in an ITI Stars card pack. We then invited everyone to let us know who their favourites were by liking them on Twitter and Facebook.  And two months on we know the answer!


The three translators with the most ‘likes’ were:

Ros Schwartz – renowned literary translator, whose work includes The Little Prince (63 likes)

Anthea Bell – renowned literary translator, particularly children’s literature (59)

St Jerome – translator of the Bible (51)


The three interpreters with the most ‘likes’ were:

Jemina Napier – eminent sign language interpreter and researcher (59)

Svetlana Carsten – major achievement in interpreter training (53)

Alexander Drechsel – award-winning interpreting podcaster (43)


These results would seem to suggest that the people attracting the most likes in this exercise have tended to be those inspiring, providing new insights and making a real difference in the now. It is also pleasing to see continuing recognition for St Jerome, very fitting as he is the patron saint of translators and symbolic for the profession, not least on International Translation Day

ITI Stars has flagged up some of the most influential ways in which translation and interpreting has impacted on society. A number of those nominated for cards were involved in making religious works more accessible –  Bishop William Morgan (for translating the Bible into Welsh); N J Dawood (for translating the Koran into English):  the Levitical Interpreters (for interpreting the Hebrew Bible to Jews who had returned from exile to Babylon) – showing the enduring and inspirational value of this work in terms of faith, but also linguistic heritage and culture.

It has also brought to the fore some pioneering women who were translating for a living in the 18th and 19th centuries. Elizabeth Carter’s translation of the philosophical works of Epictetus was a bestseller – this probably wouldn’t be such a crowd-pleaser today but she certainly knew her market. And let’s not forget Constance Garnett who translated Russian classics (71 volumes), bringing the works of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov to the English-speaking public for the first time.

Literary translation often tends to get more attention than scientific work, but this fails to recognise the vital role of scientific translation in disseminating information and enabling further development globally. For that reason, it was good to see eminent scientific translators featuring in the mix, including Albin Tybulewicz who made a great body of theoretical and practical physics available to the Western World; and former ITI Chairman John Sykes who translated the 10-volume Course of Theoretical Physics and many Russian textbooks.

Very early practitioners also captured the imagination, including Shu-ilishu, who assisted Mesopotamian rulers over 4,000 years ago and is the first interpreter recorded in history. It’s good to be reminded that interpreting has been a vital profession for a long, long time.

Several contributions related to prominent individuals who had translation as a less well-known but highly accomplished area of activity; for example, the scientist Mary Somerville who translated an important astronomical work and Dorothy L Sayers who translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (the accomplishment she said she was proudest of). This type of card shows the way in which another area of expertise can enhance translation capabilities.

A number of contributors spontaneously suggested characters from literature and films, which led to the development of the Special Edition Fictional Characters. Obviously, this is a bit of fun but even here there are some learning points! C-3PO and Missandei do highlight the value of individuals who have an in-depth understanding of other languages and cultures. Perhaps the challenge is that, while these activities do occur in books and film, they sometimes go under the radar in terms of the viewer or reader recognising these as a specific job. And nobody came up with any fictional translators – there must be some out there!

Thanks to everyone who has contributed their suggestions for cards and ‘likes’. It has really opened our eyes to the achievements of a cross-section of inspirational people – both past and present.  

ITI Chair Sarah Griffin-Mason says: "The ITI Stars idea was intended as a bit of fun to celebrate this first official United Nations- supported International Translation Day. I am extraordinarily pleased to see how everyone has risen to the challenge with such wide-ranging suggestions; I must admit the Special Edition cards particularly tickled me. The point, though, is a serious one. It is up to us as a community to pull together and make our professions more visible. It is only through our own labours that this will happen in the 'interesting' times in which we live, not forgetting the vast effort put in by our colleagues in FIT who campaigned so hard on all our behalves to gain official recognition."



The other translators and interpreters included in the virtual pack were:


Alfred Birnbaum - translator of Japanese literature

Franz Pochhacker - conference interpreter and renowned researcher on interpreting

Harry Obst - interpreter to seven US presidents

Harry Rowohlt - translated Winnie the Pooh into German

Mary Somerville - science writer and translator

C K Scott Moncrieff - translated Proust

Rifa'a Al-Tahtawi - established school for language and translation in Egypt (1835)

Robin Gill - translator of Japanese poetry

Viktor Sukhodrev - Cold War interpreter

Yasmina Melouah - translated complete works of Daniel Pennac into Italian

Siegfried Ramier - interpreted at the Nuremberg trials


Special fictional characters



Silvia Broome


Honey Huan

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