Singapore’s Symposium Honors Translation Pioneers Yang and Chan

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The first Singapore Translation Symposium, focused on issues in South and Southeast Asian literature, includes a lifetime achievement award for two prominent leaders in Malay and Chinese intercultural studies.

Singaporean translation couple Chan Maw Yoh, left, and Yang Quee Yee are recipients of the Singapore Book Council’s first SBC Achievement Award, as part of the coming weekend’s inaugural Singapore Translation Symposium. Chan and Yang are specialists in cross-cultural features of the Chinese and Malay communities. Image: Singapore Book Council

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Chan and Yang Have Compiled 17 Dictionaries
On Saturday (September 25), the Singapore Book Council will hold its inaugural Singapore Translation Symposium, which includes conferring the first SBC Achievement Award on the husband-and-wife translation team Yang Quee Yee 杨贵谊 and Chan Maw Yoh 陈妙华.

The symposium itself is a program of issues and topics, set in a place with four official languages: Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and English. A part of the offering will include a digital segment called “Let’s Translate” in which the public can participate, taking on translation challenges and activities. That effort is to culminate in a panel discussion on September 30, the United Nations’ 2021 International Translation Day.

Local and international translators, writers, and academics have been programmed in a series of digitally delivered discussions for professionals, examining such points as the complications of translating multilingual Singapore literature; a focus on translating martial arts novels by Jin Yong; and a highlight on cross-border artists from South and Southeast Asia. Registration, free of charge, is available now here.

William Phuan

In a prepared statement, the book council’s executive director, William Phuan, is quoted, saying, “We are very excited to launch our first Translation Symposium by paying a tribute to Prof. Yang and Madame Chan.

“We believe translation is a key pillar in building a vibrant multicultural, multilingual society, and their exemplary work speaks to their lifelong commitment in fostering Malay-Chinese intercultural understanding.”

Together, the couple has translated numerous books from Malay into Chinese, compiled 17 dictionaries together, written journals and published scholarly research on the Malay-Chinese culture.

In 1959, Chan’s translation of Nyawa Di Hujung Pedang (Life In Danger) by Ahmad Murad Nasaruddin made history as the first Malay novel to be translated into Chinese. She also has a fruitful partnership with Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari, whose novels she has translated into Chinese.

There are essays and tributes to Yang and Chan and their work at the symposium site. These are written by literary activist Mohd Raman Daud and the poet Qi Yarong. And there’s a 600-year chronology of Chinese-Malay cultural exchanges, as well–written by Yang himself and translated by Chan.

The award tribute to the couple is set on Saturday for 9:30 a.m. SST (Singapore Standard Time), 0130 GMT.

The inaugural Singapore Translation Symposium is supported by the National Translation Committee and in partnership with Commonwealth Writers, the cultural initiative of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Singapore Translation Symposium Programming

Featured speakers in the September 25 Singapore Translation Symposium are, upper row from left, Anitha Devi Pillai; Annaliza Bakri; Bilal Tanweer; Gigi Chang; and Nazry Bahrawi. On the lower row from left: Qi Yarong; Mohd Raman Daud; Shelly Bryant; Show Ying Yin; and Subashree Krishnaswamy

Following the morning’s tribute to Chan and Yang, there’s a series of three panels in which speakers on the day’s program will interact.

Registration for all these sessions is here. All these sessions are in English.

  • “Translating Sing Lit” (11:30 to 12:30 SST) features Anitha Devi Pillai, Annaliza Bakri, Show Ying Xin, and Sim Wai Chew, moderated by Ho Zhi Hui.
  • “The Joys and Perils of Translating Jin Yong’s Novels” (on martial arts, 14:00 to 15:00 SST) features Gigi Chang, Shelly Bryant, moderated by Jonathan Hui.
  • “Translation Across Borders: Voices from Southeast Asia and South Asia” (16:00 to 17:30 SST) features Bilal Tanweer, Nazry Bahrawi, Pauline Fan, Subashree Krishnaswamy, moderated by Alvin Pang.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Singapore and its publishing scene is here, more on publishing and book awards is here, and more on translation and translators is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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