Translators Associations Europe: EK

A place for translators to call home

Translation Associations Europe: EUKThe European Translators Association in Straelen (Europäisches Übersetzer-Kollegium, EÜK) is the first and largest international centre for translators of fiction and non-fiction literature in the world. Based in Germany, it was founded on the 10th January 1978, on the initiative of Elmar Tophoven and Klaus Birkenhauer.

This translation association, which works as a college, does not act as an agent for jobs in the translation industry. All guests are expected to bring their work along with them – usually a translation commissioned by a publisher.

According to EÜK, “you can neither learn to translate in Straelen, nor have something translated”. In the translators association’s premises, “you can ‘only translate’ “. The college offers “ideal conditions” for that. Translators from all over the world have been guests at EÜK. They come “with a translating contract from a publisher” and use the diverse aids of the centre to meet colleagues who will collaborate with them and exchange views and ideas.

A bit of History

In the early 1970s, the European Translators Association in Straelen was nothing but “a beautiful dream of German translators” of fiction and non-fiction literary works. They wondered how it would be if instead of working alone, at their desks, isolated from the world, they got together and worked in each other’s company every once in a while.

This joint effort wouldn’t necessarily mean working as a translating team and definitely not as a translation agency. It would be a means to share experiences, reach out and touch an actual human being with many common problems, ambitions and stories to tell. Moreover, the experiences exchanged would reflect not only one but many different cultures, comprising your own mother tongue and many other foreign languages. It would provide the translator with tricks on the translating trade otherwise difficult to obtain (just a reminder that we are talking about the 1970s, when there were no text messages or quick emails).

The Straelen translation association founders also based themselves on a historical model: during the Middle Ages, in Toledo, Spain, there was a fruitful collaboration between translators, when whole teams of language experts translated the Greek classics into Latin. They worked each book in small groups and the fact that their individual insights could be shared made work easier and helped them achieve a high quality job.

So, the college was founded in 1978. Two years later, there was a temporary house on Mühelstrasse, which had six rooms and “a constantly expanding library”. It was in 1985 that the translators association moved to the present building, “consisting of five former residential houses” on Kuhstrasse. In 1992, the building was expanded, allowing plenty of room for workshops and continuing-education seminars.

Nowadays, the premises of the translation association offer nearly 2500 square meters of room for translators to live and work, with 30 furnished studio apartments. Other than the library and the conference rooms, there are fully equipped kitchens where guests can cook their own meals.

A set of clear goals

The objectives of EÜK are quite clear, the most primary of them being “to encourage an international culture exchange” as well as “to overcome language barriers in the interest of international understanding.

In addition, the translators association wishes to help introduce Germany to literature made in other countries. On the other hand, it has the aim of making German literature known abroad. EÜK also aims at making a significant contribution to the general improvement of the quality of non-fiction and fictional translations. At the same time, it is committed to emphasising the “significance of translating internationally”.

In order to achieve these objectives, the translation association from Germany is eager to specifically support “contemporary translations that are true to the original”.

So that its guests may progress, learn new possibilities and improve their skills, EÜK offers continuing-education seminars and workshops for professional translators and authors as well as seminars and practical training for students.

A great aid for all of them is the expanding specialist library, “which fulfils the needs of literary and non-fiction translators and is open to the public as a reference library by appointment”. The library has 110,000 books. It is, according to the translators association, “the first and largest specialist library for literary and non-fiction translators”, with “reference works in nearly all languages and dialects (from Afrikaans to Zulu) and from all fields and periods”.

EÜK states that its library must be able to reply to the strangest questions, such as “What is 'Rommel's asparagus'?", "Where is the Island of the Great Mother?" or "What are the names of the Seven Dwarfs?”

A priority of the translation association is to buy digital reference books, as well as very expensive reference works, usually beyond an individual’s financial possibilities.

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