Translating with a twist – how volunteer translators inspired Hollywood film
The profession of translating came under an unexpected spotlight when the film ‘Letters to Juliet’ was released earlier this month. Verona, Italy, (the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’) provides the backdrop of the film and it is the city which is also home to The Juliet Club – a group of 15 volunteer translators that every year translate and respond to the thousands of letters addressed to ‘Juliet’, hailing from the broken-hearted from all corners of the world.
People have been leaving such letters at ‘Juliet’s supposed tomb’ since 1890’* and for over seventy years, The Juliet Group has been replying to these letters, which currently amount to some 6,000 per year. A variety of languages are covered internally including Arabic, French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish, but due to the popularity of their work, the group can rely on a vast network of volunteers ready to translate into any world language, as well as Braille.
Other linguistic initiatives in the city of Verona centred around the themes of love and romance include the ‘Writing for Love’ award which is an international prize awarded on a yearly basis for any written text dealing with the subject of love; and the ‘Cara Giulietta’ or ‘Dear Juliet’ prize which is the club’s own award for the ‘most compelling letter’ of the year, regardless of the letter’s source language.
‘Letters To Juliet’ is a film that looks set to warm the hearts of the romantically inclined the world over, whatever the language involved. And it has also provided an unexpected window into a profession where anonymity is usually key.
Sources: The Times; Odeon Cinemas; The Juliet Club