Why ‘Hamilton’ Is Tough to Translate

Applied ICD

Paulson, Michael. (2022, September 14). Six Lyrics That Show Why ‘Hamilton’ Is Tough to Translate. New York Times.

Translation is central to intercultural dialogue since there are so many different languages in the world. This article is a pragmatic example of the need to take context into account when translating. The example is a translation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton from the original English into German.

There were many moments when Miranda et al. allowed the German translators to bend the original meaning in order to preserve lyricism and melody. But there were other moments when they insisted on literalism…

Six specific sections of the musical are analyzed in detail, focusing on different issues from avoiding hyperbole, to quoting rap songs, from providing new imagery to prioritizing meaning. The translators worked hard to display intercultural competence. (For a one-page introduction, see KC3: Intercultural Competence.)


International Translation Day

EventsInternational Translation Day, as established by the United Nations in 2017, occurs on 30 September every year.

International Translation Day is meant to be an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, which plays an important role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development, and strengthening world peace and security.

Therefore, this is an appropriate occasion on which to thank all of the translators who have taken time from other activities to help CID prepare translations of our publications into a remarkable 32 different languages. We could not do this without you! 

NOTE: If you want to translate one of the publications into a language in which you are fluent, please contact us before you start, to learn whether anyone else is already working on that publication in that language.


Dreaming of Words Documentary

Resources in ICD“ width=Dreaming of Words is a documentary film about Njattyela Sreedharan, a fourth standard [grade] drop-out, who compiled a dictionary connecting four major Dravidian languages in India.

Travelling across four states and doing extensive research, he spent twenty five years making the multilingual dictionary. This unique dictionary offers a comparative study of Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. Dreaming of Words traces Sreedharan’s life, work, love for languages and the struggles to get the dictionary published. The film also explores the linguistic and cultural diversity in India.

Dreaming of Words had its world premiere at the International Mother Language Day Celebrations 2021 organized by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and the Ministry of Education (India) in partnership with UNESCO. It was an official selection at the DC South Asian Film Festival, RapidLion Film Festival and Micheaux Film Festival. It won the Kerala State Television Award for Best Educational Documentary. It has been screened at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association and the annual conference of the Linguistic Society of America in January 2022.

The film was directed and produced by Nandan. For further information about him and/or the film, find him on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Atika Alkhallouf Profile


Atika Alkhallouf is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Communication, American University, Washington, DC.

Atika Alkhallouf


Her research interests lie at the intersection of global media, technology, and the Arab world. She has a master’s degree in Intercultural and International Communication from American University’s School of International Service. In 2020, she held the position of Adjunct Professor at American University’s Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies Department: Arab World Studies Program.

As an experienced translator, she believes in the power of translation in building bridges of mutual understanding and dialogue. Translation for her is an invigorating mental exercise that she highly values as a tool for knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer.


Alkhallouf, A. (2021). Parental cyberbullying through a global lens: Children’s digital rights and social media policies. Journal of Children and Media, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2021.1942662

Aufderheide, P., Lieberman, D., Alkhallouf, A., & Ugboma, J. M. (2020). Podcasting as Public Media: The Future of U.S. News, Public Affairs, and Educational Podcasts. International Journal of Communication, 14(0), 22. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/13548

Work for CID:

Atika Alkhallouf has translated KC27: GlobalizationKC55: Stereotypes and KC77: Negotiation into Arabic, and also serves as a reviewer for Arabic.

Paola Giorgis Interview

“Interviews”Dr. Paola Giorgis was interviewed about the concepts of critical discourse analysis and translation as an intercultural practice on March 25, 2021, by Rehana Paul, CID intern.

Dr. Giorgis answers the following questions:

  • Can you explain teaching English as a foreign language with a hidden agenda?
  • What is Critical Discourse Analysis and how does it relate to intercultural dialogue?
  • Is translation an intercultural practice?

For further information, see her one-page summaries:

Giorgis, P. (2015). Critical discourse analysis. Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 51.

Giorgis, P. (2015).  Critical Cultural Linguistics. Key Concepts in Intercultural Dialogue, 88.

as well as these guests posts:

Giorgis, P. (2015, November 24). Teaching EFL with a hidden agenda: Introducing intercultural awareness through a grammar lesson. Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

Giorgis, P. (2016, August 10). On translation as an intercultural practice. Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

Giorgis, P. (2017, February 27). Intercultural communication or post-cultural communication? Reflecting on mistakes in intercultural encounters. Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

Translation is a Place of Resting

“Intercultural Dialogue Quotes”

Cutler-MacKenzie, Kathryn. (2020, December 15). Translation is a place of resting, of being in common. Lucy Writers.


In this article, artist and art historian Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie describes her experience during an Erasmus exchange in Paris, including this wonderful comment about translation:

Thus when we speak of the relevance of translation today, we speak of the importance of shared conversation, shifting perspectives and creating spaces of together. Translation, like collage, is conversation, across geographical and time-bound zones: it is the space between, rather than of, voices. And in translation, just as in collage, we always lose something of the original picture – we must be content in not knowing the full picture. Indeed, speaking, thinking and making between languages has taught me that what we have now is never all that there is; in other words, that we can always surprise ourselves, that change is possible, even in the most confined of settings with the most limited of tools.

Ghent U: Research Assistant: Multilingual Website Evaluation (Belgium)

“JobResearch Assistant for MULTIPLES Research Group, Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Deadline: 10 January 2021.

The MULTIPLES research group at the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication wants to hire a part-time research assistant (80%) for the project “Evaluation multilingual website fedasilinfo.be”. This research is situated in the field of multilingual and intercultural (digital) communication. The project aims at an evaluation of the use of the multilingual Fedasil website on the basis of an analysis of the current and desired situation by means of qualitative-quantitative research among (1) applicants for international protection and (2) collaborators who are active in collective and individual reception initiatives.

The research combines among others:

(a) in-depth interviews and/or focus interviews with applicants for international protection and/or persons who do not (or no longer) have right to reception

(b) screencaptures of user experiences on the fedasilinfo.be website

(c) survey (entry/exit surveys linked to the website)


Uygar Doğan Profile

ProfilesUygar Doğan is an Agile Program Lead with Capital One Tech and a language enthusiast. She holds an MBA degree from State University of New York (SUNY) Albany.

Uygar DoganBorn in Turkey, she immigrated to the USA in 1998. She studied English and German as part of her school curriculum in Turkey, and she enjoys translating between the languages of Turkish, German and English. In her current job, she helps software engineers accomplish their goals via Agile methodologies. She currently lives in New York City and appreciates the immense diversity the city has to offer. Her other interests include traveling the world and discovering good Plant Based food wherever she goes. She is happy to be a part of CID’s research community and hopes that through such exchange, the world will learn to become one and appreciate our differences as well as our similarities.

Work for CID:
Uygar Doğan translated KC35: Media Ecology into Turkish.

Huan Zou Profile

ProfilesHuan ZOU is an editor from Shanghai Translation Publishing House. She majored in Translation & Interpretation at Fudan University and received her M.A. in China Development Studies from the University of Hong Kong.

Huan ZOUShe is interested in foreign literature, biography and regional studies, and is the editor of works (translated into Chinese) by Vladimir Nabokov, Czeslaw Milosz, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ezra F. Vogel, Shimon Peres, etc.

She also works as a translator. Published translation works include:

张廷佺、邹欢 (译):《鸽灾》(原作者:路易斯•厄德里克),上海:上海译文出版社,2017年。 [Zhang, T., & Zou, H. (Trans.). 2017. The plague of doves by Louise Erdrich. Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Publishing House.]

邹欢 (译):《经典企鹅:从封面到封面》(原编者:保罗•巴克利),上海:上海人民出版社,2018年。[Zou, H. (Trans.). 2018. Classic penguin: Cover to cover edited by Paul Buckley. Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House.]

邹欢 (译):《媒介环境学和媒体教育: 反思全球化传播生态中的媒体素养》(原作者:林文刚),《国际新闻界》, 2019年4月 (41卷 4期): 89-108. [Zou, H. (Trans.). 2019. “Media ecology and media education: Reflections on media literacy in a globalized communication ecology” by Casey Man Kong Lum. Chinese Journal of Journalism and Communication, 41(4), 89-108.]

Work for CID:
Huan Zou has served as a reviewer for Simplified Chinese.

Translation x90 (Scotland)

Applied ICDTraveling in Scotland, I visited the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling. At the entrance, they have handouts outlining the history of the site – translated into 90+ languages!

Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling

I have never seen so much effort put into documentation for international visitors. If only all tourist attractions were so thoughtful.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue

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