Saturday, September 30, 2017

Build the Bridges of Translation

30th September is celebrated as International Translation Day. It was launched as an idea to show solidarity of the worldwide translation community in an effort to promote the translation profession in different countries. This is an opportunity to display pride in a profession that is becoming increasingly essential in the era of progressing globalisation. Pratham Books' language editors and translators are celebrating this day through a series of blog posts.
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(This post was written by Sandhya Taksale. Sandhya Taksale left the world of journalism after 20 years for the far more exciting world of editing children’s books and facilitating translations. Her dream is to live in a world filled with books and storytelling. She is a senior editor with Pratham Books and is based out of Pune. Sandhya writes about translating for children and wishes our sparkling translator community a Happy International Translation Day.)

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Children who read Pratham Books are smart.

They know of brave Buli and have heard of our dance loving Zenie from the North East; they are friends with Biju, the magic weaver from Odisha and Tamil Nadu’s Kolam expert Susheela. They team up with Ahmed, the cricket fan from Kashmir and mischievous Kallu from U.P. They know what Chittappa, Ammachi and Pati means. They would love to go to Groundnut Fair of Bengaluru in the winters. They also know that the Ponkh Festival of Ahmedabad, the Snowman Competition in Shimla and Desert Fair of Jaisalmer - all happen in the winters! (Tip: read this and you will know too.)

These kids, they know many, many things…How? Well, because they love stories! These fun tales have Pan Indian characters and rooted Indian settings. And our little readers meet all of them in joyful stories which have been translated into their mother tongue languages.

One community speaks to another through translation.Translation is the bridge which connects people, languages and cultures. Also, translation builds the bridges of love, warmth and empathy. Translation is the integral part of our culture and literature. As Indians, we stay connected to each other and then we connect to the world.

Multilingual content through translations is at the heart of what we at Pratham Books work towards. Translation of our stories in multiple languages help us reach joyful stories to children in their mother tongues. In the last decade, we have published stories in 24 languages. StoryWeaver, our digital platform, has stories in 101 languages


The process of translation is a creative and beautiful engagement but it is tricky as well. Many people think that translating for children is the easiest thing to do, but...not really. Why?

There are many reasons. We mainly work with English as our source language. The nature and eco system of the English language is different from that of the Indian languages. The construction of sentences and clauses is different. The narration style is different.

Secondly, translating for children is a complicated process. Children are still learning to read and understand. Their relationship with the language is sensory. This means that the language appeals to their senses - not their intellect. That is why the sound, the rhythm and the flow of the language are all very important things. Also, the contextualised word play has a key role to play in children’s stories. For instance, the pun in the title of ‘Counting on Moru’ is difficult to carry to the language titles - so we need to get creative here. (How did we solve this puzzle in Marathi? Click here to find out).

Then of course, we need to get the essence and tone of the story right. It has to be grammatically correct. We need to rely on a ‘simpler’ language.

And above all, we also want to ensure that the translated story becomes a joyful read and not a boring one. That is why translations, especially the ones for children, have to be carefully crafted.

And no, it doesn’t get easier when you get to the review stage. You know why...cause translators and reviewers can almost never agree with one another:) And why is that? . Language (and translation), you see, is a live, vibrant, live and an ever-changing entity. There are many subtle differences in the way each one of us thinks, speaks and writes in our language. So, we are bound to have multiple point of views and debates. And this is a healthy sign.

Pratham Books recently organized a workshop on ‘Translating for Children’ to keep these very debates live and to address the many aspects and nuances of translations. Translators, reviewers, editors and language experts participated in this two day workshop. We had a combination of academic discussions and practical exercises. This workshop was helpful in so many ways. Keep watching this space as we will be sharing our key learnings with you soon.

Keep translating. Let’s build some more bridges of love and empathy and together, let’s spread the joy of reading all around! Happy International Translation Day to You!

Image Source : Lavanya Karthik

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