In the second week of February, a three-member team from Pratham Books visited Rohtak, Haryana to conduct a translation workshop with 25 teachers from 20 districts. Little did we anticipate the warmth and love we would receive from the participants who came from all over Haryana. But what was truly inspiring was that these teachers stayed overnight at the Government Senior Secondary School in preparation for this workshop. They were so self driven that they had explored StoryWeaver and made themselves a little familiar with it even before we entered the school premises.
The main aim of the workshop was to conduct a translation hackathon. This meant working with teachers to translate Pratham Books titles to Haryanvi on our digital platform, StoryWeaver. Every teacher translated at least three Level 1 and Level 2 books. But before that, they all took turns telling us about their favorite childhood stories that have stayed with them effortlessly, emphasizing the huge retentive power of stories.
Their welcome sign for us on the blackboard
It was exciting, the idea of translating children's books to their first language. Most of us won't question the existence of books in the languages that we first spoke at home. Not so much for anyone whose mother language is Haryanvi. The teachers speak it, but are not used to reading Haryanvi in books. Also, it changes its dialect with every district and even within a district. So the challenge was to translate stories in a way that's mostly uniform and can be understood by a child who belongs to any part of the state. The discussions that ensued among the teachers reflected their expertise in the language but also the mutual respect they had for each other's opinions. They reviewed each other's work in pairs and with the final feedback incorporated, every teacher enthusiastically read out their work to the whole class.
The most important appeal for everyone involved here was that in two days, this translation hackathon yielded a proper set of 71 Haryanvi books! More and more children across India, and specifically in Haryana, can now read stories in their own language.
During the workshop, we talked about the value of translation, the concerns behind it, and the importance of translating meaning to meaning instead of word to word, and from one cultural context to another. We talked about StoryWeaver, our open repository of children's books, and the ways they can use this platform in their classrooms for free to enable joy of reading among students. The teachers agreed that the essence of their language lies in its humour, and there was plenty of that for the time we spent with them!
After a delicious meal, we were ready to leave and bid farewell to the fresh air of the town when the teachers insisted that we stay a bit longer. Some teachers performed impromptu plays for us, some sang and others made us laugh.
It was truly a memorable workshop with every teacher an eager champion of Haryanvi in their own school and in their own district. And with that, the number of languages available on StoryWeaver rose to 107. There could have been no better way to ring in the International Mother Language Day.