PhD scholar and researcher Ankit Dwivedi loves to write and tell stories. He is translating stories into Bundeli or Bundelkhandi. He is a native of Lalitpur, a city that lies at the heart of Bundelkhand. He speaks a dialect of Bundelkhandi and uses the Devanagri script to write it. Ankit’s research work during his Masters programme has been a qualitative study of a local language newspaper run by women which has influenced him to explore local language learning possibilities for children. Though there are millions, according to Ankit, who speak Bundelkhandi, there is a dearth of interesting and engaging reading material for children in the region. Ankit wants to change all of that by translating and creating a digital library of books in Bundelkhandi. In an email interview he tells us the challenges of translating in his mother tongue and how stories can make for the best company in the world.

Why did you decide to translate storybooks to Bundelkhandi as part of Freedom to Read ? 

It is always a pleasure to read in the language we have grow up speaking. I realised that there weren't too many many stories or picture books in Bundelkhandi. So, this is my effort and a little step towards building a digital library in Bundelkhandi that is free and accessible to all.

Describe your process of translations and how long does it take usually?

I translate those stories that I enjoy myself as a reader. I spend some time capturing the essence of the story in the original language and wondering how it may be preserved in the language I am translating to. Then, comes the play with words. Reading it out loud helps. As for time, I would say, sometimes it takes two to three hours to translate a story. And sometimes, edits may take days.

What kind of a person do you think makes the best kind of translator for children’s stories?

I believe children use their senses in a much more mindful way than adults. They don’t just want to walk through a garden, they want to taste it, smell it and they want to know how everybody who is living and breathing there feels. For adults, to see the world from the child's perspective can be an effort and practice. Those who are willing to make that effort can be great at writing, illustrating or translating children’s stories.

 

What is the hardest thing about translating from English into Bundelkhandi? How do you navigate words or phrases that are tricky to translate?

It is definitely tricky. In Bundelkhandi, just like many other dialects, who is speaking and how one speaks shapes what is being said. Just to give an example, the "Kaay" sound in Bundelkhandi is used to call people out like ‘Hey there’, make exclamatory remarks like ‘What! Really?’ or in an interrogative speech to ask ‘Why?’. So, while writing, one has to consider what possible meanings the reader might be making out of these. I offer translations to people who speak the language and see how they are reading it. Repeating this process many times over gets us a better draft.

Can you tell us anything about yourself and your job that would surprise us?

I work with stories as a researcher and a storyteller. They make for a great company and people of all ages need the warmth and love they bring. I have seen adults heartily enjoying the simple linear ‘we know what’s going to come’ stories and I have seen children engaging deeply as we peel the layers of complex grey characters. I hope as adults, we take children more seriously. And ourselves, maybe a little lesser. 

You can read Bundelkhandi stories translated by Ankit here

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Freedom to Read 2019: Hyperlocal libraries just a click away!

Posted by Pallavi Krishnan on February 19, 2019

Written by Priyanka Sivaramakrishnan

StoryWeaver’s  Freedom to Read 2019 is our flagship annual campaign to mark the International Mother Language Day on February 21st. We have been collaborating with some fantastic translators, educators and literacy organisations across the world to bring to you digital hyperlocal libraries across underserved languages.

 

When we opened up the event in November 2018, we had a rush of applications, partners who were more than eager to collaborate with us on this exciting project. We received an overwhelming 200+ applications from 36 organisations and 196 individuals, representing translation partners and individual language champions from not just across India, but also international literacy organisations and individual language champions. Our final selection boiled down to 11 organisations and 8 individuals to help build hyperlocal digital libraries across 30 languages.

With the help of these partners, we targeted 14 underserved languages such as Korku, Marwari, Basa Jawa (Javanese), Bundelkhandi, Pawari, Santaki, Kora, Pashto, Farsi, Chinyanja, Ewe and more.

Since the storybooks created on the platform will be used in classrooms to retain students' interests and preserve local culture and language, we worked closely with the partners to help them curate lists.These curated lists were entirely based on the need of the partner to fill in the gaps. For instance, Agnes N.S. Nyendwa, Editor of Macmillan Publishers, Zambia wanted to make STEM concepts easier to understand, by versioning them to her mother tongue, Chinyanja. The North East Educational Trust (NEET), Assam, India worked towards translating joyful Assamese stories for early readers because there was a lack of material in this category. Afghanistan based Darakht-e-Danesh (DD Library) wanted to translate stories that could be localised to Afghanistan and the social reality of the land. Right To Play is working with a story list that is a cultural fit for Africa and are keen to get the books printed via our publisher partner, BookDash.

To begin the process, we first had to get our partners familiar with the the StoryWeaver platform. Support materials such as the Pratham Books translation manual, tips on translating, FAQ's, and video resources on how to use StoryWeaver as a translating tool were given to the partners. During the training, we reinforced the need for peer to peer review workflows as it is essential to ensure good quality content at such high volumes and also shared our in-house playbook (a ready reckoner of sorts for hackathons) as a resource to partners who were working with teams across geographies with scaled resources to help them conduct hackathons. This was used by African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA) to conduct multiple translation hackathons with their teams in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

We absolutely have to give it to our translation partners for knocking it out of the park, with the lengths they took to make sure that not only books got translated, but more importantly, got published.

They faced many challenges, the biggest of them all being able to complete the project despite not having all the resources. Since we’ve been working with underserved languages from remote locations, our translators were not necessarily the same people who were coming up on the StoryWeaver platform and publishing the same. This led to a lot of searching for support systems. In these cases, most of the translations were pen to paper which would then get passed on to their resource in a town or city with access to computers, where the newly translated stories were uploaded.

Keep watching this space for more news, final roundups and achievements of Freedom to Read, 2019.

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Azad India Foundation (AIF) was founded by Yuman Hussain in 1998 to seed initiatives in education & primary health care. The organisaton's activities reach out to marginalised women, adolescents and underserved children from rural and urban areas of Kishanganj district in Bihar. AIF has learning centres at 73 villages in three blocks of Pothia, Kishanganj and Thakurganj in Kishanganjimpacting 3,500 + children directly in the area. The children in AIF's centres are aged between 6-9 yeas and are either school dropouts or attending Madrassas. The centre's syllabus includes Hindi, English, Science and Maths. The main aim of the initiative is to ensure that children are ready to merge with mainstream education in state-run schools by grade 4. 

AIF is also our first partner translator to have completed its goal of translating 100 StoryWeaver books into Surjapuri. Surjapuri is spoken in pockets of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Bangladesh by 1.2 million people. In Bihar, the language is spoken in Koshanganj, Katihar, Purnia and Araria districts. In an email interview Yuman Hussain tells us why creating a hyperlocal library in Surjapuri is important and how AIF managed to reach its goal of 100 books in collaboration with its project and cluster coordinators. 

Tell us more about Azad India Foundation? 

Azad India Foundation (AIF) has been working in Kishanganj district of Bihar from 2001. It started its activities with a non-formal education and vocational training centre for women. Over the years, AIF’s focus has been on the development of poor and marginalized children, adolescents and women. Our activities are in the fields of women’s literacy, formal school education, non-formal education, rural employment, income generating skills, SHG formation, and community health programmes. Currently, we are directly working with 3,500 children in the primary classes through learning centres in 73 villages of four blocks — Kochadaman, Pothia, Kishanganj and Thakurganj. 

What are the long-term effects of a lack of easy access to resources in mother tongue languages for the communities that you work with?

Surjapuri is local language spoken among a large section of people in the Seemanchal area (Kishanganj, Araria, Purea and Katihar) of Bihar. Unfortunately, we have not seen any books or resources available in the local language for the children. There is a possibility that these languages will be lost over a period of time as more and more people now speak Hindi. In fact, when we started translating books in Surjapuri and shared them with the children and community members they were unable to recognize their own written language.

What are the benefits of creating a local digital library of joyful storybooks in Surjapuri?

Creating a hyperlocal library at StoryWeaver will help our children have access to and preserve Surjapuri as their language. It would also enable them develop their reading skills and enjoy stories from all over the world in their own dialect. The digital library is free besides being easily accessible to every one. The mobile friendly feature has made it possible for the books to reach even remote corners of the country.

 

Tell us more about your team of conributors and how you managed to translate and publish the 100 Surjapuri stories? 

The stories were translated by the team of project Badhte Kadam comprising cluster coordinators Aslam, Chand, Juhi and teachers. They were really excited about creating Surjapuri stories as it gave them an opportunity to contribute to the preservation of their own language. Muzzamil, who is the project head, reviewed the stories. The stories were chosen according to the themes and levels of the children accessing them. The toughest part was the typing and uploading of the stories that was done diligently by Saqlain, our computer operator. AIF is really proud and thankful to its team members for completing this programme within the stipulated time period with sincerity and enthusiasm. We will continue adding more stories and hope to bring the joy of reading to all children.

 

AIF's Team Badhte Kadam

How does Azad India Foundation plan to use this digital library of a 100 books?

AIF plans to introduce these stories among the children at our learning centres. We are also spreading the message through social media about the StoryWeaver platform so that the community can access, use these stories and help in building this digital library further with many more books. This is a small step towards the preservation of local languages for which we are grateful to the StoryWeaver platform.

You can read the Surjapuri stories translated by  Azad India Foundation here

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