Praba Ram and Sheela Preuitt - the translating duo

Posted by Remya Padmadas on September 30, 2017

September 30th is celebrated around the world as International Translation Day. We're very fortunate that some of our wonderful translators and language reviewers shared their thoughts on translation and children's books with us on this occasion.


Praba Ram & Sheela Preuitt love stories of all sorts. Stories about children, about animals, about crafts, about travel, about science, about prehistoric life, about ancient cultures, and just about everything in our universe. As children’s authors, they find it a privilege to be able to translate works by other children’s authors and feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to do so with Pratham Books.

We love how Pratham Books goes beyond mainstream cities to include rural environments so as to make books that children in remote corners of India can identify with -- books that reach non-urban libraries, government schools, and small-town early learning centres, staying true to their mission of ‘A Book in Every Child's Hand’.

Translating children’s books involves not just taking the words from one language and putting it in another. Regional references, cultural nuances, idiosyncrasies of the language and local dialects, plus the vocabulary appropriate for the intended reading level all come into play, which makes it not only challenging but also extremely rewarding. While proficiency in both languages at a native level is a must, familiarity with the colloquial and idiomatic usage is a great plus as it helps make the work accessible to a diverse group of kids with varying backgrounds.

Emerging readers can easily be confused if the written format deviates too much from their spoken language and life experience. As translators, we strive to stay true to the original work by the author. However, where appropriate, we have also opted to strike a balance by bringing in an equivalent regional context that conveys the purpose and idea while swaying ever-so-slightly from the original presentation, primarily to engage the young readers in a meaningful way. In addition to overall stylistic and linguistic considerations of the original work, we also try to pay attention to the rhythm and flow in the translated language in order to enhance the read-aloud experience for the given reading level.

Often children's publishing in regional languages is influenced by ingrained beliefs and preconceptions prevalent in that region. Through quality books, Pratham Books has created a space for a body of literature for children that reflects the inter-connectedness of people, languages, and cultures, as well as their distinctive features, thereby breaking boundaries and providing books as a link from one region to another.

Translating a story across different languages brings varied voices together by offering a platform to celebrate cultural diversity and contemporary Indian realities and sensibilities, and we can only be delighted to partake in this meaningful linguistic movement - in fact, a grassroots one, so to speak.  

And, seeing books in English translated not just to regional Indian languages but to Russian, Norwegian, Portuguese, even Japanese and Mandarin, reiterates that stories are universal and children around the world cannot have enough of them!