Kemon achhen!

Posted by Amna Singh on August 02, 2018

Team StoryWeaver was in Kolkata in June for our second Translation Hackathon (you can read all about our first one here). 15 volunteer participants, a healthy mix of teachers and language students, came together to version more than 40 stories in Bangla over one weekend. The goal of the hackathon was to facilitate not only the translation of level 1 and 2 book to Bangla, but to also ensure peer led reviews of the translations.

We reached out to Sudeshna Moitra, a language teacher with over 34 years to help us not only find and bring together enthusiastic participants, but to also facilitate the workshop and mentor the volunteers. Sudeshna Ma’am has written 'Banan Tanan' a tome used by many Bengali writers. She writes for a number of Bengali blogs, and is also the editor of Sahajpath. As a resource person in Alamin Mission she organises training workshops for teacher on language teaching.

Sudeshna Ma’am believes that “Translation of stories helps to transmit thoughts into other languages, breaking the barrier of geographical distance, religion, and culture.”

The hackathon opened with a warm introduction and Sudeshna Ma’am set the agenda for the two day hackathon. Participants were familiarized with the Pratham Books mission and the power of open licenses. Rajesh Khar, Pratham Books Editor, spoke about the nuances of translating for children, levelled readers and also exposed them to the best practices followed by our team of Language Editors. Rajesh ensured that the participants - language students and teachers working with the children from underserved communities - had much clarity to the end goal of weaving quality books that were freely accessible for the last child.

Sudeshna Moitra sets the agenda for the workshop.

“We had curated a list of stories that we wanted to see translated through the workshop. These were level 1 and 2 stories published by Pratham Books, BookDash, ASP and the StoryWeaver community. We assigned the stories to each participant before the workshop keeping in mind their particular strengths. They were asked to read each story a few times to familiarise themselves with the story and it’s nuances. But the idea was for also for them to tap into the collective learnings and energy of the group to weave their translations.” shared Amna Singh, Associate Language Editor, Pratham Books.

Participants busy translating

One of the participants, Suman Das, a Head Master Of Chalitatali Prathamik Vidyalaya of Nadia said that once the clock started ticking the participants gathered speed and completed half their allotted books before lunch. Once they had translated the stories Sudeshna Ma’am reviewed each and every story with some receiving a green signal to publish. After lunch, a discussion on the need for level appropriate words in translation was had. “Some of us, including myself used some words which weren't appropriate for the age group the stories were intended for.” shared the Head Master.

Discussions and healthy debates

Peer -to-peer review of translations

Mentoring and feedback

The next day, peer led review of stories lead to new words being included, some that were more soothing to the ear.

The hackathon was a lively space for discussion and debate: how to make translations child-friendly, keeping the words level-appropriate, importing cultural references (or not) while translating a story. This lead us to understand that a handy glossary of examples demonstrating Pratham Books’ editorial stance on translation for the last child would be helpful at our next hackathon.

It was also wonderful to see participants use robust local language keyboards which we documented to see if we could integrate the libraries into StoryWeaver.

“The workshop has provided a platform among teachers, students and translators to translate great stories in vernacular; now more children will access these stories.” Sudeshna Ma’am shared at the end of the workshop.

Participants left with plans to take StoryWeaver to their respective schools and we have already heard back from Subimal Pramanik, Assistant Primary Teacher of Swarupnagar North 24 pargonas about this.

“I have already started a new class where there is reading and learning with StoryWeaver. Students enjoyed the trial session very much and I have decided to continue with the sessions.” 

We’re also very excited about a the StoryWeaver workshop that Suman Das will be conducting for 17 primary teachers from 12 schools in the Nadia district on 5th August.

Everything just came together so well over the weekend – the hunger for good stories, the energy of the language students, the wisdom of the teachers, their shared passion for Bangla. We can’t wait for our next hackathon!

You can read all the stories translated at the hackathon here

Bhalo thakun!

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Meet Mohar!

Posted by Remya Padmadas on June 14, 2017

Anurima Chanda is a PhD research scholar working on Indian English Children's Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Recently, one of her papers on Nonsense Superheroes was  chosen as course curriculum at the Berklee College of Music. She loves translating to and from Bengali, her native language. She loves writing and illustrating for children.   

I am doing my PhD from the Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. I am at the last stage as I submit in July this year. My topic (and this you would be glad to know) is on Twenty First Century Indian English Children's Literature and how it has been challenging previously held taboos within this area. So I look at texts that are not afraid to talk about caste, class, crime, violence, death, disease, disability, broken families, alternate sexualities, so on and so forth. The Pratham Books title ‘Chuskit Goes to School’ is one of the many stories that I am looking at - and I should inform you that I absolutely loved the story. I remember that I was looking for the English version of the story at the Delhi Book Fair this year, but they had already been sold out. That is when I started searching for it online and was glad to see that it was made freely available online on StoryWeaver.

I discovered StoryWeaver when the Pratham Books page on Facebook advertised about the Retell, Remix and Rejoice Contest 2017. When I went through the site, I realised how easy it was to upload one’s stories through the platform. That is what got me so excited! But I saved all my excitement for later, as at that moment my prime target was to send a story for the contest. I got to know really late as it was already 27th or 28th of April and the last date for submission was 30th. I knew I had a story but I did not have enough time to weave it properly. When I saw the subheadings under which I could write, I knew I wanted to write about "Body Parts" but with a slight twist. I wanted to tie it up with disability, so that we bring a break in the way body parts are taught at schools. Children are made aware that there are people for whom eyes and ears function differently. The motive behind it was not just spreading awareness but also to find a way against bullying that disabled children face at school.

StoryWeaver has given me that confidence to tell my story, even if it is not polished. Plus, it is an added advantage, that you guys are so open to new ideas. Unlike most other publishing houses, who still have concerns about the suitability of sharing stories around certain topics with young children, Pratham Books has always been a forerunner in breaking that pattern and showing the way ahead. So thank you, thank you for changing the scene of children's writing in India and for giving us - people who are so passionate about this field, an opportunity to experiment.   

By that time the story bug had hit me hard. I started with simple translations. Then I thought of writing my own story, and the easiest was telling my own story - yes, Mohar is my nickname and that story had really happened. I wrote in Bengali, because although I am an English student, I still 'think' my stories in Bengali - even today. About the illustrations, one of the biggest grouse against Indian children's literature has been that it uses western pattern of illustrations. Even though there have been experiments with indigenous art-forms, it has shot up the prices of the books, making it out of reach for majority of the children in India. So, I knew that whenever I tell my own story, I will experiment with indigenous art-form. That was the reason that I used the Warli art-form for the book. And, in the future too, I intend on using similar art-forms - be it Poto-chitro, Madhubani, Gond or the others.


You can read Mohar in English, here.

There were so many people who complimented me on Mohar, that now I know that I am doing something right. I always knew that in the future I wanted to write for children. But this one, just made me more confident. Now I know for certain that I can do it. And thanks to you guys for making it so simple! So, my major aim is to get through complex ideas to children in the most easy way possible. To tell stories about children who do not fit into the mainstream idea of childhood in India. Then, to have my friends translate these stories into as many languages as possible to spread them far and wide. And yes, to experiment with folk art. I also want to help open libraries for children in the country - starting with my hometown Siliguri. At present I do not have the money, but once I submit my PhD and have a job, I would love to initiate that project. It is all a dream!


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