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

Be the first to comment.

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.

Be the first to comment.

Settle down for this long read by Nkem Osuigwe (PHD), director, Human Capacity Development & Training, AfLIA on how the teams of librarians and communities from different parts of the African continent came together to work towards their goal of creating hyperlocal digital libraries for African children in their mother tongue languages. 

The African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) believes that building a strong library sector in Africa is necessary for overall development. Working to increase the literacy rate of Africans has been pinpointed as most essential as it equips one with the skills to learn and gain access to information that leads to individual and community transformation. Literacy is the foundation of all skills for a better life. Most importantly, literacy enables people to play significant roles in the development of their community and country. 

The African Union 2063 Agenda has as its fifth Aspiration, the building of strong cultural identity for Africans. This ties in with another strand of literacy as is pursued by AfLIA. Literacy takes on another hue of great importance when it leads to the building and strengthening of cultural identity for participation in cultural and social activities. This can only be achieved through gaining the ability to learn and communicate in one’s mother tongue. As children grow up all over Africa, the mother tongue is most largely the first language for communication and understanding of concepts. If they read books in local languages they will be familiar with many concepts in the language they are familiar with. This makes it easier when they encounter such or similar concepts in the official language either in schools or when they study independently. Most importantly, when children are given books written in their mother tongue, it assists in creating the perception of reading as a normal process because it is in a language that they speak and understand in everyday interactions. This has great potential of building strong reading culture across Africa.

The high availability of smartphones and the growing internet penetration in Africa has made it imperative for African libraries to offer print books as well as ebooks. There are a few online platforms where libraries can easily access and use ebooks for children in local African languages. When I met Pratham Books’ Story Weaver online, I was curious. The creative commons platform has quite a number of colourfully illustrated and easy to understand children’s books that one can read online and store offline for future uses. The books though mainly written by authors from another continent have knowledge that African children need – building relationships, honesty, forgiveness, respect and love for other human beings, stories about nature (flowers, insects, weather/climate, human body, planets and geography) as well as books that promote arts and craft. The stories on the platform that amaze me most are those that have the capacity to build the curiosity of children about science, inventions, calculations and naturally occurring phenomena. The platform also has stories for children written by Africans. I reached out and StoryWeaver was and is still there for me! 

How we did it

The StoryWeaver Team and I talked about translating the books into local African languages. It is estimated that Africa has between 1,500-2,000 languages. How do we do it? AfLIA got together a group of Master-Trainers. The training was done online. Network interruptions were much that day and our Team was made up of librarians from Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria listening and watching a StoryWeaver language editor from India share her screen! Practice on what we learned was done individually. There was a hiatus. 

The team from StoryWeaver wrote a nice letter to me after a couple of months and asked that AfLIA applies to be part of Story Weaver’s Freedom To Read 2019 campaign with training thrown in. Building the capacity of African librarians to provide 21st century information services is one of the core thrusts of AfLIA. That was done and we got in! Choosing an indigenous language from Africa was difficult. Also, AfLIA always strives to create a balance between the regions of the continent in whatever it does. However, we needed librarians from the different regions to commit to translate the books. Eventually we settled for Ewe, Fante, Hausa, Igbo, Isixhosa, Kikuyu, Luganda, Swahili and Yoruba languages and dialects. Librarians were trained in batches and individually online. Prompts and slides were also shared to guide the translation. 

How we hacked it

The teams are spread across five African Countries – Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda. We decided to try the Hackathons so that the Master Trainers can train the others and to ensure that the translations have accurate or near-to-accurate meanings especially with languages that are tonal where one word can mean different things depending on how it is said or other words around it. Also, we noticed that some words do not have direct translations in some of the local languages. Having a Translation Hackathon enabled each language team to crowdsource solutions to such a word. Some decided to translate the word as it is pronounced locally, while some decided on compound names that explain the words. The Hackathon also drew the attention oflibrary users to the fact that new ebooks were coming in for the children.

Let's get them reading

AfLIA has drawn up plans to have a continent-wide reading promotion ‘Read Africa Read’ with the same book titles across the different countries. The translated books will quicken the process as we would be able to choose books from the 100 titles being translated. Individual libraries will use the books for their story hours. A librarian in Kenya National Library Services Millicent Mlanga plans to use the books to bring in the out-of-school children and adults who cannot read in English. She believes that the books will spur this group of people into learning how to read and write. According to her ‘these are new sets of books available with a click…,no budgets, approvals waiting, blah blah as kids thirst for new titles’. Already, the Ghana Library Authority has downloaded a book translated into Ewe in the e-readers in the Library and read it aloud to children on the World Read Aloud Day to children. 

Presently more than 200 books have been translated across the languages. We are still going on with the translations. French speaking West Africa librarians have asked that they be trained so that they can translate in Fulfude, Jula and Wolof. We are working on that. Some teams are slower than others but we will all certainly get to the goal of having digital libraries of children’s books in African local languages! 

Head over to here to read the stories translated from Team AfLIA. 

Be the first to comment.