Bringing more Tibetan storybooks to children

Posted by Remya Padmadas on October 04, 2019

Tenzin Choedon is a teacher, who is presently working as the headmistress at Mewoen Tsuglag Petoen School run by Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society under the Department of Education, CTA, Dharamsala. She loves reading and writing poetry. Her husband, Tenzin Dorjee has been working as the head of Traditional and Modern Academic Section, Department of Education, CTA since June 2016. 

In this blog post, the husband-wife duo write about being part of a translation sprint to translate storybooks into Tibetan for Pratham Books. 

Our relation with Pratham Books had been really wonderful and we owe this to MES (Manjushri Educational Services) for providing us the opportunity to translate 5 of their STEM stories. Our relation became stronger later after the interactive session we had in the Tibet Fund office at Mcleod Ganj followed by another informal meeting at Dhauladhar, Dharamshala. Just recently we translated four of the stories on the theme 'Water' for Pratham Books. We are grateful to the Pratham Books team for believing in us for this important translation work.

On 3rd September, I along with five teachers and 25 students from our school had the opportunity to be part of a translation sprint during which we translated a total of 15 level 1 storybooks from Pratham Books with Mr. Buddha Kyab and Mr. Ngawang Tsetan (MES Team members). It was a wonderful experience.

Pictures from the Tibetan translation sprint conducted by MES with teachers and students of Piteon school in Dharamshala.

Before being part of the translation team for the translation of STEM stories into Tibetan language, my husband and I had no experience of translating stories. Only after being involved in the translation work, many facts about translation work gradually unfolded for us. The translation of children storybooks may appear to be easy one for those who are not involved in the process but our past experiences had made one thing very clear - writing and translating children stories is not at all an easy task. It requires a lot of thoughtful considerations and patience to draft, reread, review and edit the story at your end as the translator before making the final draft to be reviewed by the reviewing team.

The most difficult part in translating a story from English to another language is deciding on a child-friendly language which does not affect the grammatical structure of the language or the flavour of the story. The most challenging part is the time you have to devote for the translation work but if you are interested then you will be able to meet this challenge happily. Moreover, to be able to do well in translating children stories one has to have a good understanding of children's language and their taste.

Stories translated by Tenzin Dorjee into Tibetan

Being a part of the translation team for STEM stories and our experience thereafter with Pratham Books had really changed our outlook towards children literature besides giving us a very rich learning experience. We are highly indebted and grateful to everyone involved in our journey as translators (beginners), though not full fledged.  We are also grateful to our daughters for reading each of our translated stories as a trial for further changes before our final drafts, on behalf of the rest of the children. Their reading of the stories reflect their understanding, and this has been really very helpful in making the necessary changes that we as adults might have failed to see. 

We thank Pratham Books for this wonderful initiative and for your contribution towards Children Literature. Lastly, we wish the whole team of Pratham Books a very Happy Translation Day!


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StoryWeaver Spotlight: Pallavi Rao

Posted by Remya Padmadas on October 04, 2019

Pallavi Rao has done her MA in English and loves music, literature and painting. She is the daughter of well-known Kannada writer Vaidehi, and has worked on a compilation of talks by eminent theatre personality Sri B.V Karanth (edited by Sri Muralidhar Upadhya). Pallavi has been teaching PU students in several places and currently resides in Delhi. She has translated several storybooks to Kannada including The Night the Moon Went Missing and A Whistling Good Idea on StoryWeaver. 

Q: You carve out time for translating children’s books from a busy life. What do stories in translation bring to young readers?

Young readers unknowingly come to know the culture, way of life and language at a young age itself. I think it is very important to imbibe these qualities at a young age. 

Q: What is your personal relationship to language and/or translation?

Kannada being my mother tongue, I have read and listened to several great writers and thinkers in Kannada. I breathe my language and this helps me bring stories into Kannada.

Q: What is your take on translation? 

Translation is a very responsible task. You have to translate the story keeping its original flavour intact and at the same time giving it the flavor of the language it is translated into. One should have a grip on both the languages i.e., from which you are translating and the one to which it is being translated into.

Q: Translating certain stories must have required a lot of research, especially when it came to STEM-related terms and concepts. For example, stories like A Whistling Good Idea. How did you explore new objects and concepts? 

When I read a story to be translated, I dwell on it and begin thinking it in my language. It helps me to understand the story in local circumstances so that I can translate accordingly. While translating concept-oriented stories like ‘A Whistling Good Idea’, I felt it was such a nice way to make a child understand the concept in a playful manner. Difficult concepts are quite hard for children, but when the same concept is told through games, it becomes simple and hence is more understandable and easy for a child.

'A Whistling Good Idea', translated by Pallavi Rao

Q: You have contributed for us immensely. How has the StoryWeaver journey been? What is one big takeaway from this experience?

Overwhelming. By repeatedly wearing a child’s shoe while translating, it has made me more observant and my mind keeps weaving stories for children from whatever I observe around me!

Q: How do you feel when your story reaches the child?

If I can ignite the imagination of a child and add to the child’s vocabulary through my stories, nothing would be more satisfying. 

Q: What is your key driver in taking up translation of stories into Kannada? 

I have a very strong feeling towards my language. Children in big cities in my state rarely speak Kannada, which is very disturbing. Through these stories, if I can sow seed of love for the language of the land - that would drive me to translate more and more stories.

Q: How else do you think we can join hands to take more stories to more children in more languages?

India has abundant folk stories and poems for children in regional languages. They have to be made reachable to more children in other languages too. For example, in Kannada, we have stories of Panje Magesh Rao, Hoysala, Ullala Mangesh Rao, Ugrana Mangesh Rao, Rajaratnam and so on. Apart from translating stories from English to regional languages, I feel that we should also translate stories from regional languages to English and to other regional languages as well.

Q: When you have been given a story to translate, what is your process, and how long does it generally take?

I read the entire story two or three times, linger on the story and try to visualize the same while working on other chores. I try to keep the language simple, use more of sound words to make it more attractive and increase the vocabulary in children.

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

Certain English concepts are not present in Kannada. For example, we don’t have a ‘cape’ in our costume. In such times we have to coin a word in Kannada and ensure that the image is translated successfully to the child.

Q: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in becoming a translator?

Keep the language as simple as possible and make it interesting for children by visualising the story yourself to get the best output.

Q: A book you'd like to recommend to other translators?

From the ones that I have translated it would be ‘A Whistling Good Idea’.

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

Cooking and painting interests me to a large extent. Experimenting techniques in both the fields are the same, I feel.


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Madhu B. Joshi prefers to be known as a communication practitioner. She sees a great need for demystification in daily life and has been trying to work towards it. She has taught translation and a short, self-designed course of Indian culture, mentored content teams of major education NGOs and designed educational audio-video programmes for CIET and NCERT. Joshi is a translator of Hindi poetry and short fiction in English and has presented major black feminist writers in Hindi. She is also a prolific and visionary collaborator of StoryWeaver, and has translated many storybooks into Hindi including मुझे खोज कर दिखाओ! and बाग की सैरYou can read all her stories on StoryWeaver here.

Apart from all of the above, we also know and love the other मधु बी. जोशी (in her own words)... जो खाना पकाना, इलाज करना, पौधे और कुत्ते पालना, राय देना.. जैसे बहुत से मुफ़्त काम करती हैं। उन्हें सब से ज़्यादा मज़ा बच्चों के लिए काम करने में आता है और वह इसका कोई मौका नहीं चूकतीं। 

In this blog post, Joshi writes about the complexity of translation and the many challenges it presents.

Stories translated into Hindi by Madhu B. Joshi on StoryWeaver.

स्टोरीवीवर की कहानियों का अनुवाद हमेशा चुनौती साथ लाता हैः हमें ठीक-ठीक मालूम नहीं होता कि कहानी का पाठक दुनिया के किस हिस्से में है, उसकी आयु या शैक्षणिक पृष्ठभूमि क्या है, वह प्रस्तुत पाठ को किस उद्देश्य से पढ़ रही है, क्या हमारे शब्द उसके लिए भी वही अर्थ रखते हैं, क्या हमारा किया अर्थान्वय उसके लिए भी कारगर रहेगा?.....अनेक प्रश्न बार-बार कलम रोकते हैं। और फिर लेखक के मूल कथ्य और मंतव्य को पकड़ने की चुनौती तो हमेशा ही अनुवादकों के सामने रहती है-अरे मन संम्हल-सम्हल पग धरिये! 

एक मोटा-मोटा सूत्र राह दिखाता हैः अनूदित सामग्री पढ़नेवाले पाठक के लिए वही मूल रचना है। लेकिन नामों और रिश्तों का जटिल संसार कभी-कभी बहुत कड़ी परीक्षा लेता है। एक कहानी में दक्षिण भारतीय मुख्य चरित्र, जो एक लड़का था, का नाम सत्या था, हिंदी मे यह लड़कियों का नाम होता है; तो नामों के मूल रूप बनाए रखने की ताकीद के बावजूद मैंने उसका नाम सत्य कर दिया क्योंकि मुझे हिंदी के पाठकों को भ्रम में न डालना ज़्यादा महत्वपूर्ण लगा। हाल ही में गोआनी मूल के ईसाई लेखक की लिखी सुंदर और बहुत रोचक कविता-कहानी में शवयात्रा के समय बजनेवाले बैंड (भारत में कम ही जगह इस तरह का चलन है) का उल्लेख आया। इसे हिंदी के बाल-पाठक को समझाने के लिए हमें लंबी-चैड़ी टिप्पणी देनी पड़ती जो पढ़ने का मज़ा ही किरकिरा कर देती। तो हल निकाला शवयात्रा का उल्लेख गोल करके; पाठ की रोचकता बरकार रही, उस की गुणवत्ता हल्की नहीं हुई।

लेकिन कई बार तकनीकी शब्दावली की यांत्रिकता आड़े आती हैः प्रचलित शब्द गोल/गोला से पता नहीं चलता कि वह किसी पिंड का संकेत दे रहा है या द्विआयामी आकृति काः गेंद भी गोल है, और नंगी आंख से धरती से दिखता चांद भी! अब अगर हम सायकिल के पिंडाकार पहियों की बात कहना चाहें तो कैसे कहेंगे? एक और बड़ी समस्या पशु-पक्षियों-कीट-पतंगों-वनस्पतियों के नाम हिंदी में बताते हुए आती है। इस संदर्भ में ‘ताल का जादू’ के हिंदी अनुवाद की याद आती है। इसमें उल्लिखित कई पक्षियों और कीटों के नाम मुझे नहीं पता थे। हमारी प्रचलित शब्दावली में, कई कारणों से इन में से बहुत के नाम उपलब्ध नहीं हैं; किसी वैज्ञानिक शब्दावली में मिल भी जाएं तो शेर-बाघ-तेंदुए के बीच अंतर न जानने वाले हमारे पाठकों के लिए वे इतने अपरिचित होते हैं कि अंग्रेज़ी नाम देना भी ठीक ही लगता है-जैगुआर कहने पर यह संभावना बनी रहेगी कि कोई जानकार उसे इसका अर्थ समझा सकता है (वैसे जैगुआर अमेरिका में पाए जाने वाले तेंदुए हैं)। बेसिल का अर्थ आमतौर पर तुलसी लगाया जाता है लेकिन तुलसियां भी कम से कम छः तरह की होती हैं, बेसिल में यह तथ्य निहित है, तुलसी में नहीं। 

हर नया पाठ अनुवादक के लिए नई चुनौती लाता है। हर नया अनुवाद भाषा के क्षितिज को कुछ आगे सरकाता है।


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