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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