Jala is a translation platform that combines human skill with translation technology to make high quality translations accessible to those who need it the most. It collaborates with organisations, communities and individuals to help bridge the language barriers and increase access.
Earlier this year, Jala teamed up with StoryWeaver to help build a high quality repository of openly licensed storybooks in Chinese and Bahasa Indonesia. To get some insight into the translation process, they interviewed Sophia, a Jala user and hobbyist/ freelance translator, who translated five stories on StoryWeaver from English into Bahasa Indonesia. You can read an excerpt from the interview below.
Sophia, who translated storybooks from English to Bahasa Indonesia.
Hi Sophia! Thanks for being such an active user on Jala! Can you tell us a little about why you decided to translate the StoryWeaver books?
Hello! It was my pleasure. Well, firstly a little background about me. Bahasa Indonesia is my native language, but I moved to Singapore at the age of 15, and then later moved to the UK. So English has been the language I have spoken more actively. But ever since I started working in the publishing industry and have focussed on developing Singaporean content for Singapore, I began to miss home, and I began thinking about reconnecting with Indonesia. I feel a little like an outsider to Indonesia now, and I was not sure how I could help local readers in Indonesia. So when the opportunity to translate children’s books on Jala into Bahasa Indonesia came along, I was quite excited by the idea! It felt quite perfect. While my Indonesian language abilities have withered a little, mainly due to lack of practice, I felt that working on translation really helped to revive my language skills! Translating children’s stories had its own challenges for me. For example, word choice, which had to be suitable. I had to be sensitive about how an Indonesian child would understand the words I had chosen. It made for an interesting puzzle for me!
That’s great. What did you like most about the stories that you translated?
Like any children’s book, there was a nice rhythm to the stories. There were moments when I felt that the words in English had a rhythm, which I tried to capture in my translation. Knowing the natural rhythm of the book, I tried to ensure my translation stayed true to the original in terms of sentence length and word choice.
I liked that the stories were upbeat and (mostly) positive. For example, in Fati and the Honey Tree, even though the girl (Fati) fell down and hurt herself, there was still a positive message at the end. I also enjoyed the unique settings for the stories, everything from the environment to the characters and how they interacted with their surroundings.
Fati and The Honey Tree
The Indian and Ghanian cultures were very refreshing to me, and something I feel that is lacking in publishing, as most settings are very Western-centric. Finally, I liked how each story teaches something. For Let’s Play, it was science, through the introduction of simple concepts in a child’s everyday world.
This is really great to hear! What was the translation process like for you?
I was very methodical in my translation process, after the first one, I actually figured out what worked best for me and then came up with my own methodology which I actually have written down on my phone!
To start off I usually skim the original text first. I then proceed to do the translation line by line on Jala. I go through it once and have a first draft ready. I then go through both the original and the translation, by carefully comparing the two, and making any corrections along the way. I then read through just the translation to see how it flows and if I’m comfortable with it on its own. When I’m happy with what I have, I leave it for a day and then come back and read the translation again and do a final comparison with the original before submitting the piece. I like how Jala will always save my work, and I know that my progress will be safe until the next time I revisit the project!
Stories on the Jala platform
Of all the translations that you worked on, which was your favourite story to translate, and why?
I liked Fati and the Soup Pot the best.
Fati and The Soup Pot
Fati’s attitude was really funny in the story. I also liked how despite the fact that Fati’s mother knew that Fati had done wrong, she did not punish or scold Fati in the way you would expect parents to. In addition, I felt that the description of the cooking process and the listing of ingredients was a nice touch! If you are curious enough, you could attempt to recreate the dish! It also really liked that the child was involved in the cooking process!
What do you enjoy about freelance translation?
I think what I find most appealing is the extra income. But I also do believe there is a more interesting aspect to freelance translation. For instance, gaps in languages can be filled by multilingual individuals or translators. Being able to help and contribute to a specific skill is really interesting! I also think it’s a really great cycle, the more you do, the more interested you are, and the more that you learn! For example, when there are natural disasters, you see NGOs making open (and urgent) calls for translators for a specific language. Often, contributions can be through knowledge instead of money or goods, which is so meaningful when you are filling a gap. Even in non-dire circumstances, I believe that translators can make a difference.
To read the original interview, click here.
You can read the stories translated by the Jala Community on StoryWeaver here.