translator: bhavit mehta
Beavers Community Primary School took part in Translation Nation in 2011 and 2012, both years working with translator Bhavit Mehta.
To kick off the Translation Nation project and to encourage the children to think creatively about their languages, Bhavit asked the children to invent an imaginary creature. They labelled the animal’s body parts in as many languages as possible resulting in lots of interesting variations, formal and informal synonyms and slang words. This was a useful way to think about language registers and vocabulary, and how thoughtful language use can enhance the description and dialogue in storytelling.
The school was delighted to welcome parents to share traditional stories from their cultures. Over the two years nine languages were represented by parents and pupils with stories originating from countries including Iran, Somalia, Romania, Afghanistan, South India and Spain. The teachers commented that it was wonderful for the parents to be able to come into school and take part in a fun project and that their visits raised the profile of internationalism amongst the year group.
The children put an amazing amount of thought and care into their interpretations, creating colourful costumes and props, and even using projected backdrops to bring their stories to life. Each child was given the opportunity to showcase their individual talent, with some exceptional writing, acting, drawing and organisational skills emerging from the groups. Particularly some of the children who lacked confidence in English made excellent contributions to the project. In 2011 Michael and the Angels, a story originally told in Romanian, was chosen by the audience as the winning story, and in 2012 The True Prince, a story translated from Urdu, took the Translation Nation crown.
To give more children in the school a taste of the Translation Nation experience, Bhavit supported teachers so that they could echo the workshop activities in other classrooms. Teachers reported that the children’s willingness to teach their language, talk about their culture and recognise similarities with each other continued after the duration of the project. They also added that the children showed an increased awareness of the benefits of language learning, viewing it as a useful life skill and as a tool to open up a new world of literature.