translators: tristan cranfield and sarah ardizzone
In 2011 Ivybridge Primary School in Hounslow teamed up with literary translator Tristan Cranfield for their Translation Nation project. Several parents also took part, providing written as well as spoken versions of traditional tales in their home languages of Somali, Arabic, Punjabi and Bulgarian. The project parents noticed similarities between many of the stories and realised that alternative versions often existed in their own cultures.
To prepare the Translation Nation hub teams for the translation task ahead, the children learnt a short Arabic song and thought about why a literal translation of a song or poem is unappealing in English. The exercise demonstrated that a good translator must be creative and should pay attention to sound, rhythm and rhyme to make sure their writing is enjoyable in translation. The children at Ivybridge were then able to put all their creative writing skills into action to produce wonderful translations of the stories they had heard.
When preparing their final performances the children incorporated sections of the original languages to give the audience a real impression of what they had achieved and The Lazy Bird, a story originally told in Bulgarian, was chosen by the audience as the winning translation.
In 2012 literary translator Sarah Ardizzone worked with Ivybridge Primary to develop their Translation Nation experience. There was wonderful support from parents, with eight visiting the school and providing rich material to feed the children’s imaginations. The group noted that parents and children translated words and phrases differently, and Sarah encouraged the children to be inventive with their interpretations. Their teacher was delighted to hear the pupils speak their home languages confidently and found the oral and drama techniques Sarah practised with the group a refreshing approach to teaching literacy. The translated stories were performed with outstanding props and costumes and Ali the Liar, a tale originally told in Somali by a pupil’s mother, was finally announced as the winning effort.
Although the Ivybridge students are accustomed to speaking their languages at home, Translation Nation showed them that their languages are relevant and important in other settings too. The children realised that they are lucky to have learnt a language from their families and that they have a special skill that they should be proud of. Translation Nation was useful for the English speaking students too, who were introduced to the possibility and benefits of learning new languages.