Monday, September 5, 2016

Translation: A Necessity for Children's Literature by Tina Cho

If you've ever read Heidi or Fairy Tales in your childhood, you have a translator to thank. Translators are an important link in creating quality children's literature. I never realized this until I sat in a class titled "On Translation" taught by Cathy Hirano at the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore last May. 

Cathy is a Canadian who lives in Japan and translated an award winning book by Yumoto Kazumi, The Friends, among many others.


Cathy says, "Books in every language capture unique character and experience." Because of translation we can see into other cultures. Following are notes from her session.

1. Translations can nurture and inspire minds.

We only know of Socrates because of translations. Cathy shared that from reading Heidi, which was written in 1881 and translated from German, she learned she can talk to God. 


In Japan, they wanted to be like the West. So classics such as Alice in Wonderland were translated. During the war, Japan censored what could be translated. However, a lady secretly translated Anne of Green Gables, published in 1952. 

2. Translation can inspire and nurture new authors.

The author Cathy translated for was inspired by Stephen King. Another Japanese writer wrote the first Japanese fantasy, which was inspired by C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. These authors wouldn't have been inspired by Western authors, if their books weren't translated.

Issues of translating:
Time and money
Publishers are reluctant to take risks. Translation takes a long time and is harder to sell if the character is a different nationality. You must have a quality translation. However, most translators receive low pay and no fame. It would be ideal if the translator also had their name on the cover and received copyright.

I'm so glad I sat in on Cathy's class. It's been fun seeing my author friends' books get translated into other languages, especially Korean. Translating is indeed an art and as difficult as writing the original story. Lately I was able to help critique my friend's English translation of a Korean story they hope to sell to an American publisher. Choosing the right English words and ideas is difficult. Translating isn't word for word, but more thoughts and ideas for thoughts and ideas.
Author friend Julie Hedlund's book translated into Korean: My Love for You Is the Sun

So thank a translator, and if you are bilingual, perhaps you can step in and translate so children can glimpse into your culture.

For more on translating, read this from SCBWI--Translation: Some Frequently Asked Questions.  There are also awards given to translated works, mentioned in these FAQs.

To see an interview of Cathy Hirano, check this link at Cynsations







30 comments:

  1. What an interesting post, Tina. I learned more today about translation and its importance. TY for this info.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy! I learned a lot myself.

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  2. Wow. I never thought about translations. You have opened my eyes to some new thinking. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Thank you for sharing such an interesting post, Tina. This aspect of children's literature is not something I've given much thought to.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Ev. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. So interesting! Thanks for sharing this, Tina.

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    1. Thanks, Christy! Maybe I'll see one of your books translated.

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  5. Very interesting points to ponder! Thanks, Tina

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  6. Thank you for this share, Tina. I never thought about the unique process to translate books to a different language.

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    1. Neither had I until a friend's book got translated.

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  7. Thank you Tina for such a great post.

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  8. I have four board books translated from English into Spanish. It was exciting to know children of another culture would be reading my stories.

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    1. How awesome that your books can reach children in/from other countries!

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  9. Thanks for always keeping us "globally minded," Tina!
    ~Trine

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  10. I grew up reading more translated books than written in the original, (HEBREW) and I'd be poorer had these translations not been available. Translators are unique craftspeople with a special feel for voice and tone, not just linguistic knowledge. The bible is a case in point.

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    1. Indeed, Mirka. Thanks for your comment!

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  11. I'm glad you pointed out that translating isn't just word for word. It must be so difficult to get just the right nuance for what's written. Interesting post, Tina!

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  12. Fascinating. I love the idea of putting the translator's name on the cover, not only for the sake of the translator but also so that kids better understand where books come from and how they get to us.

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  13. Appreciations, Tina, for bringing us to the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore again.

    Turning picture books, especially those that rhyme, or are otherwise poetry, into a language other that the original used in publication, is something I know to be an important challenge, but you've opened my eyes to much more in this area.

    I'm thinking that authors could place in their acknowledgements, a thanks in advance to any translators of this book... or they could ask to add that in "their" real estate of the acknowledgements page, if/when they are informed that it's going to be printed in a translated edition, if they have copyright & that is part of their contract.

    Do you feel it's possible?

    More thanks.

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    1. I don't think it's possible to have it in the acknowledgements page because usually aren't published books sold to other countries after the book has been printed? Last night I saw an American published book translated into Korean and the translator's name was inside by the copyright info. Yes, it would be nice if it was on the cover.

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  14. We rarely think of the translator when we read a book originally published in another language yet the translator can make an author's words sing - or not.

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    1. Indeed, Claire. Thanks for commenting.

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