Sunday, March 30, 2014

Translation Nation

A few posts ago (February 20), there was one on this blog about Translators in Schools. British schools, that is. Now here's some information about a related UK initiative called Translation Nation. Actually it's the elder of the two, though it's slipped under my radar until now.
"Translation Nation is an award-winning project which aims to inspire children and young people to begin or continue what we hope is a lifelong exploration of literature and culture from around the world. The project promotes pride and enthusiasm for the many languages that are spoken or taught in UK schools, encourages recognition for the important role translation plays in our lives, and encourages an enjoyment and appreciation of literary English and the nuances of the English language."
The project is a partnership between Eastside Educational Trust and the Stephen Spender Trust. (Though the name sounds American, Eastside refers here to the East End of London.) It was started in 2010 for primary schools and in 2012 it received both the European Language Label and the EuroTalk Primary Education Language Prize. The project was also re-launched that year to extend its work to primary schools.
"Translation Nation empowers primary school children as translators, interpreters and storytellers of international stories. It celebrates the many community languages spoken by the children and encourages a curiosity about world literature. Working in small groups under the guidance of language experts, the children translate into English and re-interpret stories that their parents have shared with them from their home languages. The process introduces the children to literary fiction and by including music, props and performance the children find it easy to become engaged and the workshops encourage a more thoughtful, confident, nuanced and imaginative approach to writing in English

"Translation Nation in secondary schools creatively and persuasively highlights to students the value of multi-lingualism today and the opportunities it brings in social and professional contexts and in accessing global literature and culture. The project enables pupils through a single workshop to build confidence as translators and to see the relevance of the modern foreign languages (MFLs) they learn in school. It promotes the continuation of MFL learning to equip pupils with highly desirable tools for the future."
These initiatives are – or should be – important to translatologists because they extend significantly the scope of translating by children and adolescents. In recent years, most of the research attention in this area, and especially in the USA, has been focused on child language brokering (CLB), which means basically the translating that individual bilingual children of immigrant families do in order to help out other, less bilingual members of their families and immediate entourages. This has expanded, mainly in the UK, to organised LB teams in schools, and even to a whole movement like the East Hampshire Young Interpreters (enter hampshire in the Search box on the right). It does reinforce our certainty that normal children without special gifts or teaching can translate, but it has a serious limitation. Which is that CLB is only done for utilitarian purposes and to maintain personal relations with its beneficiaries.

Now comes a quite different kind of stimulus and a quite different kind of adult intervention. The interveners aren't school teachers but are themselves translators or "language experts". And their aim is not utilitarian but to help children's cultural development. This goes along with the general observation that although most translating may be performed to facilitate practical communication, there is nevertheless a great deal which is not (starting with the ludic translating done by the very young like Leopold's daughter.) Activities such as TN point the way to how children's natural translating ability can be developed in pleasure-giving non-utilitarian areas too.

Eastside Educational Trust. Translation Nation: inspiring literature in translation in schools. Click here.

Werner F. Leopold. Speech Development of a Bilingual Child: A Linguist’s Record. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1939-1949. Reprinted New York: AMS, 1970.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Accident Report

Dear Friends, Followers, Clients and All,

On Monday I fell and broke my left shoulder. The trauma surgeon is hopeful that I will not need an operation if the bones knit naturally, but as a result, for at least the next three weeks I will only be able to write with one hand. This of course is very slow. Please excuse the delays.

For faster communication, my phone number is 34 (for Spain) followed by 963248846.

Thanking you for your understanding,

Brian Harris

The incident has inspired the following limerick.
In Valencia there was an old man
who promised, “I’ll write what I can
promoting Natural Translation.” But he tripped on a boulder
and busted his shoulder,
and now all he can write is DAMN! DAMN!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Translation Limericks

This blog is usually serious, in intent at least. But let's take a break.

Do you know what a limerick is? In case not, it's a peculiarly English comic verse form: a single verse with a sting in the last line; metre anapaestic; rhyme pattern AABBA; line pattern long, long, short, short, long. But as it's a fun genre, a lot of poetic licence is allowed. Limericks are often – to use a euphemism – ribald: I still remember one from school days that began
There was a young lady of Kent
who said that she knew what men meant...
But the ones that follow won't be of that kind. "Clean if I'm not very clever," as British comedian Arthur Askey used to sing.

To start off, here's pride of place to one about Natural Translation.
There was a young girl of Peru
who started translating at two.
By the time she was five
to her teachers' surprise
she was translating better than you!
(or than me or than anybody else for that matter.)

Only girls?
There was a young boy from Cartagena
who interpreted super-fast without a trainer.
When asked how it could be,
he said, "Here by the sea
in Cartagena we speak Spanish plainer.
Not true, of course. But for the sake of the rhyme.
Both Cartegena (Colombia) and the Cartagena (Spain) are port cities.

The next one is about Bible translation. It helps to know that the great Bible translator St. Jerome was a native of Dalmatia. It also helps to know that adaptation is a constant topic among translation theoreticians, who ponder over where the boundary lies between adaptation and translation proper.
There was an old man, a Dalmatian,
who caused an adaptation sensation.
He cast the whole Universe in doubt
by leaving out
the chapter about the Creation.
And on another hot topic, audiovisual translation. It's very fashionable. Not a week goes by but that I receive the announcement of a lecture, a conference, an article or a book about it.
Are Translators Traitors? They bait the critic
of film, television and rhetoric
by interpretative nuances
taking linguistic chances,
whether subtitled, dubbed, or what makes them tick.

Finally, here's one for all you academics. You need to know that chargé de cours is the lowest teaching rank in French universities, and that the real meaning of French permanence is English 'tenure'.
A proud chargée de cours in Translation
considered she was a gift to the nation.
By departmental attrition
she obtained a position
permanence, which she translated as 'adulation'.
Over to you now. If you have a limerick to contribute, found or original, you can share it as a Comment to this post or send it to me directly at

Limerick (poetry). Wikipedia, 2014. Click here.

Arthur Askey. Wikipedia, 2014. Click here.

For examples of adaptation on this blog, enter aladdin, cinderella or nutcracker in the Search box on the right.

Cover of a book of nonsense poems by Edward Lear, the 19th-century godfather of the limerick.