Famous Stories Translated into African Languages
1st Nov 2013
FAMOUS STORIES TRANSLATED INTO AFRICAN LANGUAGES - The invaluable role of children's literature in translation in bringing children together through stories.
What greater hope could we have for our youngest citizens than that they grow up marvelling at and wanting more of the treasury of stories from the vast patchwork of world culture, past and present? Stories that have travelled and crossed borders through translation allow us all to discover what it means to be human, in both unique and shared ways.
Reading memorable stories from near and far stimulates the writing of other memorable stories, inspiring potential and actual authors to conjure up new stories from old and, in the process, to take ownership. It's what has always happened. It's not a problem for English-speaking and some Afrikaans-speaking children who hear and read collections such as Grimms' Fairy Tales and classics such as Pinocchio as a normal part of childhood. But sadly they rarely, if ever, get to read stories written or retold in African languages and then translated into English.
A flowing river of stories implies lively children's literature coaxing children into books. It also implies that translation is valued and growing as an industry, making knowledge of one another's languages potentially an economic good. But it's not. At best we struggle to nurture a trickle of translations from English into African languages and almost none in other directions.
The relatively youthful history of written children's literature is also a history of translation. A distinctive literature for children came about over time with the adaptation of adult texts for child audiences.
This was done largely by translators, the "invisible storytellers", who retold stories in what were considered appropriate ways, in accordance with the dominant societal views of childhood. Although a separate children's literature only emerged in the 18th century, translated tales have been enriching children's lives since medieval times.
In the 21st century, is it right for African-language-speaking children to be excluded from access to the world canon of children's literature, including African literature? No it's not! Children all over the world are lost without translation.
Severine Henry, Booking Coordinator
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