DorothyI was invited to attend the Children’s literacy, literature and multilingual storybook production / translation seminar organised by PRAESA, IBBY and PEN, and also to present FunDza’s work in a panel discussion.

I gave a brief input about FunDza’s work, focusing on our translations, and heard ideas and opinions from people from national government representatives to storytellers from a small Eastern Cape village.

What I found useful about the conference is the foregrounding of the importance – and difficulty – of translation, and how important it is to get ‘right’. I was reminded just what an ‘art’ translation is, and I agreed with Elinor Sisulu’s emphatic call for the South African government to be investing in funding training and development of African languages and literature.

The point was made that it is not enough just to get a professional ‘translator’ – you need specialists within the area, so you need translators who themselves are storytellers or interested in children’s literature to translate a children’s book.

Publishers came in for some ‘flak’ with suggestions that they should be publishing more in local languages. However as I am part of Cover2Cover Books too, I can support the voices that presented the problem of finance. Even if you do publish a book in a local language, it is very hard to get it marketed as booksellers are not interested in stocking it. There needs to be creative ways of developing new markets and selling books (however that is a topic for another conference!)

It was also very interesting to look at the findings of both the SA Book Development Council as well as the PIRLS study. PIRLS found that children were already failing in their home languages before they even made the switch to English. I believe that this points to the importance of the development of language teaching pedagogy incorporating stories and meaning-making, as Carole Bloch and Sara Stanley presented.

Thanks to PRAESA, IBBY and PEN for this thought-provoking seminar. It has certainly got us at FunDza thinking about these important issues, and interrogating our own practices around translation and the choices we make.