The magic of translation

Thanks to the TwLetteratura Caerffili Creative Collaboration project, Dan Anthony’s The Bus Stop at The End of the World is now available in its Welsh version. Kate Strudwick shares the latest news from the schools involved, starting from their translation experience.

Bus Stop - Welsh translation

The TwLetteratura Caerffily Creative Collaborations project is now entering the second round of social reading on Dan Anthony‘s The Bus Stop at The End of The World. Since the book was only available in English, one of the project goals was to have it translated into Welsh, too, based on the students’ feedbacks.

In this post, Kate Strudwick – creative project manager at Head4Arts – explains how the classes were involved in the translation activity with all its challenges and what are the next steps.

Translation: a creative challenge

Our TwLetteratura Caerffili adventure began last September when our three schools (Cwm Gwyddon, Penalltau and Trelyn) learned all about Betwyll and the TwLetteratura method by following a reading schedule for Dan Anthony’s book Sombis Rygbi.

Our Year 5 participants explored the benefits of having the texts available in both Welsh and English versions and we saw some improvements in their enjoyment of reading. This was particularly noticeable in their engagement with the Welsh language version.

Our next challenge is focused on another book by Dan Anthony: The Bus Stop at the End of the World. This book was only available in an English version, so we have been working with the publisher (Gwasg Gomer) and a translator (Ioan Kidd) to create a Welsh version for Betwyll. This involved our participants reading a hard copy of the English version first to familiarise themselves with the story, so they could help Ioan make some of the creative decisions.

Working with Ioan has been a very interesting experience for the young people. It gave them a much better understanding of the creative aspects of translating works of literature – and how it differs from translating something like instruction manuals or menus. They couldn’t believe that Ioan has never met the author, so the children are now hoping to organise a special “Dan meets Ioan” event.

A good translation comes from synergy

From the perspective of the teachers, Ioan’s set of skills (as an ex-teacher and as an author in his own right) has been very useful. It resulted in this translation being much more age-appropriate than is usually the case when working with books in translation. Teachers report that the language used by translators is frequently pitched at too difficult a level for the book’s target readers. This affects the children’s willingness to read books in Welsh, making the teachers’ job harder. Ideally, the young readers should be challenged – but not so much that it puts them off reading Welsh versions because the language is too hard. This project has made us realise that there needs to be a better synergy between the publishers, translators, teachers and the target readers. And that we need to find a way of raising awareness of this issue, if we are to properly support Welsh language learning.

Gwasg Gomer’s decision to actually print a hard copy of the new Welsh translation (Arhosfan Ym Mhen Draw’r Byd) has been a very welcome addition to our project and has enabled our participants to have an exciting insight into the world of publishing.  An illustrator has been appointed (Huw Aaron) and the children have contributed some ideas that have been worked into the design of the illustrations for the new book. Everyone is looking forward to its launch in Cardiff in May at the Urdd Eisteddfod (one of Europe’s biggest national youth festivals).

And now… it’s mentoring time!

Before then, the children have to complete another important phase of their Creative Collaborations journey – this time mentoring new groups in the use of Betwyll using The Bus Stop at the End of the World / Arhosfan Ym Mhen Draw’r Byd. They are currently working with other local schools, with parents and governors who are learning Welsh, with a school in a Welsh-speaking community in West Wales that needs support in English language reading. And even making links with Welsh speakers in Patagonia! They have created teaching videos to help new learners and will be monitoring their progress.

The last phase of the project, in the second half of the summer term, will involve a leap of imagination! The participants will be inventing other ways of using the Betwyll app that doesn’t involve books. Perhaps they will “read” and share experience of a museum or gallery, a picture, a film, or a location? They are looking forward to this new adventure and to sharing what they discover.

Kate Strudwick - Head4Arts - Creative CollaborationsKate Strudwick is Creative Project Manager for Head4Arts, a creative commissioning and production company in the South Wales Valleys specialising in community arts. It operates in partnership with four local authorities (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Torfaen), using engagement with the arts as the mechanism for promoting social innovation through participation in inspirational arts experiences, led by professional arts practitioners. It covers all art forms and age groups and in 2018 celebrates its tenth anniversary. Kate has previously worked for Arts Council of Wales and Caerphilly CBC and is part of Welsh folk music band Allan yn y Fan.