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Serbo-Croatian workshop with Year 4: Valentina Marconi

Title: Translating a Serbo-Croatian children’s book, Tri Sestre, by Ana Đokić-Pongrašić
Objective: To identify key principles of translation and apply these in producing a nuanced translation of a children’s book
Age group:
Year 4 (age 8–9)
Participants: 26
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes

What we did

At the beginning of the session, we introduced ourselves and everyone said what languages they spoke. Altogether, there were more than 20 languages spoken in the classroom. I first showed the children the wordless version of the book and asked them to look at it for one minute in silence and try and memorise as many details as possible. We brainstormed about what they had observed and we tried to come up with a possible story. Children then worked in pairs or groups of three on one page of the wordless version and wrote a translation for their page. They noticed a lot more details in the illustrations and refined their version of the story. The next step was working in the same groups as before using the original text and the glossaries to produce a rough translation of the book. All the details observed in the illustration finally made sense at this point, although when we read through the translation, it was clear that something was missing. So we went back to work to polish our first version and make it sound better in English. And there it was, the English translation of Tri sestreThe Three Sisters!

What we got out of it

The children were really engaged throughout the workshop, and eager to translate more. They loved using the glossary and “cracking the code”, and made very acute observation about what was needed to make the translation work in English. The workshop gave them an opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges of translation, but also on how much of an asset speaking different languages is. They thoroughly enjoyed the sense of achievement that came with putting together the different pieces of the puzzle (illustrations, literal translation, grammar knowledge, understanding of register and genre) to write their translation – and so did I!