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From the Translators' Perspective

"I had always taken for granted that communication via common languages is the central tenet of translation, but rarely had I thought about translation as an instrument for improving literacy. For us to communicate verbally the full expression of our feelings the two ends of the circle must meet: we translate and become more literate, and in our improved comprehension, we translate – and communicate – more effectively. As a translator on the CTiC programme in schools, I have seen first-hand how the processes and practices of creative translation reveal – enticingly, engagingly and suggestively, as opposed to directively – the structure of languages. As as result, these languages become tools to help young people meet their emotional needs. Translation is not a school subject, but a tool for life."
Sophie Hughes, CTiC Translator (Spanish to English)

For literary translators, the prospect of a student encountering a text in the classroom offers a fresh set of challenges. The practice-sharing days provided some key takeaways:

  • • gaining student buy-in with authentic industry-style 'assignments'
  • • structuring workshops with clear objectives and scaffolded, differentiated activities
  • • clarifying the translators' role in the classroom, particularly in a Modern Foreign Languages context (MFL), as creative practitioners.

How Sophie's workshop came about
"When, in Mexico City a few years ago, I first saw COSAS PEQUEÑAS Y EXTRAORDINARIA (SMALL AND EXTRAORDINARY THINGS), a family play about the geographical, emotional and lexical displacement of a little girl called Emma and her gradual adjustment to her new home and language, I knew that it had the makings of an extraordinary translation workshop.

An unexpected friendship with a foreign-talking cat? What better way to unpick language learning than by all starting on the same footing with our characters: from a place of fear of the unknown, to one of mutual understanding through humour, warmth, generosity and trust. This is how language learning should be."

Transforming How We Think About Translation
"I've been thinking about "everyday translation" as a potentially helpful term for students getting to grips with "creative translation". One of my workshop activities involves showing the students ways in which they translate every single day, non-verbally, by "reading" situations, body-language, gestures, tone of voice."

Sophie Hughes

"This year I delivered my first code-breaking and creative translation workshops in schools, after thinking about it for years and hearing about Sarah Ardizzone's work with Translators in Schools and Translation Nation. With huge help from Sarah, Sam Holmes, and several inspiring training days and a symposium hosted by the Queen's College Translation Exchange and the Stephen Spender Trust, I started planning workshops for younger learners, as part of a funded scheme launched by SST called Creative Translation in the Classroom. A group of translators are partnered with primary and secondary schools in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, to develop and run a creative translation workshop and a follow-up project as a means to embedding translation as a sustainable and repeatable classroom activity with various goals including creative writing and literacy."

Ruth Ahmedzai-Kemp CTiC Translator (Arabic/German/Russian to English)

Read more about Ruth Ahmedzai-Kemp's CTiC workshops on her blog

Our Translators Featured in the Media
CTiC translator Maja Konkolewska was featured in a Guardian science article in December

Maja Konkolewska, a freelance Polish/English translator and interpreter and an associate of the Stephen Spender Trust, said she believes the emotions we feel are connected to the experiences of our ancestors.

"I always struggle to translate the word 'vulnerable' to Polish because there is no direct equivalent," she said. "When I listen to my grandmother's stories about her childhood during the second world war, I wonder whether there was no space for vulnerability in Polish history."

As part of a multilingual family, Konkolewska said she finds that subtle differences in meaning for the same word in different languages are important – and useful. "My favourite English word is 'flabbergasted' – I love this feeling, but I can only feel it in English because it doesn't exist in Polish," she said.

"My Lithuanian partner says that when he's moderately angry, he can be 'angry' in English, but when he's really angry, he's piktas in Lithuanian because, in his opinion, the accent and pronunciation of the Lithuanian word carries much more anger than saying it in English."