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Article   | Translating for Children


Children’s book’s is one of the grossly marginalized genres in Indian literature. Very often, most authors and publishers do not take this genre seriously. It is a common perception that writing for children is very simple and anyone can do it. However, we must remember that these children are tomorrow’s readers and citizens, and making good literature available to them is very important. Considering the poor importance given to original content for children, one can imagine how little is done for translation of children’s books.

Translating for children is very different from translating for adults. Some translators see only one way of translating well: reproducing the original text as faithfully as possible. While reading, if the text is ‘dry’ adults still maintain perseverance and struggle to read in the hope of ‘gaining some knowledge’. On the other hand, a child reader is unforgiving. If the translation is jerky or boring, she will drop the book after a few pages and forget about it completely. Hence, precise literal translation is probably not the most readable in this case.

While translating for the child, the translator should anticipate the response of the child reader, listen to his reader and reach out to the child. The translator needs to translate the ideas faithfully but should make artistic use of language to do this. Even though the text is non-fiction, it should be an interesting read, using words that the target age-group can understand.

Also, the cultural suitability needs to be considered. Should foreign concepts be “Indianised” or leave them as it is? That is a tightrope walk. Gutt's theory of translation recognizes two trends in translation - source text orientation and target text orientation. While translating for children, the translator should opt for target text orientation. The translator should remain invisible. She should step beyond linguistic models and adapt to cultural models of translation. The translation shifts should not be looked at as errors; rather they are part of a process which is bringing in two different world cultures together.

Currently, there are translations of children’s books are available for major Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada. However, around 4 crore Indians speak in 92 minority languages in India (less than 3% of the population speaks them). If the translation community comes forward and contributes to languages like Konkani, Maithili, Santali, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Dogri and Bodo, we can do our bit for the Nation.


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