“Literary works for children should be given to children to translate. Children can see a different world that adults can't.” In August 2017, Zhou Yunyi, an expert of CCTSS English Experts’ Committee, proposed that the publishing house should undergo a brave experiment to encourage 12 Singaporean students with no experience in translation to translate a children's book.
The third-grade girls at Singapore’s CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls' School have received bilingual education from an early age. When from among them, Wu Qixuan, He Xuening, Wang Yuning were by chance assigned to be the translators for the children's book See the Rainbow after the Rain, the memorable experience in translation began.
Wu Qixuan: We should pay attention to details when translating
Singapore CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls' School has always attached great importance to Chinese learning and education. In its early days, the school belonged to Singapore's “Chinese School” program (a school which puts emphasis on bilingual education of both Chinese and English) and now it is known as a “Special Assistance Plan School (SAP School)”. The school set up “Bi-cultural Studies Programs (BSP)”, requiring students to take additional courses, such as Chinese, translation, and culture-related classes. In February 2017, the school offered the interpretation course for the first time.
Wu Qixuan, who is now a Secondary 3 student (equivalent to Grade 3 of junior middle school in China) at Singapore CHIJ Saint Nicholas Girls' School, has always been interested in translating. Encouraged by teachers and students, she finally decided to seize the opportunity and make an attempt to translate the book.
“I had thought that translation was simple before translating this book. But in the process of doing the work, I found it is not an easy task. Due to the tedious translation process, it’s necessary to pay attention to many details at once and ensure that the translation accurately conveys the meaning of the original text.”
“We encountered many challenges translating this children's book. First, we needed to spend a great deal of time and energy finding and thinking about the most appropriate word choices in order to ensure that the translation is loyal to the original text. In addition, the three of us have different understandings of elements of the book’s content and so only through repeated discussion were we able to achieve a consensus and complete the translation.”
“This experience really opened my eyes and benefited me a lot. I'm also very grateful to the publishing house for giving us this learning opportunity. I not only experienced the process of personally translating a book but also now have a deeper understanding of the skills involved in translation.”
Wang Yuning: We should have a great interest in language in order to translate
Speaking of the reasons for participating in the translation of the children's book, Wang Yuning said, “I have always been interested in language-related matters and I want to know more about translation.” So when the teacher introduced this opportunity to everyone, Wang Yuning decided to challenge herself in the hope of gaining a deeper understanding of translation.
“Our process involved us equally dividing the load between the three of us. Each person was responsible for translating one part. After finishing the translation, we made appointments to discuss the translations together and checked each other’s work to ensure that the final book’s language was flowing and fluent and there were no loopholes in the story. In this way, we could accomplish the task more effectively and also ensured that the final translation was of a high quality.”
“The biggest problem we encountered was that we often had different ideas about how to translate a sentence or a word. Therefore, we found ourselves in heated discussions over which to choose. As we are typically very busy anyway, we learned to make full use of our spare time, listen carefully to each other's views, and avoid wasting precious time. Finally, we achieved the end result through effective discussions and overcoming any difficulties.”
“Before this, I didn't expect that it would take so much effort to translate a children’s book. We had to be very sensitive with our choice of words and, more importantly, have an interest in language so as to be able to properly translate the meaning of the story.”
He Xuening: Books offer us another kind of life experience
The three girls are different in character but have the same hobby of reading. Wu Qixuan likes detective fiction, Wang Yuning prefers prose, and He Xuening likes novels. Speaking of hobbies, He Xuening said, “When I am immersed in the world of a story’s characters, it's like experiencing another kind of life!”
If you want to translate a book well, you should understand and like it first.
“I like the ending best because the two characters in the story work together to do their parts for the environment and make a resolution that rainbows should appear in the sky again. The ending is very beautiful and touches me very much. It also reminds me that all of us have the capabilities to create a better future for the earth, but we first need to know how to cherish it. Though there are just one or two short sentences to end the book, they’ve left me with a deep impression.”
“I’ve learned a lot from this experience and will savor all of it. Translation is not an easy job, and it is a process of continuous learning.”