Translator in the Classroom

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Translators, like children’s authors and illustrators, can offer school visits!

HS Tomo Visit

Preschool kamishibai visit

HS Skype visit

In the past year I have offered visits at international schools in Japan and Thailand. The visits have been a great way to meet readers and entice them to explore new stories. They have also shown me that students and teachers are keen to learn about translation as a vocation.

In planning visits, I observed school presentations by noted authors and illustrators, including author Jack Gantos and illustrator Keith Baker. I listened to author Holly Thompson present about school visits at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, Singapore. I also referred to the School Visits section of the SCBWI Publication Guide, now called The Book (members can download).

I learned that effective visits offer a concrete connection between my work and what students are learning in the classroom. To this end, I performed kamishibai for grade four students who read Allen Say’s picture book Kamishibai Man, and discussed translating “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba for Tomo: Friendship through Fiction–An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories with a high school class about to read stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa in translation.

I learned that co-presentations with an author can highlight both the content and the translated nature of a book. Shogo Oketani and I took turns reading, in his Japanese and my English, from the original and translated versions of J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965, for elementary and high school students in Japan after J-Boys was nominated for a 2013 Sakura Medal.

ES/HS J-Boys visit

Finally, I learned that my visits can interest readers in translations besides my own, such as winners of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award and the Marsh Award. I have shown students covers of books that they did not know were translations–such as the Babar, Pippi Longstocking, and Inkheart books–and asked them to guess where they came from. This exercise is a fun icebreaker!

I now take a page from Holly Thompson’s book by considering visits even as I translate. What props or activities could help me bring a work to life? What images from my research should I save for a PowerPoint? What passages would illustrate a particular translation challenge?

I encourage other translators to learn about and offer school visits in 2013. Observing author/illustrator visits and surfing the SCBWI website are ways to begin.

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