AFCC (Part 2): Translating the Picture (Book)

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Having previously joined a few editions of AFCC as an attendee, I was invited to contribute this time to AFCC’s first Translation Forum as a panelist on translating picture books.

Lined up alongside more experienced translators Ajia (English to Chinese) and Lyn Miller-Lachmann (Portuguese and Spanish to English), Helen Wang (Chinese to English) moderated a rich sharing session on how pictures, and sometimes the story, were changed in translated versions. From how a risque calendar was changed to a picture of a volcano in The World in a Second, how the plot was tweaked in The President of the Jungle, to how word rhythm and sounds were integral to translating Uri Shulevitz’s Dawn and Where the Wild Things Are into Chinese, and how representations were made diverse and appropriate in The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out, it is clear how much creativity and attention is put into transforming a picture book for a new readership. Involving not just the gatekeepers of the original, but also the agents, translators, editors, designers and everyone else working on the translated edition, it is a process that might bring a better picture book into the world.

transpicbook

  Clockwise from top left: Moderator Helen Wang, Ajia, Andrew Wong, and Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Before we wrapped up the session, Helen kindly gave us the chance to voice our wishes as translators and for picture book translations, some of which we can certainly work on together.

– Push the boundaries of self-censorship by publishers (in China)
– Use our voices to make the translator’s craft and its importance known
– More adults sharing the experience of reading picture books with children
– Acknowledge the author, illustrator, and translator in reading sessions
– #TranslatorsOnTheCover
– More translations (in the US) and more from the wider, less represented world
– Support translated books so there are more of them!

Other than the sessions in the Translation Forum, I was particularly interested to hear how some publishers were looking at diversity and inclusion, the situation with translation in Southeast Asia, and how stories were being told and retold in this part of the world where there are many linguistic and cultural bridges to cross and build. There’s much to catch at AFCC, so I’m grateful that most sessions are available on demand till the end of the month!

A handful of us from SCBWI Japan were involved at AFCC 2022. Read more in Avery Udagawa’s wrap-up at AFCC (Part 1): Shifting Perceptions.

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