A group of young people translate Vietnamese poetry into many languages

A group of Vietnamese youths abroad translated the book “Welcome home for Tet” into English, French and German.

Welcome Tet home is the first project by Shop Mot – an overseas Vietnamese bookstore – to bring domestic books to many parts of the world. The work consists of 40 pages, written in four-word poetic form, depicting the atmosphere, images and customs of the traditional Tet holiday.

Quynh Hanh – the owner of the Mot Shop, living in Finland – said the idea came from nostalgia for her hometown. In the past two years, due to the epidemic, her family and many compatriots living and working abroad could not return to their hometown. Therefore, she wants to bring the taste of the National New Year to her children, family and loved ones through the book.

Please contact the local publisher to buy the copyright of the book Welcome Tet home (Author: Afternoon Xuan Lieu Lo, artist: Hau Phan) and translated into three versions: English – Vietnamese, French – Vietnamese and German – Vietnamese. “We chose poetry books because it meets the requirements of content and is easier to remember and memorize for children. If it is well received, next year we will do more languages,” she said.

The cover of the book Welcoming Tet home, bilingual English - Vietnamese version.  Photo: Character provided

Cover of the book “Welcoming Tet home” bilingual English – Vietnamese version. Photo: Characters provided

The project’s three translators are Vietnamese living and working abroad. Nhat Vuong – German translation – translated the book The Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Dinh Ti Publishing House). An – in charge of the French version – has extensive experience in the field of books, having built a cabinet of Vietnamese works in a library in Paris. An’s husband is a French poet. Ruby Nguyen Smith – English translation – married an American husband. In addition, the project has the participation of representatives in the UK, France, Germany and people working in the field of translation and book making.

According to Quynh Hanh, the biggest difficulty the group encountered was the quality of translation. In English, a word can have many syllables, so each verse will have an unequal number of words. Similar to rhyming, not all words ending in “ing” rhyme, for example “interesting” and “bring”.

She said: “Translating poetry is very difficult. Translation not only conveys the words, but also reflects the spirit, meaning and color of the original. When verifying the quality of translation, the publisher also considers the this factor too”.

In the stanza describing the baby’s mother going to buy dong leaves, in addition to properly translating and rhyming, the translator must help readers understand what dong leaves are and how to use them.

“Sunshine sparkles
On the row of leaves
Mother’s figure is curvy
Choose each leaf…”

(We still need other things:
Green Dong leaves, bamboo strings
They are used to wrap Chung Cake
And you know what? It’s fun to make!)

When referring to the grandfather who wrote the couplets, the translated poetry must explain the culture of asking for letters on Tet holiday and its meaning:

“Red paper flooded the way
Phuc, Loc, An Khang
Peace and happiness
Full of luck…”

(Those letters represent Wealth,
Happiness, Peace and Health
We’ll display them during Tet
They will bring us Luck, I’d bet!)

The team took about a month to complete. Then, send the translation to a few native speakers for consultation to ensure the language is correct, contextual and rhyming. In addition, applying for a license also takes a long time. The whole process from translation to release is done online. The members are from many countries, so it is difficult to coordinate and arrange the time frame. In addition, the epidemic affects the progress and costs because the printing and shipping stages are affected.

Currently, the project has completed the stage of copyright purchase, translation, licensing and has begun to move to print. The book is expected to be released in the second half of November and released in many parts of Europe, North America and Australia.

Mr. Nguyen Quang Thieu – president of Vietnam Writers’ Association – commented that the project has high spiritual value. He said: “Young people born and raised in different countries gradually become distant from their roots. Therefore, the work is a way to propagate and educate about traditional culture, to help children. Vietnamese young people or Vietnamese bloodlines are attached to their ancestral land”.

According to him, when translating into other languages, in addition to accuracy, translators need to create vibrations and add annotations for readers to understand and feel better.

The work is expected to be released in the second half of November in many countries around the world.  Photo: Character provided

The work is expected to be released in the second half of November in many countries. Photo: Characters provided

Mot Shop consists of eight members, currently living and working in many European countries, North America and Australia. The group includes people who married foreign husbands, children with two bloodlines and a pure Vietnamese family. They believe that language is the bridge between children and parents. Therefore, children born abroad still need to focus on practicing Vietnamese. They let their children read books, learn about the culture and traditions of the nation. The group also discussed how to teach children to speak bilingually without getting confused.

“Not only children, but husbands and foreign friends can also understand more about Vietnam through books. From there, people can share more with each other during each Tet holiday,” said Ms. Hanh.

Understanding Humans

Leave a Comment