Overcoming the translation challenges in African language publishing for children

Translation is a way of increasing the amount of reading material for African children.

‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart’. – Nelson Mandela

Translation is an act of re-creation, sharing and reciprocal development between readers and writers of different languages. The potential of translation to greatly increase output with minimal effort is clear. Not all, however, feel comfortable with the use of translation as a way of increasing the amount of reading material for African children.

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The need of writing and publishing children books in indigenous African languages

The growing interest in bilingual education in sub-Saharan Africa has highlighted an urgent need for reading material in African languages. Increasingly, parents and educators, conscious of the strategic value of indigenous language on identity construction, encourage or educate children to know and speak at least one local languages. However, parents are usually faced with many challenges whenever they attempt to find bilingual books in their local languages.

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Does writing and publishing in African languages a way to remain invisible ?

The problem is that, unfortunately, those that write in African languages remain invisible, their works are hardly ever reviewed or translated. Publishing venues are limited and getting published is one of the most infuriating challenges of writing in African languages. There are hardly any publishing houses devoted to African languages. So writers in African languages are writing against great odds: no publishing houses, no state support, and with national and international forces aligned against them. Prizes are often given to promote African literature but on the condition that the writers don’t write in African languages.”
– Nanda Dyssou, An Interview with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Los Angeles Review of Books, 23 April 2017 

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