Connecting through translations

“They could forgive—that’s an important message,” says a John Paul College of Rotorua student when reflecting on the translation of a Victor Hugo poem.

Bethany Cheesman and Kesia Kurian’s translation of ‘Apres la Bataille’ won the overall prize at the 2015 Moving Words translation competition for New Zealand secondary school students who worked with the theme of peace.

The awards—hosted by Dr Sydney Shep from Victoria’s Wai-te-Ata Press and sponsored by the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters—attracted high-quality entries of literature translated from their original language into English.

‘Après la Bataille’ describes a scene after a battle when a wounded man tries to shoot a man coming to his aid. The poem was translated by Bethany and Kesia from French into English. Other awards acknowledged poetry translations from Spanish and Chinese into English. Translations were judged on accuracy, literary merit and on the choice of the original piece for thematic and stylistic complexity.

Competition organiser Dr Marco Sonzogni, Italian programme director in the School of Languages and Cultures and former director of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, says the awards aim to celebrate literature, languages and cultures in secondary schools and to recognise excellence.

“Through translation we are connecting schools with the University and beyond to the wider community. It’s paramount that we fully realise that the first foundation for peace is understanding.”