Routes Across Language Barriers, Part 1
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What All Children Deserve
Star Bright Books was established in New York City’s Harlem in 1994. After working as an editor in several US and UK publishing houses, Deborah Shine (with the enthusiastic support of her children) decided to open her own publishing house. With creative control over her own projects, she envisioned publishing the books that she had always wanted to see in the hands of children: books that were diverse, inclusive, and celebrated the virtues and values of kindness, courage, fun, and a love of reading. It is this attention to diversityand inclusivity that first inspired us to begin publishing our books in a number of languages other than English.
We currently publish books in more than 20 different languages and language formats, including Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Burmese Karen, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Navajo, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Except for Tagalog and Navajo, bilingual editions with English text are also available.
We were inspired to publish these books because we believed that all children, from every national or ethnic background, should be given the opportunity to hear their language in the books they choose. To give children stories in which they can fully immerse themselves and feel welcomed and included, it is essential, we believe, to represent their mother tongues in print.
We were also inspired to publish books in other languages simply because people were, and are, asking for them. Many of our titles were translated into several languages after we received requests from some of the literacy organizations that we work with. If a demand is presented, we try our best to respond to it.
Our targeted audience for books in various languages includes many different communities. Starting when we began to translate our titles, we have made a concerted effort to extend our books to different immigrant communities all over the country. People arrive in the United States for many, often dramatically, different reasons, and we have tried to keep them all in mind and provide them with books in their familiar languages. Doing so will, we hope, encourage readers to celebrate and appreciate their own language and culture.
Another group of readers we try to serve includes children who have been adopted from other countries. By publishing our books in a number of languages and in both single-language and bilingual editions, we hope to provide tools for parents who wish to help their adopted children maintain a connection to their first languages.
We put a lot of effort into dispersing information about our titles, the languages they come in, and our translation policy (we will translate any title into any requested language if we receive an order for 500 or more books).
To reach our markets, we use conferences, Constant Contact newsletters, our seasonal catalog, and word of mouth. We constantly send updates about our new titles and languages. Primarily, though, we reach our markets through our interactions with public schools, libraries, and organizations such as Reach Out and Read and Reading Is Fundamental, among others. These organizations are more in touch with communities and community centers, including Title I schools and libraries, so they can help us find out about communities in specific locations that are looking for books.
Our bilingual editions have been a huge hit with readers and retailers alike. And readers appreciate the fact that our foreign titles are translations of our most popular and celebrated English titles. But what people most appreciate about our books is that they are all of high quality and gift-able. At one of our conferences last year, we were approached by the mother of a child adopted from Russia who was absolutely thrilled that we had a variety of high-quality books in her child’s first language. This is just one anecdote of many involved parents who love buying our foreign-language editions for their children.
At many other conferences, we have been visited by fellow vendors and readers who remembered from prior conferences that we published books in a certain language and wanted to see if we had added any more titles in that language. People often remember our company because of our passion for foreign-language titles.
We have always tried to make sure that our foreign-language titles are a celebrated priority. Our catalogs always include sections entirely devoted to all the books we carry in different languages, which we keep separate from the English-language backlist. A reminder that we currently publish in more than 20 languages is posted on our website, our Facebook page, and in our catalog. And we have made all our foreign language titles available on Amazon, which, we believe, has grabbed the most attention from individual readers.
Although we have done all of these things, we are always looking for better ways of distributing information and increasing the awareness of our titles.
Star Bright Books
Serving Spanish-Speaking Drivers
Bumper to Bumper: The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations is available in Spanish (Bumper to Bumper: La Guia Completa Para Operaciones De Autotransporte De Carga).
We did the translation in the 1990s, when commercial driver licensing went into effect and Mexican carriers and truck driver programs seemed interested in preparing their drivers to pass US commercial driver license tests and obtain US commercial driver licenses.
To our surprise, we discovered that our best customers for the Spanish-language edition were at home. US truckdriver— training schools were interested in the book for their students whose first language was Spanish. The law requires that commercial drivers be able to read and write in English, but Spanish-speaking students found it easier to learn by reading in their native language. Read side by side with the English version, the translation enabled them to keep pace with classroom instruction.
Our translation proved to be acceptable to Spanish speakers whether they came from Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Central or South America despite the language’s idiosyncrasies in those countries. For example, our translators had to choose among coche, auto, automóvil, and carro, all possible words for “car.”
Of course, translation isn’t a simple matter of substituting words in the original language for words in the target language. Some English concepts simply don’t make sense in Spanish and need elucidation. In the English edition, for example, we had made a deliberate effort to use gender-nonspecific language. Instead of using words like husband or wife we used spouse. However, Spanish itself is a gender-specific language and there is no gender-nonspecific word for “one of the partners in a marriage.” Our translators had lengthy debates about how best to express the suggestion “so that you can have more time for study ask your spouse to do the grocery shopping.” One translator even maintained that this couldn’t be translated at all because no Mexican man would do the grocery shopping. Translators need to have more than a command of the languages; they need to understand the culture, too.
Helping To Fill A Big Bucket
Piggy Press Books opened its doors to publish multilingual children’s books in July 2001 in celebration of Panama’s First International Book Fair, an event that marked a positive change in this tiny cosmopolitan Latin American republic.
Our motto is “We love to read!” And our mission is to provide multilingual and multicultural books that will help children and youths learn about and appreciate the world through reading in more than one language. Along with the young, our target audience includes the rest of us who want to enjoy a good story and have a taste of another language at the same time.
What led PPB to publish multilingual children’s books? Bottom line: Learn a language; learn a culture. Language is the key to communication, and the world needs to communicate more efficiently on a grand scale. We realize that our efforts are just a drop in the bucket, but what a bucket.
To date, Piggy Press has published nearly 100 titles in various formats and language combinations: print books, e-books, and audio stories appear in Spanish, English, Mandarin, French, Kuna, Swedish, and even Pig Latin. Many of our books focus strongly on recycling and environmental awareness; others focus on conflict resolution and family values, and some are just downright fun to read.
We reach our markets through the usual channels: our website, Facebook, YouTube, international book fairs, local markets, a few local bookstores, book signings, school presentations, bimonthly ad campaigns in print and digital magazines, and word of mouth. Although our books are not textbooks, they can provide that extra spark in the educational setting, so we have worked closely with Panama’s Ministry of Education to register the titles for complementary use in the classroom.
Piggy Press print books are now exclusively POD. For them, we use CreateSpace and Lightning Source, whose International Market Strategy certainly gets the word out. For our e-books, we use Smashwords and Amazon Kindle. Our biggest intermediary, however, is Follett School Solutions, which distributes to libraries worldwide.
Our readers love our books and are always asking for the next one hot off the POD press. Teachers appreciate our varied formats: side by side for short stories and front and back for novels, and the novels include questions for discussion.
Over the past 14 years, we have learned to be flexible with schedules, to be careful with money, to be patient with illustrators and translators, to be demanding in details, and most important, to stick to our niche. Piggy Press Books will never be everything to everyone, but it can be something special to many.
Pat Alvarado, Head Hog
Piggy Press Books
Holistic Therapy For The Whole World
Gerson Health Media / Totality Books specializes in books about the Gerson Therapy, a holistic medical therapy for advanced chronic (“incurable”) diseases from migraines to “terminal” cancer, from fibromyalgia to rheumatoid arthritis. My grandfather, Dr. Max Gerson, developed the Gerson Therapy, and his friend Albert Schweitzer called him “one of the most eminent medical geniuses to ever walk among us.”
My mother, Charlotte Gerson, continued my grandfather’s work after his death in 1959, founding clinics outside the United States and seeing to it that his book, A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases, continued to be published. With well over 250,000 copies in circulation, it was used for nearly 50 years as the guidebook for healing chronic illnesses.
Then, to reflect the many changes in Americans’ health status, the availability of healing food, and the vastly increased applications of toxic substances to our food, cosmetics, personal grooming, manufacturing, and other industries, Charlotte Gerson produced an updated therapy book, Healing the Gerson Way: Defeating Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases. It has been published in 11 languages around the world (Arabic, Croatian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Slovenian, and Spanish) and editions in another four (classical Chinese, French, Russian, and Slovakian) are scheduled for release this year.
Our holistic, natural method provides little or no money for practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, or hospitals, and we believe that accounts for strong negative reactions from the medical establishment and a mainstream media blackout. Despite those handicaps, we continue to get the word out, using the Internet, word of mouth, documentaries, forums, radio and TV interviews, lectures abroad, and the books. People who understand that we in the United States do not have an excellent and smoothly running health care system continue to find me and request the translation rights for their languages.
Gerson Health Media
For Literacy Across Generations
I am in the beginning stages of having my first children’s book translated into Spanish and Hmong. Mama Bird Papa Bird is geared to children up to age four because children acquire spoken-language skills during their first four years, and most experts agree that this is the time to introduce foreign languages.
My picture/story book will be published in bilingual editions to encourage literacy between generations of immigrants who want to read to their children and can’t because of poor English skills. As preschoolers learn English as a second language, adults at home with limited English skills can learn English while reading the Spanish or Hmong language on the opposite page.
My goal is to build literacy across the generational lines, and my test market includes central Wisconsin and Georgia. Wisconsin has had significant population growth because of immigration from Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam in the 1980s. The Hmong language appears in most of the state’s publications in Marathon County, and public schools are poised to respond to the language barrier with ESL classes. Georgia, where I currently live during the winter months, is experiencing more growth among Spanish-speaking immigrants.
A Dugong Goes Abroad
I have self-published books of poetry and prose for children.
My latest book, Pons and the Miracle of Réunion Island, is a chapter book for intermediate readers and has recently been translated into French.
When the English version was released last year, a journalist from R.union Island contacted me and asked many questions about the central character, a dugong named Pons. Because the dugong is on the international endangered species list, the journalist was interested in how I came to write about the wonderful sea creature and to choose R.union for the setting. Over the course of several e-mails he asked if I would consider having the book translated to French so that the children on his island as well as in Madagascar could read about Pons.
Also at that time, I was talking with Patricia Davis from EDGE and C-3, which are conservation organizations dedicated to saving the dugong in the Indian Ocean as well as sea life around the world. Patricia created a brochure for me to use when I send out copies of my book to young readers. And the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) gave permission to use their “Adopt a dugong” campaign in another brochure.
In light of all of this I thought it a good idea to bring the book to children outside the United States, particularly those who live in the region of the Indian Ocean where French is the first language.
Linda Kandelin Chambers
Linda Chambers Books
Zen and the Art of Translation
Bright Sky Press is a regional publishing house. Founded in 2001 in West Texas, it moved to Houston in 2008 and expanded to represent a modern understanding of Texas, which includes a large international population.
We publish about 20 books every year. Several of our tiles are on Zen by the Venerable Master Miao Tsan. He has a large following in Taiwan, the United States, and Mexico, and monasteries in these places.
Mila Golovine, who owns and manages MasterWord Services (an international translation company here in Houston), told us about him. Her company provided the translation of Just Use This Mind from Chinese to English. After publication, the monastery in Mexico City wanted copies in Spanish. MasterWord prepared that translation, too, and we redesigned the book with the Spanish text. Since then, we have translated several more of Miao Tsan’s books into Spanish after initial publication in English.
Our experience with the Miao Tsan books in Mexico has been the easiest of our international transactions, because we had a special sale to one party. The eventual decision to convey the content only electronically also simplified the transaction tremendously. In addition to publishing these books in Spanish for the regular US trade market (through regional rep sales and Bookmasters) and the special sales Mexican market, we also have sold subsidiary rights to other books to publishers in other countries, and we have sold our books in other countries.
Some pointers I have picked up from these transactions are
- It is important that any translation of a contract from English into another language be retranslated before you sign it. Nuances in language are often not conveyed, and there may be discrepancies that need to be negotiated. For a distribution deal in the Middle East, we had to have the contract retranslated several times before the cultural differences in business practices were bridged in a way that was acceptable to all involved.
- A translation into another language will be shorter or longer than the original work in English, depending on the language of the translation. An experienced translator can advise you about what the length difference will be, so you can plan your page count.
- Books translated into languages that read back to front will need their covers and flap treatments handled differently, even if the design elements are the same. Title treatments may also need to be redesigned, depending on the language of the translation.
- If you are generating the translation, it is important to have the book read by a native speaker to ensure that the translator handled idioms adeptly in both languages. It is very easy to inadvertently change the meaning of the text or a title, sometimes offensively.
- Different cultures do business differently. We were informed by an Iranian publisher that because copyright was so often abused and most books were pirated in his country, he was simply telling us that our book would be reprinted in his country. We conferred with the author, and it was our mutual belief that it was more important to have the content available in Iran than it was to get the minimal compensation we might eventually be able to recover.
- All our books in translation and all our books sold abroad have required more time than our US and Canadian trade books. More time than anticipated is always needed for translation, proofing, design, and distribution, whether for a private sale, a trade sale, or a sale through a distributor.
In all these areas, the most important factors for success are good translation, patience, and respect. It is impossible to get these books on a rush schedule because of unanticipated delays. You need to build in a good margin of time in anticipation of customs issues, reformatting, other countries’ holidays, and other unforeseen events.
Lucy H. Chambers
Bright Sky Press
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