Translating Aotearoa


community languages

Treaty of Waitangi – Found in Translation

The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) announced the launch of an ambitious project on Waitangi Day 2016: the Treaty Times Thirty project. To celebrate the Society’s 30th anniversary over 90 translators will work together to translate both the English and the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. NZSTI recently opened participation to non-NZSTI members. Would you like to be one of the 90 translators? Continue reading “Treaty of Waitangi – Found in Translation”

Did you say ‘Inuktitut’?

The Translation Service has a reputation for being a specialist of languages of low diffusion. Currently, we have linguists for over 140 different languages, and most of them are not large commercial ones. That, and our commitment to high quality, are the reasons why we’re often called upon to provide translation and other language services for your less common languages, which are rarely covered by private agencies for lack of profitability. Continue reading “Did you say ‘Inuktitut’?”

Mayan edition of Mexican paper, SL interpreters at music concerts, and other news

Indigenous language maintainance and support are issues that have particular resonance in New Zealand, especially at this time of the year – Te Wiki o Te Reo (Māori Language Week) was celebrated throughout the country last week. GlobalVoices reports on the launch of a Mayan language edition of one of Mexico’s main newspapers. Imagine if the NZ Herald or the DomPost were published in Māori! Continue reading “Mayan edition of Mexican paper, SL interpreters at music concerts, and other news”

Translating Seinfeld, a Māori Romeo and Juliet, and other news

Have you ever watched the quintessential American show, Seinfeld? One of the most popular shows in the United States never became a big hit overseas. Jennifer Armstrong of the talks to the German translator of the show, Sabine Sebastian, about the challenges she faced when translating a show whose humour was so embedded in words and New York City, and some of the reasons why it failed to cross borders. Continue reading “Translating Seinfeld, a Māori Romeo and Juliet, and other news”

Talofa lava!

Last Sunday marked the beginning of Samoan Language Week celebrating the language and culture of Samoan people across New Zealand. With 144,000 people identifying as Samoan according to the 2013 Census, Samoan is now the third most spoken language in New Zealand, and the second in Auckland. Pacific peoples make up almost 8 percent of the population with just under half of those Samoan. Unsurprisingly, government agencies and other stakeholders publishing brochures and pamphlets aimed at ethnic communities in New Zealand very frequently request their translation into Samoan.

Continue reading “Talofa lava!”

Facing up to the realities of a multilingual, multicultural society

Word cloudOver the past two decades New Zealand has become home to over 160 different languages, making it one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse countries in the world (Spoonley & Bedford 2012), and that superdiversity is forecasted to increase even further (Statistic New Zealand 2013). And yet, little has been done at a national level to engage with the opportunities, and challenges, such linguistic diversity presents. The recent Lining up Language: Navigating Policy and Programmes conference organised by the Office of Ethnic Communities, and the current development of a Regional Languages Strategy by COMET Auckland may be signs that things are starting to change.

Hailed as the precursor to a national languages policy, Aoteareo: Speaking for Ourselves, a report published by the Ministry of Education in 1992, made the case for the implementation of a national decision-making system in the area of language issues, within a bicultural framework, by exploring ‘the benefits of adopting a policy to maintain, enrich and expand the diversity of languages used by New Zealanders’. Such a policy never came to fruition, and all language stakeholders – te reo Māori speakers and Māori communities, migrant communities, schoolchildren, adult learners, language service providers including translation and interpreting agencies, and their clients, central and local government, civil society organisations etc. – have operated in a vacuum, with patchy support and patchy results.

Table showing the ethnic make-up of Auckland
Auckland is a superdiverse city.

Many interested parties argue that the status quo is not a tenable solution, and that the time is ripe for some political leadership in this area. A number of subsidiary language initiatives have been developed to try and fill the vacuum, and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission published a draft national languages policy in 2010 calling for our political leaders to face up to the realities of our superdiverse society.

It is in this context that COMET Auckland was given the thumbs up by Auckland Council for its regional languages strategy. The draft strategy is available online for consultation, and you can download your submission form here to give your opinion. COMET CEO Susan Warren says that New Zealand urgently needs a national languages policy, and I certainly support efforts in this area. If implemented, the Auckland Languages Strategy might be a first step into that direction, and may potentially lead to a redefinition and a better understanding of the role of translation and interpreting in today’s society.

My language tells the world who I am (part 2)

Fanaura, one of our Cook Island Maori translators, shares what her mother tongue means to her and why she works as a translator. Here’s the second part of her account.

From that day when my mother instructed me never to speak but Maori when we were together, as well as with family members and friends whenever I met them, what she said has remained with me, that my language determines who I am, and it identifies me from my friends who spoke a different language.  I was also able, and still do so today, to express Picture of a carved wood figure from the Cook Islandsmyself for who I am through the many songs, hymns, chants, legends, quotations of my Maori heritage, and so on and so forth.

Today, while the older generation of Cook Island Maori people are holding fast to our mother tongue, our first and most important means of identity, very sadly, the younger generations are lacking in the desire to be of the same calibre.  In particular are those who are married to other ethnic group members and therefore find it easier to use English to communicate more easily within their family circle.  This includes my own two sons who have Papa’a (English) wives.

As for the many publications which I have translated for the Department of Internal Affairs, I was determined to make sure that what I translate will be understood clearly and easily by our people, so they are not left confused because of the use of a wrong word, or incorrect spelling, or a badly constructed sentence.  I do translation work and will continue to do so, for the joy of knowing that I can do it to the best of my ability for the sake of our people, rather than for the amount that I am paid for doing it.  Money comes and goes, but one’s language is only kept within one’s life, when you hold on to it with pride and joy.

We celebrated our “Epetoma o te Reo Maori Kuki Airanai” in Tokoroa by having a variety of activities including:

  • a special Cook Island Maori church service held at 9am on Sunday 3 August, to declare the “Epetoma” opened for our church, the St. Luke’s Pacific Islands Presbyterian parish, before the usual main combined church service at 11am;
  • Cook Island Maori language lessons taught at Tokoroa High School by one of the Cook Island Maori teachers who teaches at Tokoroa High;
  • public performances by the two secondary schools of Tokoroa, Forest View High School and Tokoroa High at their schools as well as by our two Cook Islands Maori ECE Centres or “Punanga o te Reo Maori Kuki Airani” (Fortress of our Reo Maori Kuki Airani);
  • displays and sale of Cook Island Maori arts and craft and umu cooked food at the St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church premises;
  • a special closing Cook Island Maori service on Sunday 10 August with a special feast following the service.

There were other celebration programmes as well conducted by the much older generation of our people, which were to be expected, but the ones done by the young ones were the ones I was taken up with as one of the means of helping them to hold on to what is totally and completely theirs.

I will continue to do all I can to help make sure that my Maori language which tells the rest of the world who I am will remain for generations to come, despite the very drastic forecast that many languages are doomed to be lost in the future.

To be continued…


Collaborative translation teaching

One of our panel translators, Sandrine, reports on the course she attended in Auckland, along with Stefan and Claire.

Last month, I attended the Certificate in Collaborative Translation Teaching offered by the department of Translations Studies of the University of Auckland. The course focused on “cooperative and collaborative models of learning and teaching” translation and was designed for teachers and lecturers, as well as experienced professional translators wishing to teach. I was very enthusiastic when I first read about this course. Over the years I have had so many skilled migrants asking me about online translation courses and mentoring that I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to see if I could actually teach translation.

Image of a tui in a pohutukawaWell, I came back from the course loaded with ideas and lessons learned, not only regarding translation teaching, but as a professional translator too. Most participants (apart from Stefan and a couple of other translators) were lecturers and teachers, so my first impression was that I didn’t really fit here. However, I quickly realized how complementary both the skills and knowledge of the industry and universities are.

On the other hand, as the name of the course itself suggested, the whole workshop was articulated around the use of collaboration to teach translation. Therefore, we were asked to group, exchange, cooperate, interact, agree, disagree, compromise and work collaboratively as a group. We were also required to design a course aiming at teaching translation, both individually and collaboratively. At first, I must admit I was very skeptical, simply because most practitioners work independently and are very isolated. ‘Why teach new graduates how to work collaboratively when they’re going to have to practice on their own?’ I wondered. Well, by the end of the course, I had changed my mind completely. The result was outstanding. Groups formed amongst people from very different backgrounds to design extremely detailed courses syllabus with very challenging teaching settings, all this in less than three days.

I realized that after years of working alone behind my screen, I had forgotten about the advantages, the stimulation and synergy generated by exchange, group problem solving and “live” peer review. Most sadly, I realized I had as well forgotten how much more I could get out of my brain in a cooperative environment rather than browsing my online dictionaries.

I have come back home quite convinced and hopeful that a cooperative collaborative translation teaching environment could contribute greatly to “re-humanizing” our profession.

If young graduates are trained from the very beginning to work together, they could take us way beyond terminology forums. I do hope that educational institutions will keep fostering collaboration as a component of the translation process in its own right, so we can embrace technology as a new vehicle of team work and hopefully slowly transition from a highly computerized and anonymous industry towards hubs of translators working collaboratively.


Click below to find out more on the project Sandrine, Claire and Stefan collaborated on.

The Pohutukawa Method

EthnicA Conference – ‘Leading with Passion’

The Office of Ethnic Affairs held its third annual EthnicA Conference on a wintry day in Wellington – after the first two held in Christchurch and Auckland. New Zealand ethnic communities are one of the main stakeholders of the Translation Service’s activities, and greatly contribute to its raison d’être. As such, TTS could not afford not to be represented at the event.

Image of notepad with the logo of the Office of Ehtnic Affairs
(c) Office of Ethnic Affairs

Titled ‘Leading with Passion’, the series of conferences addressed the subjects of leadership and ethnic diversity, the challenges and hurdles faced by ethnic individuals, and the great untapped potential that New Zealand’s ethnic diversity represents, both within New Zealand (differentiated skills and interests, flexibility, cultural awareness etc.) and towards overseas economic partners (language skills, connections with countries of origin etc.). In this regard, as a trustworthy translation provider, we play an essential role: we enable communication between ethnic communities and government agencies, and help New Zealanders and New Zealand organisations communicate with the rest of the world.

As the day unfolded, with numerous presentations, panel discussions and workshops, I had the pleasure of meeting two of our panel translators, namely Sevana, one of our Armenian translators, and Arti, one of our Gujarati translators. Arti agreed to contribute to the newsletter and write a few lines on the conference (thank you Arti!):

The Ethnic Conference is an annual event organised by the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The New Zealand society has become much more diverse over the years with the influx of immigrants of various ethnicities. This conference involves speakers and engages audiences in a dialogue about various aspects of ethnic diversity and leadership. The audience gets the chance to hear and discuss not only with experienced leaders but also with emerging ones, through panel discussions, sessions and workshops.

I attended the Ethnic conference of 2013 in Wellington and managed to hear many interesting sessions. The conference was intellectually stimulating and culturally rich. Short and diverse musical performances were enjoyable and reflected Wellington’s cultural diversity.

Personally, I found it quite positive to hear success stories of immigrants and the hurdles they experienced in their respective journey. It was inspiring to see that immigrants have new ideas and special skills that could create amazing and beneficial results for New Zealand, if the right support was provided.

Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon had an impressive approach to include ethnic communities not only at a professional level but also at a personal level. He was very positive about the interesting mosaic ethnic diversity this can create for any city.

I attended the workshop “A piece of New Zealand’s Artistic Kaleidoscope” and felt that Wellington is so fortunate to be like a melting pot with artists from different countries bringing their unique skills to add to the artistic scene of the city. I enjoyed hearing Hui Luo, director of the Confucius Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, and looking at a range of unique driftwood sculptures created by Ronal Villalobos from Chile.

The EthnicA Conference series was a resounding success – while celebrating New Zealand’s ethnic diversity and many individual success stories, it also addressed important issues and challenges, and represented a great opportunity to network. We strongly encourage you to take part in next year’s series of events.

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