Foreign literary classics translated into Filipino

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - While there may never be “perfect translation,” literary classics translated in Filipino can still bring impact on local readers.

At the same time, translated works might even help enrich their Filipino vocabulary.

These are the hopes of five authors who worked on translating foreign literary classics included in the new lineup of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF)’s “Aklat ng Bayan” series launched last Tuesday.

 The five – composed of literary winners Michael Jude Tumamac, Ergoe Tinio, Nicolas Pichay, and professors Ferdinand Jarin and Allan Derain – said they find translating foreign literary classics to Filipino challenging.

Translation, said Tumamac, teaches “us to be more honest” and gives “a new voice to the foreign works we worked on.” Tumamac is a recipient of the National Children’s Book Award for his book “Ngumiti si Andoy.”

“Also, we have to respect the authors of the original works,” he noted.

“Translating the cultural context of any foreign literature is always the most challenging task,” Derain, author of award-winning novel “Ang Banal na Aklat ng mga Kumag,” said.

“You still have to find out what that means, and if it can really be applicable to Philippine context.”

Tinio, author of the Palanca Award-winning children’s book “Salusalo Para Kay Kuya,” said the process of translation needs weighing on the importance of using any foreign word.

“In other cultures, they call certain things different names, like the word ‘snow’ which we Filipinos just call ‘niyebe,’” she said.

Tinio said one can understand translated words through research and context clues. “In context clues, when you find that word being used many times, somehow you would be able to know what that means.”

Despite his lack of experience in translation, Jarin – award-winning author of “Anim na Sabado ng Beyblade at Iba Pang Sanaysay” – said he finds the task enjoyable.

“It was fun exploring words that you think are new to your ears,” he added. “It can be fun introducing them, making yourself kind of a manager of these words.”

Jarin said the more challenging part of their work is to introduce either their own works or translated ones, or even the works of their fellow Filipino authors, to a new breed of Filipino readers. “Ang ipinapakilala mo itong mga foreign classics, ang problema nga paano mo pa ipapakilala ang mga manunulat na Pilipino (You’re introducing foreign classics. The problem is how do you introduce Filipino writers).”

But Tinio believes just making more Filipinos appreciate reading may be good enough. Basta magbasa sila, wala kaming pakialam... Mas mapapayaman ang pagbasa kung nasa loob ka ng isang mas malaking konteksto, na magbubuo pa ng iba pang mga manunulat whether classic man o contemporary (Just make them read, we don’t care. Reading can be further enriched in a bigger context that can make writers – whether in classic or contemporary).”

Here are the literary classics translated into Filipino by the five award-winning authors: J. M. Barrie’s ‘Peter Pan,’ as translated by Michael Jude Tumamac

Guy De Maupassant’s ‘The Necklace and other stories,’ as translated by Allan Derain

William Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear,’ as translated by Nicolas Pichay

Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the center of the earth,’ as translated by Ferdinand Jarin

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ as translated by Ergoe Tinio

Meanwhile, Kriscell Labor, who translated into Filipino ‘The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,’ said that these works, along with previously launched ‘Aklat ng Bayan’ books, will be received soon by around 300 public school libraries across the country. “We prioritize the poorest of the poor in our program,” Labor said.


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