International Translation Day

04 Oct 2013

On Monday 30th September PEN International will be celebrating International Translation Day. As a country endowed with eleven official languages, South Africa is well placed to appreciate the importance of translation in making texts written in one language accessible to other language groups in the country. Translation can contribute immeasurably to improving communication and understanding between our different language communities.

In 2011, the Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee of PEN International drew up the Girona Manifesto which formulated 10 guiding principles on linguistic rights. Among these is the declaration that “the translation of texts, especially the great works of various cultures, represents a very important element in the necessary process of greater understanding and respect among human beings.”

In South Africa, with its very low literacy rate, it is particularly important to focus on promoting literacy and a love of reading in the young. The following statement by Carole Bloch, Director of PRAESA (The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa) highlights this:

“On International Translation Day we celebrate the invaluable role of children’s literature in bringing children together through story. What greater hope could we have for our youngest citizens than that they grow up marvelling at and wanting more of the treasury of stories from the vast patchwork of world culture, past and present? Stories that have travelled and crossed borders through translation allow us all to discover what it means to be human, in both unique and shared ways.”

In addition to translating existing stories from English, African languages and other world languages, PRAESA’s Nal’ibali National Reading for Enjoyment Campaign is engaged in creating stories in several languages and using them daily in reading clubs. Through this process, and especially by translating a variety of lively and interesting stories, a culture of reading can be encouraged. SA PEN supports PRAESA in its innovative Nal’ibali project which stimulates a love of reading and an appreciation of literature among the young and the adults they spend time with in their communities.

For further enquiries contact:
Adré Marshall, SA PEN,

Girona Manifesto available on request in all South African languages– email Deborah Horn-Botha, SA PEN Secretary,