Translated poetry helps Vietnamese abroad spread traditional culture

By Hieu Nhan   November 11, 2021 | 03:45 am PT
A group of Vietnamese residing abroad have translated a poetry book into English, French, and German to spread the Tet spirit to compatriots around the world.

‘Don Tet Ve Nha’ (Tet is Home) is the first project of Tiem Mot, a book store chain for Vietnamese living abroad, popularizing local books among global readers.

The book has 40 pages with tetrameters depicting Tet, Vietnamese Lunar New Year, and its traditions.

Quynh Hanh, Tiem Mot’s owner, said the idea of translating the book into other languages comes from her longing for her hometown.

In the last two years, due to the pandemic, Hanh, living in Finland, could not return home. She wanted to bring Tet to her children and other Vietnamese families through the book.

The English version of Don Tet Ve Nha (Tet is Home). Photo courtesy of Tiem Mot

The English version of 'Don Tet Ve Nha' (Tet is Home). Photo courtesy of Tiem Mot

She contacted a local publisher, bought the copyright for ‘Don Tet Ve Nha’, written by Chieu Xuan Liu Lo and illustrated by Hau Phan. Hanh and her team then translated the book into English, French, and German.

"We chose poetry books because it meets the requirements of content, and children can remember it easily. If people love it, we will translate it into more languages next year," she said.

The project's three translators are Vietnamese living and working abroad. Nhat Vuong translated it into German. He once also translated the Grimm fairy tales into Vietnamese.

An, in charge of the French version, has extensive experience in the field of books, having built a shelf of Vietnamese books in a library in Paris. Her husband is a French poet.

Ruby Nguyen Smith, in charge of the English translation, has an American husband. In addition, the project was also supported by people in the U.K., France, Germany and those working in the field of translation and publishing.

In addition to properly translating and rhyming, the translator must also help readers understand the context and culture in the poems.

In a poem about dong leaves (used to make traditional banh chung), the translator must help readers understand what dong leaves are:

"We still need other things:

Green Dong leaves, bamboo strings

They are used to wrap Chung Cake

And you know what? It's fun to make!"

The team spent about a month to complete the project. They then sent the translation to a few native speakers for consultation to ensure the language is correct, contextual and rhyming.

Nguyen Quang Thieu, president of Vietnam Writers' Association, said: "Young people born and raised in different countries gradually become distant from their roots. The book is a way to spread traditional culture, helping children and young Vietnamese feel connected with their country."

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