Dahl in Welsh? And other questions: Parallel session D

The 22nd annual IBBY/NCRCL MA Conference took place on 14 November 2015 at the University of Roehampton. This year’s theme was ‘Steering the Craft: Navigating the process of creating children’s books in the 21st century’. This week on the NCRCL blog, alumni and current NCRCL students will be reporting on various aspects of the conference, including the speakers, panellists and parallel sessions.

Dahl in Welsh? And other questions: Parallel session D

By Demet Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik

The session started with Siwan Rosser, from the University of Cardiff, with her topic: “Do we really need Dahl in Welsh?” First of all, Rosser described the situation in Wales right now. English versions of the same novel are easier to get and for many new Welsh speakers, who only learn Welsh in school, they’re also easier to read. She explained that the novels by Roald Dahl which she was looking at also required an extended knowledge of English from the reader, since, for example, quotes from Dylan Thomas were kept in the original English.

But this is not the only problem Rosser addressed in her talk. She also drew attention to the fact that 50% of the books published in Welsh are translated. Since a translation comes at a lower cost and risk for the publisher, it is both the enemy and the friend of lesser-spoken languages. Not to forget that it creates a one-way road of cultural flow.

With all these prominent problems, do we need Dahl in Welsh?

Siwan Rosser thinks: yes, we do! Translations of famous authors like Dahl or J.K. Rowling are important to encourage readers to read books in Welsh, “but we should not forget to raise our own Dahl” and keep on developing Welsh language and culture.

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Translations of well-known books into Welsh can encourage readers new to reading the language.

After this great start into the session we went on directly with Yan Zheng from the University of Glasgow talking about “Story Apps and the Touch-Screen: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century Storytelling”.

During her talk, Zheng described her experience with several app developers and their different apps that she had the opportunity to test. The biggest problem she pointed out in her talk were the numerous software bugs she discovered during her research. Compared to simple typing errors in a book, software bugs can heavily disrupt the reading experience of the user. In one of the apps Zheng focused on, the characters would start reading out random sentences if the user failed to interact with them in time. Zheng also mentioned that these story apps are not yet adjusted to users flipping through the book, which is something a usual reader of a picturebook does a lot.

With all those malfunctions in mind, why should we tell a story in an app and not in a book with less problems?

A touchscreen is a very interactive medium which can open a whole new reading experience for us, if we focus on how better to transfer from one medium to another.

The last speaker in this parallel session was Kerenza Ghosh from the University of Roehampton talking about “Children and Teachers’ Experiences of Book Making and Authorship”.

In her talk Ghosh described her work with two different classes of 4 and 5 year olds, in which each of them got a different book to talk about in class and then adapt into their own picturebook. The result of her project was, overall, positive. In general the children became more confident and independent. She even stated that “as young children work in creating art […] they gain practice in holding attention”. The book-making process helped the children to think more critically about the book and analyze the characters and their motivations. Even when they copied phrases, they still gave them their own twist and showed in this way a deeper understanding of the words and their meanings. In addition, the children showed interest in the general book-making process and in book art.

Ghosh has not yet decided how or if she wants to further develop this project, but so far it seems to show huge educational value.

With this the parallel session ended on a positive note for everyone attending.

Demet Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik is a distance learning student on the MA Children’s Literature at Roehampton University.

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About Sarah Pyke

NCRCL PhD student currently researching LGBTQ adults’ memories of childhood reading as part of the AHRC funded project, Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories.

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