More about the multi-language CDs
Bookstart have put the story with all 20 languages on their site. Click on the picture below to go to their site and join the fun!
Why we developed the multi-language CD
After a year in print, Lulu Loves the Library was doing really well. Librarians and school librarians were big fans. Nursery and Reception class teachers, EMA, EAL and Family Learning professionals were all using the book to prepare for library visits and encourage parents to join their local library. Outreach and community librarians were using images of Lulu on posters to advertise Rhyme times and Story times in their libraries. Fantastic!
Then people began to ask Alanna Books when would dual language editions be available - and in which languages…
From a publishing point of view, dual language editions are a huge logistical problem. Alanna Books is a small company and can not afford to print lots of different editions and hold the resulting lots of stock. Invariably, once a publisher has chosen two or three languages to print, customers request five different ones!
Philosophically, dual language editions also posed a number of problems...
Firstly, we are not convinced of the case for dual-language books for very small children. Since they cannot read the type anyway, it does not have the function (as it does in older picture books) of validating their home language, of showing them their home language in print. So, dual language books for this age group must be primarily for parents to read to their child in their home language. This is certainly a very worthy objective – though with such simple books a parent could probably do this anyway with a little encouragement.
However, there are still one or two problems.
Firstly, what of parents who did not learn to read and write in their home countries? Who grew up in areas where education (particularly for girls) may have been inadequate or difficult? Who grew up during times of conflict or difficulties where education was haphazard? Who learned to read and write in this country in English only, while continuing to speak their first language at home? How helpful is it to hand them a dual-language edition of a story and suggest they use it with their child?
And what of languages like Urdu or Arabic which run from right to left? These are always a problem for dual-language editions and particularly so for very young children who are only just learning which direction a book works and text runs.
And what about languages which are spoken by smaller yet significant numbers of people like Tigrinya or Amharic?
In the end, technology offered a solution. Alanna Books decided to make a CD where we recorded people telling the story in their home language. That way, the book could be printed in English, but the CD could have (we thought then) five or six languages on it – so six languages in one edition. We felt the book would be accessible to parents and children who spoke the language and that, perhaps it would encourage parents to tell other stories in their first languages.
We began by finding a ‘proper’ recording studio and sound engineer. It was very important that the recordings would be of the highest quality. With so many famous actors like Dawn French, Stephen Fry, Jamie Theakston etc featuring on CD tellings, we felt it was vital that our tellings should be as professional-sounding as possible.
Anna then approached some of her colleagues and one parent and made the first 3 recordings in Polish, Irish and Portuguese. She was then able to burn copies to explain to other parents what we had in mind.
Anna asked parents to translate the story and prepare to tell it as if they were reading it to their own child. It was important that the tellings sounded natural rather than being academically-correct translations. So, when parents asked what to do when there wasn’t a word for something (like library, or bear) in their language, we encouraged them to use whatever word they would use if they were chatting to someone else in that language in this country – most likely they would use an English word. Since Anna grew up in an almost dual-language household, she knew this would sound natural. For this reason, almost everyone decided not to translate the song title, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, since it was more natural to refer to it in English.
We asked parents to introduce themselves and to mention that they attended Anna's library sessions. While we wanted the best recordings possible, we still wanted to be clear that these people were parents and not professional voice artists.
We also asked them to do the introductions in English so that those who do not speak the language could still understand the introduction – we hoped that people would listen to tracks other than those in their language (and that professionals using the CD could navigate round it.
Well, once we started this project really took off! We’ve ended up with over 20 languages on the CD and every one sounds fabulous! It is amazing how professional the parents sound – they really did a fantastic job. And we can’t say enough about the incredibly talented sound engineer, Ren Ahadome who edited each language perfectly, despite not speaking any of them.
How the CD works
Now the book and CD have been out for a few months, Alanna Books is getting feedback about how it’s being used and we are so proud.
Parents and children sharing the book in English
are, not so obviously, the biggest number of users are – children can listen to the story while looking at the pictures and ‘reading’ the book in the usual way. What we now know is that they then go on to listen to other tracks and are interested to hear other tellings – what a nice uncomplicated way to encounter other languages.
Children who speak languages other than English
are delighted to hear their home language spoken and can share the book both with parents, or other adults and children who don’t speak the same language. They too can also listen to it in English and other languages – something we're finding they really enjoy doing.
Professionals in multi-language settings
can use the CD with different groups of children. Anna uses it a lot in the library – playing during the beginning of her sessions while the children work on puzzles and art like a kind of aural ‘welcome poster’. Children look up in amazement when their language comes on and we know it makes them feel comfortable.
When Anna uses the Lulu book, she usually tells the story in English and points to the pictures. Sometimes, she’ll put one of the other language tracks on and hold up the book, point to the pictures and share it in another language. Sharing a story is such a wonderful experience and when parents see and experience it, they will want to do it at home. Hopefully inspired by the Lulu CD, they will tell the stories in their first language while using any picture book they choose - written in English or any other language.
This is what we hope for this project – not that the CD will replace the need for professionals to find a way of sharing a book in a multi-lingual setting, but that playing the different tracks will help them to feel comfortable.
We hope that it will inspire parents and give them ‘permission’ to make their own of picturebook texts.
We hope that it will help children to have a shared experience (even as they listen to different tracks, they are all sharing the same story) and that this will open up their minds and hearts. If we hand speakers of different languages different editions of books, we risk allowing language to be a great divider. But if we muddle through sharing a book, pointing at pictures, gesticulating wildly, laughing together at funny pictures… our different languages are just one more interesting thing about us rather than a barrier to communicating.
And if we all sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, together at the end, we can be reassured that in the end, we are all far more alike than we are different.
The languages on the CD
Lulu Loves the Library
English, Welsh, Irish, French, Dutch, Polish, German, Italian, Turkish, Gujerati, Urdu, Ndebele, Luganda, Igbo, Arabic, Swahili. Somali, Amharic, Tigryna, Portuguese, Spanish (Mexico), Japanese and Mandarin. The last track is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Lulu Loves Stories
English, Welsh, Irish, French, Dutch, Polish, German, Spanish (Spain), Italian, Gujerati, Urdu, Tamil, Luganda, Arabic, Swahili, Somali, Tigryna, Japanese and Mandarin.