Friday, 2 September 2016

A day of many languages (Day 9)

Yesterday night I had the absolute pleasure of visiting my colleague Marianne Martens home in a beautiful neighbourhood quite near the university. Two of her colleagues also came, and we had a lovely barbecue dinner with salads, hot dogs and burgers. Then a delicious brownie and icecream dessert which I enjoyed all the more for my usual avoiding sweets approachJ

My day at work involved reading dual language picturebooks with Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Swahili, Hebrew, German and Portuguese. A very multilingual day, it was!

In languages which use a Latin alphabet, such as Vietnamese, the approach in presenting the two languages is very similar to that which I found in the Spanish-English books. The languages are one above each other on a page facing the illustration page. One beautifully illustrated and moving book called The Little Weaver of Thai Yen Village/ Co Be Tho-Det Lang Thai-Yen by Tran-Khanh-Tuyet (Children’s Book Press, 1986) is a story about a little Vietnamese girl (Hien) whose village is bombed and who is taken to San Francisco Bay area for medical treatment by a US humanitarian medical relief organisation. Her parents have been killed, and she is looked after by an American couple who send regular parcels to help families in Vietnam. Hien is given a loom so she can weave blankets (as she used to do with her grandmother) to include in these packages.

Another moving book published by the Children’s Book Press is called A Place where Sunflowers Grow (Lee-Tai, 2006), and is about Mari, a girl living in the Japanese intern camps during World War II. One of the interns starts running an art class, and encourages the children to draw things which they are happy about in the camp. Mari cannot find anything to draw until her teacher suggests she draw something that used to make her happy, and this is what opens the door for Mari. She draws her back yard at home, and takes it back to her mother who puts it on the wall. The text in this book is placed on the pge facing the illustration page, and English is above the Japanese text, much as was the case for the Spanish-English books I’ve looked at.

Wabi Sabi (Reibstein and Young, 2008) is a visually stunning book which opened vertically rather than horizontally. The story is about the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, a notion concerning appreciating “Beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest and mysterious”. The story is told via a cat called Wabi Sabi, and famous Japanese haiku epitomising wabi sabi are cleverly incorporated into the story. The English text is either at the top or bottom of the sumptuous collage illustrations by Ed Young, and the haiku are incorporated along the sides of the illustrations, written from top to bottom in traditional style. I am sure that the vertical orientation of the book is influenced by the Japanese orthography.

I should finish the rest of the books tomorrow, and then get back to filling gaps in my spread sheet.

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