One problem facing Filipino English and Filipino writers today is not just realizing that the language they used limits their accessibility to the rest of the nation, with serious literacy issues and readership. Beyond that, they also see that many borders must be crossed before an international audience notices their work.
Statistics show that we have “some 120 to 187 languages ââspoken in the Philippines, depending on the classification method.” These are largely Malayo-Polynesian languages ââoriginating in the archipelago. We also have Spanish influenced languages, generally called Chavacano, spoken in some communities. There are eight main languages ââspoken by the majority of Filipinos: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicolano, Waray, Pampango and Pangasinense, with Filipino being the national language.
It is in recognition of this that the National Book Development Board (NBDB) embarked on national and international translation grant programs, budgeted with a 6.86 million peso grant launched on April 27, the way whose agency commemorates the country’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations. The Executive Director of NBDB, Charisse Aquino-Tugade, considers that this translation grant helps to emphasize our tradition of storytelling. âWe celebrate the role and strength of Filipino storytelling over the past 500 years. The tradition of storytelling not only preserves, enriches and enhances the Filipino language and culture, âshe says. Tugade also knows the need to venture into international markets.
It can seem overwhelming at first for publishers, especially in these difficult times, to know how and where to start on the translation journey. Many may even think it is a luxury when their businesses are in survival mode. Grant details specify areas to be considered: national translations, for example, are open for children’s literature, graphic literature, and classics / creative fiction / non-fiction / historical / cultural works. Priority languages ââfor 2021 are Filipino / English to Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Hiligaynon, Meranaw, Tausug, and Kiniray-a, although other languages ââare accepted.
For international translations, the grant is open for children’s literature, culinary literature and cookbooks, graphic literature and classics / creative fiction / non-fiction / historical / cultural works. Priority languages ââare Filipino, Filipino languages ââor Filipino content in English to German, Spanish, French, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese.
The grant, ranging from 50,000 to 150,000 pesos per book, covers translation, book design / redesign and five international standard printing copies. The editor will be responsible, from the design and approval of translations to design and publication.
The initial grant cycle ended on May 30 and a total of 32 books may be eligible. The results of the grants will be announced on June 30.
The president of the NBDB, Dante Francis Ang II, explains the raison d’Ãªtre of this program: âTranslations are the most important thing to bring together and understand cultures. To encourage more people to read Filipino authorship, NBDB aims to make more Filipino content accessible through its translation grant. This initiative is envisioned to increase the number of Filipino authors and content translated, published and distributed.
The Philippine edition is all too aware of how the language problem is made more complex for us due to our colonial history. Consider the current state of our translations: Our English and Filipino books are translated into some Filipino languages, Filipino titles are translated into English, Popular foreign titles are translated into Filipino languages, and English books are translated into foreign languages.
Before our books are noticed by foreign publishers, they must first be in English. As the Philippines dreams and ambitiously plans for an international readership, it becomes urgent to have a vigorous translation program. At present, we can count on one side the Filipino authors whose works have been translated into foreign languages ââ- Rizal, F. Sionil Jose, Jose Dalisay Jr., Miguel Syjuco.
A database for this important program is underway. May Filipino creativity and diversity continue to be celebrated and honored in such a way as this push.
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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([emailÂ protected]) is the founding director of the Write Things creative writing center and served as chairman of the National Book Development Board.
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