Creative Translation in Schools

Dutch at Sheffield, together with The Queen's College Oxford’s Translation Exchange, developed a new outreach project for the School of Languages and Cultures. 'Haughty Henriette' is ready for local schools.

overview of page with various learning materials

Students on the Advanced Dutch Language and Culture course, professional translator and Sheffield alumnus Alice Tetley-Paul, and Rahul Bery as leader of our first Creative Translation for Schools, met in December 2020 for the first of two training workshops. The aim was to develop a creative translation workshop for schools to demonstrate that even engaging with an unknown language can unlock your creativity and make you aware of your existing language skills. There is a long-term objective too: the workshop wants to show that studying languages and cultures in higher education is rewarding and fun.

The unknown language for our workshop is Dutch; as the vehicle for our workshop we chose Grote Henriette. Of hoe Henriette geen vrienden had, a picture book about friendship by the Flemish author Annemie Berebrouckx.

Several  images of a picture book

The original idea was that finalists of Dutch would deliver the creative workshop in local schools together with practising translator Alice Tetley-Paul. It could then be rolled out across other languages in the School of Languages and Cultures and added to the existing SLC outreach activities.

However, after our second training session in February 2021, it became clear that 'live' delivery was not going to be an option. We had to change tack. The result is a ready-to-go workshop: any teacher can work with our material irrespective of whether they know Dutch or not. In fact, the idea is that you don’t already know the language, but that everybody can explore the text together and bring their own associations and interpretations.

The steps of our DIY workshop are the same as the live delivery version: from looking at the pictures and imagining the story, to ‘code-breaking’ the Dutch text with the help of a glossary. The final step is all about unleashing the students’ creativity when they turn the stilted literal translation into a natural and attractive English text. Grote Henriette becomes Haughty Henriette OR any other title that participants will come up with.

The workshop materials comprise of instructions and material for the workshop leader, worksheets for the participants, and three short videos: Tetley-Paul talks about her job as a translator, Leo Harrison guides us through some Dutch pronunciation and students talk about why they decided to study languages and cultures.

We may still make Haughty Henriette into schools, even if we can’t this year, and we will certainly pass the baton to new finalists in Dutch. The Translation Exchange is a collaboration between Queen’s College Oxford and the Stephen Spender Trust. Our Dutch version received support from New Dutch Writing.

If you are interested in finding our more about our DIY or student-guided workshops, please get in touch with or in our Faculty Office. 

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