Treaty translation bid falling short

November 11, 2016

Treaty translation bid falling short

Treaty of Waitangi initiative, translating New Zealand’s founding document into 30 languages, asks for more translators to join the project. Photo: Rasmus Walther Jensen

The deadline is fast approaching for an initiative translating both the English and the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi into 30 languages – but translators are still being sought.

The Treaty Times 30 project is being run by the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The aim is to raise the profile of translators and to make New Zealand’s 176-year-old founding document more accessible internationally, as well as to migrants who speak neither English nor te reo Māori.

A minimum of three translators is required for any given language to qualify, and so far 25 languages have made the cut.

Translations of Turkish, Danish, Hindi, Javanese and Tagalog still need to be submitted, and NZSTI is short on Turkish and Javanese translators.

“We need to meet our target of 30 languages, and we are very close, but not there yet,” said NZSTI spokesperson Stefan Grand-Meyer.

He urged translators who are willing to volunteer, to get in touch with the organisation as soon as possible.

“Danish is definitely one of the languages with a strong potential to be included in the project, but if we do not get enough translations, we will not be able to do that,” Mr Grand-Meyer said.

Leina Isno from Wellington is one of the volunteers. She is translating the Treaty into Bislama, one of the official languages of Vanuatu.

“It is a great experience to be a part of the project. You create a huge network of people, and you learn so much about the Treaty of Waitangi. But most importantly, you give people access to important information about New Zealand,” Ms Isno said.

NZSTI has made agreements with museums as well as immigration offices to use the translations.

But professor of history at Auckland University of Technology, Dr Paul Moon, doubts immigrants will read the Treaty, even if it becomes accessible in their native tongue.

“The majority of New Zealanders probably are not very familiar with the Treaty. If that is the case with New Zealanders, it is hard to see why immigrants would suddenly need to know about it, because it has so little practical effect on their lives,” Dr Moon said.

At this point Spanish is the only language, which has been through the whole process, including translation, collaborative revision by the translators and review.

The final translations are planned to be published on International Translation Day on September 30.

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