US Student Sean K. ('22) Translates Taiwanese Indigenous Picture Books

By Fish Tung, Communications Team

Please see below for the Chinese translation. 如需閱讀中文版本,請參考下列翻譯。

Photo caption: The Moon whispers, '"The millet in the soil experiences the warmth of the Sun in the sky and the nourishment of Mother Nature, along with your prayers. You take some boar hair and burn it with fire. The aroma of boar hair will awaken the sleeping millet spirits, breathing them with new life. The millet will then slowly start sprouting out of the soil."

Language is not only a tool for communication but also plays a crucial part in carrying and delivering cultural messages.

For some ethnic groups without writing systems, storytelling -- whether transmitted orally or hidden in the cultural codes (totems) -- is a way of presenting and passing down languages. It is also the core of continuing the ethnic cultures and local knowledge.

In a globalized world where languages are frequently exchanged, translators are recognized as a bridge, building an environment for better communication and understanding. Therefore, a lot more stories can be told, seen, and heard between cultures.

Some translators describe themselves as invisible representatives, while other translators think translating is more like solving a complicated puzzle.

One of our upper school Tigers, Sean K.('22), has recently joined this group of communications "bridges." He recently completed translating a complete series of Taiwanese indigenous picture books.

The books are about four different stories of group Takitu'du of Bunun (布農族卓社群). Including Balincinan (The Origin of the Bunun's Surname), Pasuntamul (The Bunun's Harvest Festival), Qalingas buan (The Whispering of the Moon), and tultul (The Melody of the Bunun's "tultul").

For Sean, the whole process of translating the picture books is just like a journey of learning something new about himself, and something more about Taiwan-- the land he grew up in.

There are six major tribal communities in Bunun. Takitu'du is one of them which is mainly distributed across the area of Hsinyi and Renai townships of Nantou. According to the Administration Bureau of Indigenous Peoples, Nantou County Government, there are about 5,000 people of Takitu'du living around the area.

The project of generating and translating the Takitu'du picture books happened in one of the villages called "Qatu"(卡度部落), located in Renai township. In fact, this project is part of the plan of Indigenous Languages Learning Center in Nantou (原住民族語言南投學習中心). The idea came from the team effort and production of one of the classes for the purpose of learning Bunun in a creative way.

As a member of  Indigenous Impact and Initiative Formosa school clubs, Sean connected to the Qatu and one of the key figures-- Mr. Shi Zhi-Xiong, through the first visiting experience of the club. Mr. Shi is the Bunun translator, illustrator, and co-editor of the books. He then invited Sean to join the project and worked closely with him to sort out the English translations.

It took about two months for Sean to complete the translation of the four books. He found the stories were extremely interesting to him, and they all somehow connected to nature. 

"Except the stories in the picture books, one of my favorite stories told by Mr. Shi is the Great Snake War between the Bunun and the Chinese Moccasins (百步蛇)," said Sean. "They ended in an agreement to coexist from then on." 

The story not only represents the Bunun tradition knowledge and their view of life but also shows their relationships with nature.   

"I want to study biology in the future, so I do know how important the environment is," he said. "I couldn't help but marvel at the intricate harmony between the Bunun and their respect and appreciation of nature." 

In order to fully understand and not to lose the meaning, Sean had to pay close attention to many details. He had to keep checking again and again with Mr. Shi. 

"I think the biggest challenge for me was because there are some words that I was not quite sure would be completely captured in English, and the values are completely different," Sean said.

He said that this concept of values and culture often caused him some confusion in the process.

"When I was reading the Chinese translations, I was still confused about some of their differences like their customs and traditions," said Sean. "I had to ask Mr. Shi, and I think that was another entry point for learning about their cultures. But it was pretty fun, actually. You're basically reading a story and helping other people get to know the story."

According to Mr. Shi, in the process of proofreading and helping Sean with the English translation, he expected Sean to translate the stories from Bunun's point of view. He hoped the translation can still carry out the indigenous perspectives and the view of the life of the Bunun people.

Besides, Sean said that he got influenced by those learning experiences from Mr. Arnold's history class. 

"There's always people left out in history sometimes," said Sean. "Like the stories are never reflective of their own views."

Sean mentioned that one of the main factors that thrived his passion for promoting indigenous cultures was his eagerness for building a deeper connection with Taiwan, an important part of forming his own identity.

"I'm going to college soon and will be very far away from home. I'm going to miss it somehow," Sean said. "I just kind of thought, why do I not feel as connected to the identities of all the people in Taiwan? I really wanted to know more about Taiwan and its various cultures."

Sean talked about how he was inspired by Bunun's culture in the preface of the books: "The Bunun demonstrates their interdependence with the island we all call home…, and most importantly, their own unique identity that is one of the true treasures of the native land of Taiwan."

By translating the picture books into English, Sean hopes that it can reach out to more cross-cultural readers. On the other hand, it is also a good chance for him to reflect on the relationships between the Bunun and himself, people and nature, Taiwan and the world.

At TAS, we know that home is where the heart goes, but it is also where the heart is. So we bid Sean (and all of our TAS graduates) a Takitu'du blessing, a phrase usually said to young people who study, work, or live far away from home:

Uvava'az mulumaqa! (Come home! My children.) 

While we celebrate the significant achievement for Sean, we know that no matter where we go in the world, as Tigers, we are never far away from home.

語言是溝通的工具,也是一個重要的承載並傳遞文化訊息的載體。

對於沒有所謂傳統書寫系統或文字記錄的族群,故事—無論是以口傳方式,或是隱藏在圖騰裡,都是一種語言展現與傳承的方式,同時也是文化與族群知識延續的核心。

在語言交流頻繁的全球化世界,譯者就像是橋樑或中介。在不同的文字符碼轉換間,建構出一個更能夠相互溝通、理解的空間,也讓許多的故事能夠在不同文化間不斷地被訴說、被看見、被傾聽。

有些譯者形容自己的工作像「隱形的靈魂代理人」;有些人則說翻譯就像在解開一連串複雜的謎題。

我們高中部十二年級的學生—Sean K.('22)近期剛完成台灣原住民布農族卓社群繪本的翻譯工作。

這一系列的繪本是關於布農族卓社群四個不同的故事。包含Balincinan(布農族卓社群姓氏起源說)、Pasuntamul(豐收感恩祭)、Qalingas buan(月語),以及tultul(布農族卓社群杵音起源說)。

對Sean來說,這趟翻譯的旅程,就像是一個重新認識自己、認識台灣這塊土地的方式。

布農族有六大社群,卓社群(Takitu'du)是其中之一,主要分布居住在南投縣信義鄉和仁愛鄉。根據南投縣政府原住民族行政局的統計,縣內的卓社群布農族總數大約是5000人。

這一系列布農卓社群繪本的產出與翻譯,是在南投仁愛鄉中正村卡度部落進行的。事實上,這項繪本製作是原住民族語言南投學習中心的其中一項課程計畫,是部落族語學習班裡面的學員用創意方式學習族語,並共同努力產出的作品。

身為學校兩個原住民相關社團Indigenous Impact及 Initiative Formosa的成員,Sean透過社團首次到卡度部落的參訪經驗開始跟當地,還有其中一位關鍵人物—石志雄先生有更多深入的聯繫。石先生除了是當地的族語教師,也是這次系列繪本的布農族語翻譯、繪圖跟共同編輯。在那之後,石老師邀請Sean加入繪本翻譯的行列,並在翻譯過程中與Sean密切合作,協助他整個翻譯的歷程。

Sean總共花了大概兩個月的時間完成這四本系列繪本的英語翻譯工作。他從與石先生的互動還有這些繪本中發掘了許多非常有趣的故事,而且發現這些故事似乎都與大自然有所連結。「在繪本之外,石先生曾跟我們講述關於人蛇大戰的傳說,是我很喜歡的一個故事。故事最後布農人和百步蛇訂定了相互共存的協議,從此之後和平相處。」這個故事不僅再現了布農族的傳統在地知識和他們的生命觀,也展現出布農人與大自然的關係。

「因為我未來想要攻讀生物學的相關領域,我非常清楚自然環境與生態的重要性。」Sean這麼說。他還在繪本的譯者序中提到:「我不禁驚嘆與敬佩布農人與大自然那種細膩複雜的和諧共處關係,以及他們對大自然的尊重與感恩。」

為了要盡可能地完整詮釋繪本的原意,Sean在很多故事和語言的細節上下了很多功夫,而且一直不斷地跟石先生核對確認。

「我覺得對我來說在翻譯上最大的挑戰是,因為語言背後的價值觀與文化背景完全不同,所以有些字詞或語境可能是英文無法完全描繪出來的。」他說。

「當我在讀繪本的中文翻譯時,我還是對於一些特定的詞彙,像是布農族的傳統儀式或習俗不太懂,所以我就必須詢問石老師,我想這也是讓我去學習布農文化很好的切入點。」

Sean還說道:「整個翻譯過程其實滿有樂趣的!基本上自己就是在讀一個故事,然後透過翻譯幫助更多人能夠認識這些故事。」

根據石老師的說法,不管是在校對翻譯,或是協助Sean梳理出文本翻譯脈絡時,他都希望Sean是以布農族的視角來看待這些以布農人角度描述的故事。他期待Sean的英文翻譯同樣能夠傳達出原住民觀點和布農族人的生命觀。

除此之外,Sean說他也有受到高中歷史老師Arnold先生的影響,在那些歷史課堂上所得到的學習經驗讓他感受到,「總是會有人在歷史的洪流中被遺忘,如同他們的故事無法反映他們自身的觀點一樣。」

不只是探索多元包容真正的意義,Sean還提到了,激發他想要加入這項計畫並投身推廣原住民文化的最主要原因,是他對於想要進一步跟台灣建立更深入連結的那份渴望,那份對台灣的情感聯繫也是形塑他自身認同的重要一環。

「我即將要上大學了,會離家好遠好遠,在某些層面來說一定會想念它的。我只是在想,對於自己的身分和文化,為什麼我沒辦法像其他台灣人一樣有那麼強烈的連結?」Sean說。「我真的很想要更認識台灣這塊土地,還有它蘊含的多元文化。」

在繪本的譯者序裡Sean提到他是如何受到布農文化的啟發:「布農族人為我們展現了他們是如何與土地相互依存—這塊被我們稱之為家的島嶼…,更重要的是,他們獨特的文化認同與身分,是台灣這塊土地其中最珍貴的寶藏之一。」

透過將這一系列的布農族卓社群繪本翻譯成英文,Sean希望可以觸及更多跨文化的讀者們。另外,這同時也是一個很好的機會,讓Sean可以重新體現和思考布農文化與他自身、人與自然、台灣與世界的連結與關係。

在台北美國學校,我們知道—家,就是心之所嚮,心之所在。因此我們想要送給Sean(還有所有的畢業生)一個屬於布農族卓社群語系的祝福,通常卓社群人是這麼跟遠在外讀書、工作和生活的年輕人們說的。

回家吧!孩子們(布農卓社群語)。

在我們跟Sean一起慶祝擔任繪本翻譯的重要成就同時,身為台北美國學校這個大家庭的一員,我們知道無論我們走向世界的何方,我們的心都在最靠近家的地方。

*卓社群(Takitudu)分布於卓社大山及濁水溪上游沿岸山坡台地,卓社群稱濁水溪左岸為Taki qantavan,指的是「qantavan」的地;而卓社大山至asang Tudu之間稱Taki savanan。名為卓社群Takitudu,因卓社群的始祖名字為Tudu,因此該群的發源地稱為asang Tudu,社群的名稱則稱為Takitudu。