- A publisher I've been meaning to work with but couldn't reach agreeable terms asked me again to submit work. He especially wanted African language children's stories.
- I read Lori Widmer's post about The Multilingual Writer at Words on the Page.
- One of my regular clients, a corporate client I generally do multilingual work for, sent some translation work.
- I received info for a freelance writing gig for a business writer that I wanted to jump at. I looked like an ideal candidate for it, until they mentioned that being multilingual (in languages I don't speak) is an advantage. Big bummer for me.
- My friend Neo came to stay with me for a while. She's been doing that periodically since October last year. She's the granddaughter of the notable Setswana author D,P Moloto whose novels were prescribed throughout most of my schooling and who has had a huge impact on Setswana literature.
- I also started seeing "multilingual" all over the Internet. Clearly, I was not the only person with "multilingual" on their mind.
I belong to Batswana, one of the Black groups in South Africa, based mostly in the North West province. However, I write commercially in English because that is the language that allows me to have the greatest reach to an audience.
In case you're wondering how we relate to the people of Botswana, Batswana in the North West province of South Africa are family to the people of Botswana. British colonialists put a border in the middle of us, effectively separating a people and leaving my side in South Africa and the other Batswana in Botswana. But that is very ancient history. We are South Africans.
For years my Setswana writing was initially relegated to being creative self-expression and personal entertainment. Mma used to narrate for us interesting stories that I later found out, were not written down. My village in Phokeng also has a rich reservoir of legends, told casually to children when I was growing up, but not written down.
A number of local publishers do publish indigenous language works, including Setswana stories. For example, Maskew Miller Longman has for years hosted the MML Literature Awards and through this initiative, published some really good teen novels. "Give South African teenagers the gift of reading in their mother tongue," the publisher says.
The closing date for this year's entries is 30 April, so if you are an author of teen novels, you have time to polish your manuscript and submit it.
But somehow, the stars never aligned enough for me to publish Setswana language significantly with local publishers. I placed only a few stories and those were originally in English and were then translated to other languages.
So I wrote my stories for the children in my family and for future generations. The curating led to the birth of Storypot in January 2006 when I finally appreciated that computers do crash and I didn't want to lose my life's work to a virus originated in some basement somewhere across the world.
The Impact of Tech and the Internet on Publishing Indigenous Stories
Over the years, the use of Internet and social media has changed the Setswana reader's landscape. More people now have the opportunity to chat online to their "friends" about the stories and folktales of their childhood.
A lot of South African parents I've met online seem to feel as if their home languages and their stories are being lost. Among my own friends, there is a lot of rigorous debate on Facebook, with people posting stories they remember or asking others to remind them how the legend was concluded. They are super-motivated to read them for their own children. So something that I used to do for myself is gaining an audience. Maybe. I also think that tech is providing an accessible, cost-effective way for writers and publishers to publish these stories and meet the needs of this growing audience.
Kgosi Kgosi, co-founder of Roundafire and a new publisher for some of my children's stories, is one of the new breed of publishers who see the opportunity.
Here is an audio where Kgosi chats with Redi Tlhabi on 702 about storytelling, the need for writing and publishing these stories and about Roundafire http://goo.gl/QAbz8C. Tomorrow I'll do a quick intro on Roundafire, as I'm planning to publish some stories with them and hope to write some more stories for them (in English and Setswana). In case you're wondering, he is accepting submissions and very keen to see stories in the 9 African languages.
I don't know if tech and the Internet will provide a sustainable push to grow indigenous language readers and encourage publishers to bring out more books. My hope is that new publishers will emerge and do for our local languages what Lapa Publishers is already doing for Afrikaans.
11 Official Languages Means Potential For Corporate Work
Let me start out by stating that, just because you speak a language does not mean that you can translate that language to or from another language Chances are, you can speak it and write it very well. But are you a translator? Can you be a professional translator, with your word choices used by companies and institutions to inform, educate and make decisions that have financial impact?
With that caveat, being multi-lingual means that you are step ahead in being able to produce material in another language. With the right training, you could potentially add writing and translation to your tools of the trade.
I don't know what the job market is for people who are multilingual in other languages. But I've found that my having the fairly obscure Setswana (globally speaking) as part of my language pairs means that there is less competition for the work. National and multinational companies/organisations want to speak to South Africans in their mother tongue and someone has to write or translate that stuff. It can be steady work if you pursue it.
Finding the work is fairly easy. There are numerous global agencies where one can register to be considered for work when it is available. Like every other opportunity, some potential clients pay really badly. Others value their multilingual service providers and pay very well. So the usual cautionary applies. For me though, the good news is that the opportunities exist in the first place.
Share you views: do you agree with me that there is a market for indigenous language stories in South Africa ? Is being multilingual is an advantage? Or do you feel that a second language dilutes one's grasp of the primary language?[For further reading, see this article that says Being Bilingual Changes The Structure of Your Brain] Would you invest in polishing your secondary language(s) so that you can use them professionally too?