Waitangi in different languages

By Samantha Goerling 06 February 2016, 12:00AM

Samoa and New Zealand celebrated the Treaty of Waitangi during a gathering at Letava last night.

Hosted by the New Zealand High Commissioner, Jackie Frizelle, the event was well attended. As part of the Waitangi activities, the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (N.Z.S.T.I) have announced the translation of the Waitangi Treaty into thirty different languages other than English and Maori. 

The ‘Treaty Times Thirty’ project is both a celebration of the organisation’s 30th anniversary and a gift to the people of New Zealand. It will be presented as a book on International Translation Day on 30 September later this year. 

Treaty Expert, Dame Claudia Orange, welcomed the announcement of the project.

“The translations of the Treaty of Waitangi in the many languages of our country will add significantly to people’s understanding of New Zealand’s founding agreement. The planned publication is an effective way to mark the organisation’s milestone and its long-standing work.”

The Waitangi Treaty which was originally signed on this day back in 1840 is known as the founding document of New Zealand. 

However the treaty which was signed both in English and Maori contained different meaning and interpretations in the two languages. Debate about the discrepancy in meaning has been a long running theme of this day throughout history.

Two of the principle aims of the Treaty Times Thirty project is to render the treaty more accessible to migrants in New Zealand and boost understanding of the treaty around the world.

To aid accessibility the translations will also become available on a website as well as in the book.

Each language will contain a translation from the original English version and one of the modern English translation from Maori. This will allow people from all over the world to read for themselves the discrepancies between the two versions. 

Dutch-English translator, Dr Jaap Jasperse from South Pacific Publishing Consultancy is one of the contributors from around the world. After living in New Zealand for thirty years, he has been based in Samoa for almost four years although not all at once.

Speaking to the Weekend Observer, he explained the aims of the project.

“We really want to give everybody in the world the opportunity to compare side by side where the differences are, so that’s why we’re starting off with the original English and the original Maori translated into English. I think it will make very widely know this unique document that New Zealand has.” 

Waitangi Day itself, he believes, is a day to increase awareness and understanding of the treaty but also an important day to recognise the difficulty in preserving meaning when translating between languages.

“It is also a really good opportunity for the people to publicise the treaty, that it exists, what it means, but also how careful you have to be with translations. A word in one language may have an equivalent but it may not have the exact feeling that it does have in the other language,” he said.

The project will feature new translations into Asian and European languages, and even Esperanto.

Polynesian translations which have already been published are Cook Islands Maori, Niuean, Samoan, Tokelauan and Tongan. 

Over ninety translators will be involved in the project which is aiming for a minimum of three translators per language. This will help ensure the most accurate translation possible. Jasperse has supplied one of the Dutch translations. 

Late last year the call went out within the N.Z.S.T.I for members willing to volunteer their expertise. Jasperse said that the project quickly gained a large amount of support from translators wanting to be involved. 

“I can’t wait to see the resulting book,” he said.

By Samantha Goerling 06 February 2016, 12:00AM

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