How did it begin?
The New Zealand Society of Translations and Interpreters (NZSTI) turned thirty in 2016 and, as a way of celebrating this and of showcasing professional translation in New Zealand, one of our members suggested having the Treaty of Waitangi translated into thirty different languages. New Zealand is home to more than 200 ethnicities and 160 languages, so having the Treaty, regarded as New Zealand’s founding document, in thirty different languages was an exciting idea.
Why the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi?
The Treaty of Waitangi, first signed on 6 February 1840, is regarded as New Zealand’s founding document and translation is at the heart of this document and of its interpretation. The Treaty was originally written in English and translated overnight into Māori. The Māori version, known as Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is the document most of the Māori signatories put their name or their mark to. We wanted both translated, so there was a stumbling block for a start. We could not expect to find translators able to translate the Māori into thirty other languages, so had to choose an English version of the Māori text. We knew the differences between the original English and the Māori version of Te Tiriti were the cause of concern, confusion and conflict, but saw this as basis for demonstrating the importance of professional translation.
The NZSTI National Council gave its approval and so, in September 2015, a project team was formed and the journey began. Optimistically, and rather naively, we thought it would be finished in time to launch it on World Translation Day, September 30, 2016. (This date was later adjusted when we decided to publish the translations as a book.) We chose a name, The Treaty Times Thirty, with the byline translating the Treaty of Waitangi into 30 different languages; and a logo symbolising two languages linked by a translator. We also adopted the Māori proverb ‘He toa takitini tōku toa, ehara i te toa takitahi’ (My strength is that of many, not that of an individual). Collaboration, consensus and co-operation were to be the basis for all our decisions and would also be the principles encouraged among the translators.
We announced the project nationwide with a press release in February 2016, and word of it quickly spread. From the outset, we had emphasised that we would have no political agendas or biases of any kind. It would be purely a linguistic endeavor and a translation challenge. It became obvious at this time that it was going to be essential to maintain and insist on this neutral stance. We had also agreed to maintain our neutrality by not doing translations for the project ourselves.
Who chose the languages?
We did not select the languages for translation; they selected us. If the language qualified by having 3 or more translators volunteer, then it was accepted. Initially, eighty-four translators joined the project and fifty-seven of those were NZSTI members. This initial group covered twenty-eight different languages, but for several of those there was only one translator. So we contacted students studying translation in university, translation companies, and AUSIT, and shoulder-tapped people. In all instances, there was to be a definite and identifiable link with New Zealand. It was a long, drawn-out process and there was great excitement among the team when we finally reached our target of thirty languages. Then, to our delight, we were able to add New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). The QR codes for this are in the book.
What languages were translated?
The book includes translations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi into the following languages:
- New Zealand Sign Language
- Simplified Chinese
- Traditional Chinese
The translators are listed in the book. Those who chose to be, are also listed on the website.
What about Pacific languages such as Samoan and Niuean?
The Treaty of Waitangi had already been translated into Cook Islands Māori, Niuean,Samoan, Tokelauan and Tongan. These translations are available on the New Zealand History website https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/treaty-of-waitangi/translated-versions.
What was the translation process?
A robust process that consisted of translation, collaboration and review was chosen. There was to be a minimum of three translators for each language; once the individual translations were completed, the translators of that language collaborated to produce the best possible translation of each text; the finished translations were reviewed by independent experts.
How were translators supported?
The volunteer translators were supported throughout the process by: a closed group on Facebook, for all participants; background material about the Treaty/Te Tiriti and the differences in meaning; access to Treaty expert Dame Claudia Orange; information from Treaty education organisations.
For the collaboration stage, one of the project team was allocated to each language team as their support person. Our task was to facilitate the collaboration by whatever means necessary: emails, online discussion, Dropbox, Skype or Google Hangout. (A video on using Dropbox was created and put up on YouTube.) We were also there to answer queries, mediate if necessary, remind the team of deadlines, and notify the rest of the project team when various stages were completed for a particular language. Some translation teams had as many as eleven in one team and some had widely dispersed participants and/or poor internet access. In the vast majority of cases the support person was not conversant with the language of the translators, so the interaction was in English.
How long did it take?
It took 18 months from the initial idea to the launch of the book on 17 February 2017. As the project grew the original timeline turned out to be overly optimistic and was extended more than once. The launch date was also determined by the fact that the first copy of the book would be gifted to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand at a reception hosted by the Governor-General, Her Excellency The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy at Government House.
And it’s not over yet. Nearly a year later, the project team is involved with distribution of the initial print run that, under the terms of the funding, was to be gifted to various ethnic communities, public libraries and other relevant organisations. Plans are also underway for further print runs and for a system for ordering and purchasing copies of the book from NZSTI.
How can you read The Treaty Times Thirty?
You can download a free pdf of The Treaty Times Thirty at https://treatytimes30dotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/f_6984_nzt_treatyx30.pdf or you can order a copy of the book by using the link on The Treaty Times Thirty website. Once enough orders have been received there will be another print run. The cost per book will depend on the size of the print run, but is estimated to be no more than about $30 per copy.
What is the project’s significance?
Not only has The Treaty Times Thirty made the Treaty of Waitangi and Te Tiriti o Waitangi accessible to migrants and the international community, it has also highlighted the importance of translation in today’s society and raised the profile of NZSTI and its members in New Zealand.