Translating the Treaty for foreign scholars
The Governor-General will receive an unusual birthday gift in September – a book containing the Treaty of Waitangi translated into 30 languages.
The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters’ Wellington branch has chosen to mark 30 years of its existence with the unusual project.
Organising committee member Ian Cormack, a Maori interpreter, said the treaty was probably unique.
No other indigenous race had been colonised by treaty rather than by conquest, he said.
‘‘They [Maori] are the only one that we know of,’’ he said.
For that reason it was likely to be of widespread interest.
‘‘New Zealand was founded on the treaty and the translation by Henry Williams and his son, overnight,’’ Cormack said.
The treaty was signed the following day at Waitangi on February 6, 1840, but the various versions of the treaty have been contentious ever since.
The society intended to steer clear of politics, sticking to a professionally objective translation of the words, he said.
Among the languages chosen are French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Esperanto.
The translators will work from the approved English translation of the original Maori version.
The project was the brainchild of Spanish interpreter/translator Cecilia Titulaer, who moved to Wellington 20 years ago from Argentina.
She had always planned a Spanish translation of the treaty one day.
‘‘I’ve been working with migrants since I arrived in New Zealand. It’s been on my bucket list, but I hadn’t got around to doing it.’’
The society enthusiastically took up the project and a committee was formed to oversee and co-ordinate the team of voluntary translators.
‘‘We decided we would receive three translations per language, and each translation would be peer reviewed by the people doing the translations,’’ Titulaer said.
It was a purely linguistic project by people who liked working with words, many of who were migrants, she said.