The Scottish Network of the Institute of Translation & Interpreting

Spring 2021 | Translating Children’s Literature

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Saturday, 20 March 2021 09:30 - 13:00
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In the first public event of our 2021 programme, we will look at the interesting world of children’s literature in translation.

From 9.30am to 1pm on Saturday, 20 March, the ITI Scottish Network will open its virtual doors and welcome delegates to hear and watch presentations from Gemma Alonso and Guy Puzey, two experts in translating children’s literature. Registration will be opened to Scottish Network members from 12 February 2021 and to the general public from 15 February. There will be no charge for this meeting,


9.30am – Foregather

ITI Scottish Network Convenor Lynda Hepburn will open the meeting and invite participants to catch up over tea or coffee while they get settled and comfortable for the morning’s presentations.


The translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was commissioned for the 150th anniversary of its publication, was one of the jobs Gemma Alonso most enjoyed in her career as a children’s book translator.

Carroll’s playful text presented many difficulties – the nonsensical parody of Victorian nursery rhymes, the puns, the absurd characters and a constant distortion of meaning. The author himself had strong reservations about the linguistic and cultural challenges that his book offered and deemed it almost ‘untranslatable’.

Gemma will be sharing her experience of translating this ‘untranslatable’ and hugely enjoyable novel – the general strategies she adopted, a few examples of decisions she made, and a chance to give participants in our session a taste of translating Victorian nonsense into their own languages (if this is not something they habitually do for fun).

11.15am – Refreshment break, break-out rooms available for socialising in smaller groups


The emotive power of language, and the different ways in which this power is employed from one language to another, frequently present translators with considerable challenges. Some words are charged with such strong emotive power that they may be seen as obscene or profane, and may constitute taboos in their own right.

This practice-based talk by Guy Puzey will consider such cultural and historical perspectives on swearing and obscenity in society and in literature, with examples from both side of the North Sea, and including cross-cultural reflections on idiolect. The presentation will then focus on specific challenges of translating (pseudo-)profane language from Norwegian into English.

Principal examples will be drawn from personal experience translating three children’s books by Maria Parr, who is well known for her creative and idiosyncratic use of language. In addition to covering approaches taken when translating into English, a selection of strategies used by translators working with other languages will also be shown. As can reasonably be expected, this talk will contain language that some may find offensive (depending on their sociocultural and linguistic background).

1.00pm – End


Gemma Alonso

English to Spanish translator and aspiring illustrator Gemma Alonso has split her adult life between the sunny port of Cadiz, where she was born, and the beautiful city of Edinburgh, where she had her two children. Having worked for over twenty years as a freelance translator for clients such as VisitScotland, the UK Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign Office, in fields including tourism, advertising, law and children´s books, Gemma has now focused her practice on the latter.

She translates all sorts of texts, from bedside stories in rhyme to guides on how to become an astronaut, from ‘lift-the-flap’ books about the Romans to classical ballets in ‘pop-up’ format with music, mostly for Usborne Publishing, her main client. Gemma is planning to combine her current work in translation with writing and illustrating picture books and when she’s not translating, she spends a lot of time drawing and painting.

Guy Puzey

Guy Puzey is Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies and Deputy Head of European Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. He grew up in the Highlands of Scotland, just a short swim from Norway, and he has translated work by a wide range of authors, especially from Nynorsk, the lesser-used of the two official written standards of Norwegian.

He was shortlisted for the 2015 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for Waffle Hearts, his translation of Maria Parr’s debut novel Vaffelhjarte, and he has since translated the author’s other two children’s novels to date, Tonje Glimmerdal (Astrid the Unstoppable) and Keeperen og havet (Lena, the Sea and Me), as well as several of her short stories.


This meeting will be held on Zoom and participants will be required to register in advance. Register directly with Zoom at

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