ES / CA / EN

Stories and languages: the seed

16/09/2022 - blog

Although I am not certain of having totally worn out my last pair of iron shoes yet, as I said in my last post written exactly 8 months and a half ago, it seems pretty sure that stories have appeared discreetly again in my new life with a storytelling project which has survived to pandemics and has allowed me to meet again with what I love the most: the art of telling stories.

But before telling you about it, I wanted to set the scene for you talking about )babel 0.1(, a multilingual storytelling laboratory I organized with ANIN in 2017 and which was in a certain way the seed that made sprout my interest for the European project ENSST. I wanted to put here the link to the article I wrote about it, published at Tantagora’s storytelling magazine, but I just noticed that it is not anymore available for web surfers, so I seize the opportunity for rescuing it from the virtual waves as a blog entry… and I will tell you more in the next one. Now I want just to add that it is a pleasure to be here again.

report about )babel( 0.1 project – Susana Tornero – Barcelona, December 2017

How can storytellers share their stories with an audience that who does not know their language? It is possible to make the «translator» disappear? What happens when more than two languages come into play? And more than two storytellers? How can this enrich our artistic work? And how will be this received by an audience from a monolingual, bilingual, multilingual environment…? Do any formulas or recipes exist to be explored or applied to our usual storytelling context? It can be a way of introducing storytelling in new areas? Is multilingual storytelling a world of possibilities, or it is just an utopia?
These questions, and many more, have encouraged )babel( 0.1, a laboratory organized by ANIN (Associació de Narradores i Narradors), with the collaboration of different national and international storytelling associations, a network of people that joined forces and enthusiasm to gather the 24th and 25th November in Barcelona a group of storytellers from different languages and cultures in order to experience with multilingual storytelling, and reflect on that.

On 2016 I went to FEST (Federation of European Storytelling) Conference representing ANIN with a project draft: the )babel( project. The idea was to put on the table the topic of telling in front of an audience with a different language, and to find new ways of making «translation» invisible, by making in part of the artistic work, by means of the collaborative work of a group of storytellers of different languages.
This draft came from the exchange of views within the FEST Team of ANIN, as well as with other members of our association working with different languages.
It also intended to facilitate the participation of ANIN in the European scope, so that linguistic diversity would not be seen as a problem, but as an added value.
In a linguistic context of two or more languages like we are facing here, multilingual storytelling is a valuable resource to be considered. In fact, some storytellers have been working since many years in bilingual duets. Tim Bowley with Casilda Regueiro, and later on with Charo Pita, were the pioneers in our country with their proposal of bilingual storytelling, twenty years ago. Other examples are also Monika Klose and Ignasi Potrony in German/Catalan, or myself with Ignasi Potrony in Catalan/Spanish. Nevertheless, it is true that since now we had not considered that this could be a new form of collaboration with storytellers coming from elsewhere to tell here in their own languages.

At Paris conference I discovered that in France they were also working in this field: members from the French association APAC (Association Professionelle des Artistes Conteurs), conducted a little workshop called «Storytelling and translation» where a group of storytellers from different languages and origins had the opportunity of working in pairs, and we were able to listen to storytelling proposals of amazing quality prepared in a very short time.
After this positive experience, we kept in contact, thinking about how we could go further with this research. We tried to submit )babel( as an European project with different partners. But unfortunately, the access to European grants for associations without any salaried staff who could take care of all paperwork, as in our case, this is a long road full of obstacles. To discover our lack of experience and means was really disappointing.

But this did not make us give up: we decided to begin the project little by little, and to try to encourage others on the way. Therefore we conceived a modest laboratory, within our means. To do so, we invited APAC to provide the spirit of mutual learning that we loved so much at Paris conference (the so-called «Actes Collectifs de l’APAC»), in order to meet on site their savoir faire in this area, through the workshop of storytelling and translation facilitated by A.P.
From our part, ANIN offered a space of experimentation with more than two voices, and we also took the opportunity to seek the complicity of MANO (Asociación Madrileña de Narración Oral) and AEDA (Asociación Profesional de la Narración Oral en España), as for quite some time we wanted to do something together; and we invited their members to join us. And in order to create a space for reflection and discussion about the issue, we invited Charo Pita from AEDA and Brigitte Arnaudies from MANO to participate in the laboratory, to bring their perspectives, along with A.P. and Alícia Fuentes-Calle, from Linguapax, in a round table moderated by ANIN. We also decided to spread the word within the FEST, and to open it to all storytellers interested, both outside and within the federation, in order to embrace as much diversity in languages and storytelling forms as possible. And we waited…

We didn’t had to wait much: the call was sent in September, and at the end of the month we had already covered all places, so we decided to increase the number of participants. And at the end of November the laboratory finally took place. This is the laboratory’s report: many thanks to all participants and all the «)babel( team» from ANIN for enriching it with pictures, notes and reflections. All contributions which aim to supplement and improve the present document will be really welcomed.

the laboratory 0.1
Friday 24th, morning
The laboratory was attended by 17 storytellers from 5 different associations (APAC, The Society for Storytelling, MANO, AEDA and ANIN), as well as some independent storytellers, and they told combining in groups of 2, 3 or 4 storytellers a total of 8 languages: Catalan, English, French, Galician, German, Gun, Italian and Spanish.
After the usual introductions, storytellers made 5 pairs and one group of 3 storytellers, taking into account language diversity. We agreed that the communication languages would be Spanish and French, as all participants understood at least one of these two languages, and all the people who spoke different languages were ready to provide translation in case of understanding problems.
A.P. was in charge of the pairs: she began a warming-up based in physical exercises (breath together, imitate movements, mirror…) with the storytelling pairs. Her proposal aims that one of the storytellers takes the role of «translator» of the other storyteller, trying to include the translation in the storytelling proposal. The proposal also allows to play or interchange the roles, but it has to be clear who is the storyteller and who is the translator.
After warming up and set some ground rules, A.P. asked each pair to go to work on their own with a short story. We specially choose the Pati Llimona Cultural Centre for this laboratory because it is full of quiet spots, so each group could work without being disturbed nor disturb others.
For my part, I was in charge of the group of 3 storytellers. My proposal did not include warming-up, it just pretended to find straight away formulas for 3 storytellers (A, B and C), where A tells in a language that the audience does not understand, B tells in the language of the audience and C tells in a language that the public understands partially.

The idea was to see if A can tell with the help of B and C for an audience that does not understand his/her language, and if it is possible to make disappear the figure of the translator, but in this case, dividing it among different storytellers.

In this proposal we do not find a division of roles storyteller/translator, but a sort of puzzle composed by pieces made by the storytellers, and as they come together, they compose the story so it can be understood by an audience from different languages. So the idea is to connect pieces that enable you to «see» the story. It doesn’t matter if one piece in one language is missing, but it is important to have enough pieces in the audience’s language, so they can follow the story, and enjoy it. We also wanted to see if storytellers felt comfortable with this way of telling, and if they could apply it to their reality.

As a sort of trigger, I prepared a set of 10 cards with different formulas: some of them were formulas I have seen used by other storytellers, some I have tried them on my own, and some I found them reading about multilingual storytelling. The storytellers were allowed to follow them or not, they could change them at ease, add new ones… there were only a starting point, just for entering in «playing mode».

The storytellers choose 4 cards, and as they were working on their own, I kept close to them for guiding them if necessary and to see their work from the outside.

After working 45 minutes with both proposals, we gathered all in the main hall to see what had happened. The works along with some remarks and reflections are detailed below.

Monika Klose (German) + N.L. (French)
Story: The monks and the vow of silence
First there was consecutive storytelling, almost sentence by sentence, because as they later told us, they thought it will be the best way to introduce the story in front of an audience that did not understood German. As the story progressed, translation was not that strict. N.L. gave some brushstrokes of contents: instead of repeating all that Monika said, she tried to choose other words. They played a lot with the similarity in position and gesture. In a story where silence is of central importance, the silence breaks were exponentially intensified by the fact of being two storytellers. In story climax, the translator took briefly the role of storyteller, offering the French part first.
Reflection: shared silences are reinforced.

Sherezade Bardají (Galician) + Patricia McGill (Spanish) + Catherine Favret (French)
Story: Keep well your secrets (extract)
They played very well combining the different formulas they had chosen: first each storyteller added something more than the previous storyteller hadn’t told yet, then they just translated keywords and gestures (for instance, to cut firewood) and this constant changes captured the interest.
It was really a good idea to tell the climax in unison, together, to make this part more dramatic. The proposal allowed to enjoy the different languages and to compare their musicality.
Reflection: the importance of keeping changing the techniques in order to achieve a good rhythm that captures the audience.

Martin Manasse (English) + A.R. (French)
Story: The one wish of the unicorn
They began with short sentences, and then followed longer parts. At one stage they were telling at the same time, playing as if they went out of the story, creating a big complicity. There was chemistry between the two storytellers, in their movements.
Reflection: the importance of matching energies, finding a balance between the energies of both storytellers.

Rosa Pinyol (Catalan) + Brigitte Arnaudies (French)
Story: The 3 daughters with skirts + The queen’s 3 daughters
They proposed two very short rhymed tales, which was a serious challenge. It was really interesting how they played with hands, idioms, sonorities and rhymes between the two languages. A.P. suggested them to add a final touch to the French translation, closing also with a rhyme, as in the rush was difficult to find it, but probably with more time that would be possible: the rest of rhymes and word games were perfect, due to the fact that both languages are very close. The storytellers’ energies were really balanced.
Reflection: try to play with rhymes, if languages allow it.

I.H. (French) + Simone Negrin (Italian)
Story: The blanket for two
While they were telling, they established a sort of play, it seemed they were chatting, even fighting some times, as if they were going out of the story to discuss the plot. There was a lot of complicity, they moved a lot, and they combined very well moments of repeating one sentence to emphasize it, as if they were talking to each other, creating a space for translation, but keeping an eye to the audience. The end should be worked a bit more.
Reflection: conversation is an interesting strategy, but you can’t abuse of it, it may unnecessarily expand the story.

Agnès Agboton (Gun) + Andrea Ortuzar (Spanish)
Story: Hué and Sun (the sun and the moon)
Agnès was telling in Gun, a language from Benin that nobody else knew, and Andrea translated into Spanish. The contrast of both energies was amazing: Agnès told in an introverted way, peaceful, she was standing sideways, letting the centre for Andrea, and Andrea was expansive, telling with bigger gestures, watching first Agnès, then up, then the audience… Afterwards we were talking about that, and somebody told that maybe Andrea was so expansive because the audience depended on her, as nobody else could understand the Gun language: both had agreed little gestures so that Andrea could know in which part of the story they were. T.A. pointed out that Andrea was playing both roles, storyteller and translator, at the same time.
Then Andrea told an anecdote that helped us to understand better what happened: Andrea proposed Agnès an African story she often tells, and coincidentally that story had been collected by Agnès, so they decided to work on it, but Andrea had the story really internalised, and this is why she mixed both roles. A.P. put great emphasis in that both storytellers must look to the audience, insisting that this detail was essential. Nevertheless, it was also commented that in some cultures this is not necessary, and it can even be considered inappropriate.
Reflection: It should be carefully considered from where tells the storyteller, that is, his/her cultural forms of telling, and also for who is telling and with who is telling (considering also the audience with their cultural forms within this «with who»).

T.A. (English and French) + Margarita Borràs (Catalan and Spanish)
Stories: The mirror (English and Catalan) and The patched trousers (Spanish and French)
The play with movements, the change of languages and the overlapping at the end was really interesting and enhanced humour.
A.R. commented that she liked not to understand everything, and specially the fact of having to wait a moment for understanding the joke, while others were already laughing after the Spanish part, and she said that to have a two-stroke audience was an added value.
Here I found appropriate to comment a detail I read on the book Tell the World, from Margaret McLeod, a collection of articles about storytelling in different languages that A.P. recommended me in Paris. Some storytellers from the United States who tell for an audience with Spanish-speakers (Olga Yola or Joe Hayes) sometimes give the information in Spanish before, so that the Spanish-speakers can laugh before and feel they are in first place, for a change. They live surrounded by a language they don’t master, and this fact sometimes makes them feel as second-class citizens. It is a way of giving them more visibility, strengthen their identity, so that they don’t feel behind, and helps to overcome frustration when the fact of not being able to express clearly in the dominant language makes you lose credibility in front of the people, and they don’t see you as an equal.
Reflection: the importance of the end of the story, and the possibility of offering it first to the audience with a minority language, in order to provoke a two-stroke reaction.

After finishing this exchange of impressions, we went to have lunch in cheerful and multilingual  companionship.

Friday 25th, evening
In the evening the storytellers mixed again and formed 3 pairs, 1 group of 3 and 1 group of 4. A.P. asked the pairs to work with longer stories.
Regarding the groups, this time I gave them the cards with formulas so that they could use them at their ease, without establishing them any guideline apart from the basic instructions. Hereafter the works and comments of this second round.

Agnès Agboton (Gun) + T.A. (French and English)
Story: The co-wifes Yao and Yale
A work that really impressed all of us, combining storytelling and singing, with a shared rhythm: T.A. told and sung from the head, and Agnès from the belly. The first one outwards, the second, inwards: her voice was almost a whisper, sometimes we did not hear her with the ears, but through her energy. There was a tone, a sonority and a listening from T.A., who affirmed all that was said by Agnès with a «hm!», remembering not only the African way of telling, but also the style of speaking in many African languages. The whole story was supported by music and rhythm, and there was a lot of tenderness in the listening of T.A., who alternated French and English. At the end, she commented that it had been really a gift for her, and she thanked Agnès for sharing that story with her.
Reflection: attentive listening from the translator amplifies the listening of the story in the unknown language.

Sherezade Bardají (Catalan) + Simone Negrin (Italian)
Story: When penis grew from trees
If in the previous story we could appreciate the play between two storytelling energies in contrast, here we could see two energies that were complementary. Shere painted the streaks and Simone added the colour. At one stage they exchanged roles: Simone was the translator and Shere allowed him to lead the story. From that point they told the story until the end alternating and sharing roles fluently, as if they had told the story many times together.
Afterwards they told us that they stop to work on the story exactly at the point where they exchanged roles: from there on, everything was improvised.
We commented how important was from the storyteller’s side to allow the other to enter into your story, to be able to let it go, to share it and to let things happen, and on the translator’s side, to find the way of moving inside the story with respect. Sherezade also added that the storytelling work in the 3-group with the formula cards in the morning allowed her to propose to Simone different «games», and this helped them in their work. Simone added interesting theatre techniques, especially in the use of space, for instance, the moment where both began to turn around a tree that they draw before us with the pure movement . A.R. commented that in this story was clear that language is not the most important part in our work, because in spite of not knowing none of the two languages used in the story, she had understood the whole story.
Reflection: the importance of giving permission to the other to enter into your story.

A.R. (French) + Rosa Pinyol (Catalan) + Andrea Ortúzar (Spanish) + Margarita Borràs (Catalan)
Story: The old man, the kid and the donkey
The choice of 3 for the multilingual exercises was not by accident: I felt that an odd number would help more to breaking classical translation and to search more unusual alternatives. But as on Friday evening there was more people wanting to work in groups, we had to form a group of 4, where two of the 4 storytellers told in the same language (Catalan).
To tell in 4 voices a formula tale without being too repetitive was almost mission impossible, because it always comes to a point where translation becomes unnecessary.
But the four storytellers were in «playing mode», and there was a lot of complicity. One pro was that the two Catalan storytellers were at the two ends of the group, offering two versions of the same shot. Very attractive theatrical moments, although from A.P.’s point of view, they shouldn’t have to look their colleagues, but only the audience. Ignasi Potrony pointed out that the final onomatopoeia in four voices had a great strength.
Probably with a more deep work they could have got more out of it, or maybe guiding them as I did with the morning group. In fact, they presented a mixture of the two proposals, as there was a lot of storytelling/translation in pairs, and not much about sharing the story between the four. I ask myself if the fact of being 4 instead of 3 could have influenced, but it would be necessary to do more exercises to verify that. An interesting point was to discover how they used the cards: first they experimented things, and then they looked at the cards, to see if there were coincidences with their work.

Martin Manasse (English) + I.H. (Catalan) + N.L. (French)
Story: Son, Money and Patience
This work was also an important challenge for storytellers, and gave us the opportunity to ask ourselves why it was so difficult to follow the story in spite of knowing the languages. It is also true that the characters were really abstract (Money, Patience), and Martin commented afterwards that he didn’t use to give details about Patience on purpose. A.P. said that the role of translator was missing. Catherine commented that more than a translator, she missed someone giving the plot in order to show the audience who they had to follow. T.A. said that this was not necessary, but it was worthwhile to stop and analyze the techniques used.

Then N.L. commented they tried to use all the cards (10 in total) in the story, and probably that had been too much. It was a very useful exercise, because it allowed us to be aware of the limits, and to leave the comfort zone. After this exercise, and also the exercise of 4, it seemed clear that for the work in groups is necessary that someone guides the work from outside, to have perspective, to see how the pieces of the puzzle are put together, and to consider if the audience will be able to follow the story, as I did with the group of 3 in the morning. It also served to verify the success of the method of the group in the morning: better to focus in a few formulas and reinforce them, giving time to the audience to identify them as well as enjoy them. It was not an easy work, and we must thank all storytellers for their enthusiasm and dedication.

Brigitte Arnaudies (French) + Catherine Favret (Spanish)
Story: The invisible boy
The same story from two perspectives: they gave two different views from the story, which was especially attractive. Their proposal led to an interesting debate on different points of view about stage presence, specifically, if it is necessary or not to be «active» when the other is telling. A.P. thought that both storytellers should be «active» all the time. Others saw inactivity as something annoying, but other people considered even helpful for focusing in the storyteller who was telling.
Ignasi Potrony commented that maybe in a proposal of stage or theatrical storytelling, the fact that the other storyteller keeps always «active» is something necessary, but on the other hand, in a storytelling evening this wouldn’t be necessary, or even totally dispensable.
Reflection: the approach of stage presence depends on many factors, therefore there is no single solution.

Saturday 25th, morning
We offered the option whether to deepen more in the exercises of the previous day, or to make new pairs and then to choose some stories to show before and during the evening round table. Everyone choose to keep on experimenting. A.P. suggested to choose stories of very different styles, and to try to play more with position and space.
They formed 6 pairs in total, and their work is detailed below.

Andrea Ortúzar (Spanish) + I.H. (French)
Story: The magic umbrella
A fairy tale adapted to real life. They played a lot with space and with the translator’s position, sometimes turning her back to the public, giving another dimension to the story: it was as seeing the front and the back of the storyteller at the same time. The game of pointing out the character’s way on stage with a common movement was really punchy. Both storytellers used their theatrical resources, and at some points they exchanged roles, achieving the most hilarious moments with some tricks of language exchange.
Reflection: it is worthwhile, if possible, to take profit of your resources for a good use of space.

T.A. (French) + Simone Negrin (Italian)
Story: the recipe’s rap
More than a proposal of storytelling and translation, they offered us a joint creation on the basis of a life story that T.A. tells about collecting stories in a district of Paris, where Simone added a part about cooking recipes, and they created a rap about the different dishes cooked in this district. It was an extraordinary musical experience, that we hope it would be further developed, and it corroborated the fact that the common work between storytellers from different languages, cultures and storytelling backgrounds is a source of inspiration and a powerful creative force.
Reflection: to explore not only the physical space, but also the sound space.

Brigitte Arnaudies (French) + Martin Manasse (English)
Story: Separation of Earth and Sky
In order to tell this Maori myth, the storytellers decided on harmonizing gestures: one’s gestures extend in the other’s gestures, joining hands to symbolize the union of Rangi (the Sky) and Papa (the Earth). Their arms framed the space, which was especially striking in the moment where the Sky and the Earth expanded. Reflection: the importance of being really connected when accompanying gestures and physical contact are at stake.

Rosa Pinyol (Catalan) + A.R. (French)
Story: The Princess Mouse
A.R. proposed to work without knowing the story beforehand, and to try to translate it in spite of not knowing Catalan; so they limited their work in talking a bit about the story and working the body connection. A.R. translated on the fly, following closely Rosa, and moved with her through space. Her attitude was really of being at the service of the storyteller, maybe the most glaring example of the translator’s role. With her attitude, she enhanced even more the way of telling of Rosa, reconfirming her. As she did not know the story, there were some translation’s errors that she incorporated to the telling without problems, and where celebrated by the audience.
Reflection: it is possible to play with errors if they don’t affect much the understanding of the story.
In this exercise the translator’s role was far more complicated, because she had to guess more or less at which point of the story she was, as she didn’t have time for a more exhaustive preparation.  A.P. commented that the translator shouldn’t fall into the trap of imitating the storyteller’s style, tone or gestures, but it can be used occasionally to give emphasis to a certain detail.
Reflection: the importance of silence between storytelling and translation, in order to give space to the shared story.

N.L. (French) + Patricia McGill (Spanish)
Story: Story of Esther
More than a storytelling and a translation, it was a story shared by two. There was a deep connection among them, and they shared the tone of the story with great success, combining an original use of space, walking in circles, like a simple, effective choreography;  concise telling (they almost said the same, with an echo) and finesse in their gestures.
Reflection: the importance of connection and respect  of the story’s tone when transferring it to another language.

Margarita Borràs (Catalan) + Catherine Favret (French)
Story: The most painful thing in the world
We had to interrupt the presentation because it was the closing time of the cultural centre, so there was no time to comment it, but it served to bring the topic about time management, a very important question in single storytelling, and even more important when telling with two or more voices.

Charo Pita, that was invited by ANIN to join the round table, arrived during the presentations, and she could see a bit of our laboratory’s work. I met her, along with Brigitte Arnaudies and A.P., to organize the evening round table. Alícia Fuentes-Calle from Linguapax, who also was our guest, could not come until the evening.

Saturday 25th, evening
multilingual stories + round table
Time went pretty fast, as it took time to decide which stories to present during the round table: there were so many interesting proposals that it was difficult to choose among them, although not all participants were present in the afternoon. We also discussed various interesting topics that we had to leave unfinished for lack of time, which shows somehow the interest of deepening further in this line of work.

Although the diffusion work, and probably due to the special circumstances we are living, apart from the people from the storytelling world, the audience was scarce. We should consider for future laboratories if it would be worthwhile to frame them in an event which already has an audience, or simply to conceive the laboratories without showing the results in front of an audience, as maybe the fact of knowing that there will be a final performance can affect experimental work.

We began with a little sample of stories to give the audience an idea of what was going on, and then I moderated the round table, introducing the origins of the )babel( project from ANIN, as it appears at the beginning of this report, and then I invited to speak A.P., from APAC, who talked us about the workshop «stories and translation» in the frame of the APAC‘s collective acts, and about her search of formulas for telling in minority languages (as from her point of view, apart from English, all the rest are minority languages).

Then Brigitte Arnaudies, from MANO, talked to us about her experience as a storyteller for students of French as a foreign language from a pedagogical perspective, and she also talked about the importance of repetition, gestures, tone of voice and the context of the story; about the great interest in understanding what is told showed by this audience, and about the relationship of confidence and complicity established between storyteller and audience.

It was then the turn of Charo Pita, from AEDA, who thanks to her wide experience as a storyteller/translator, gave us some strokes that in a way they relocated all that we had been experiencing during this two days. She introduced the idea of the audience, the storyteller and the translator as a whole; the importance of the story as the leading role in this context, and she also talked about her experience telling with Tim Bowley, Sophie Heydel and now with Patricia McGill, three different experiences, due to the different styles of this three storytellers.

With Sophie, prevalence of body and movement; with Patricia, calmness and words, and with Tim, with whom she told during many years, they developed such a deep connection that their gestures were almost the same.

Her way of comparing storytelling with music seemed to me especially appropriate, maybe is this that makes multilingual storytelling so attractive, as it offers the possibility of joining different kinds of music in infinite possibilities.

Afterwards talked Alicia Fuentes-Calle, the only guest from our table that was not a storyteller, and she told us that she had greatly enjoyed the stories as an audience. Then she began to establish connections with the world linguistic panorama and with verbal art. She commented that there are about 6.000 endangered languages in the world, and I think this statement had a big impact in many of us.

She also talked about the intimate relationship between languages and spiritual rituals, about the intrinsic spirituality in greetings, about the relationship between language and prayer, about the semiotic of listening, and that in some cultures to pray means to listen…

A language is based on the organization of space, time and relationships between their people: another resemblance with storytelling. And more connections talking about engaged communities and about linguistic anthropology, which deals with speech and singing, also in the field of orality.


We presented more stories, and then the audience’s contributions encouraged interesting reflections, here there are some few examples:

For storytelling and translation it is important the essence of the story, the relationship between storytellers, and the listening.

There is the audience, the story, the storyteller and the translator, which also have to listen to each other.

The translation of a story is a journey to another language (and in Monika Klose’s words, also a journey to another culture).

During the laboratory we mixed so much languages that translation was not more needed, we were not even conscious of which language we were listening to, or even in which language we were talking.

It has to be considered the duration of a story, as it is possible that depending on how translation is approached, time can be doubled. But working on the efficacy of the message, sometimes time can even be shortened.

When telling in two languages, «vibrations» are more intense: resonances and silences. For instance, in the story of the 4 monks, silence was multiplied by the fact of being shared between two storytellers.

The fact of listening two storytellers in two languages telling the same story, each in their own style, with their particular nuances, it also allows the audience to do the same: to tell in the form and with the language in which they want to express themselves.

The basis for multilingual storytelling is collaboration, generosity and the desire of discovering, knowing the others, their stories, their languages, their way of telling.

We could talk and talk, but time was running out, and they asked us to leave the hall a bit before expected, so we had to finish here. And as a warm farewell, ANIN had organized a dinner where all participants were able to say goodbye properly and to continue talking about stories and languages, now already relaxed and satisfied after this two days of intensive work.

In ANIN we are pleased to see the success of )babel( 0.1: to organize such an event was something new for our association, and we have learnt a lot during the process. I think that the present report gives enough proof of the possibilities this project offers. Of course there is still a long road ahead, but it seems there is a great desire of going on.

We hope that this first step has generated enough synergies to make the project grow and multiply. We want to further explore, maybe in a different linguistic environment, such as a monolingual environment, or in another storytelling context, for instance, with a prevalence on traditional storytelling instead of theatrical storytelling. When it will be a )babel( 0.2…?

It seems that in APAC they are already thinking about organizing another laboratory in 2018. On our part, in ANIN there is interest in creating a )babel( working group: there are already proposals of collaboration in the air with local entities engaged with language diversity. Hopefully some institutions will involve in the project to help it to grow in a sustainable way. Some collaborations among the participants have also began to show, which also was one of ANIN‘s objectives: to open the project to everyone and let it fly.

We thank all participants for their enthusiasm and generosity, and we encourage them to keep contact with the )babel(0.1 team in order to share impressions about all the experience, and about their application in their storytelling context.

We also hope that this report will arise interest in other storytellers or storytelling associations and will encourage them to share experiences in the field of multilingual storytelling, because if there is something we don’t have any doubt is that the future lies in cooperation.

some participant’s reflections
Here some reflections sent by some participants on the laboratory )babel( 0.1.

Simone Negrin (MANO)
«El taller me pareció estupendo, y así también lo hemos comentado con Andrea y Brigitte. Me parece, como te comenté la última noche, que fue más allá de la traducción y que se trató de verdadera creación artística con los idiomas como materia prima. Y por la mínima experiencia que he tenido como traductor, me parece lo más acertado para dar al público un espectáculo entretenido. Claro está que supone que la persona “titular” de los cuentos tiene que desprenderse de ellos y de alguna manera sacrificarlos en pos de una nueva puesta en escena. Pero por otra parte, la traducción en sí rompe todos los climas, ritmos y musicalidades que damos a nuestros cuentos, así que me parece una dirección casi obligada. Respecto a la organización del taller, me ha parecido estupenda. La única corrección que haría es la que ya se comentó allí mismo: invitar a l@s participantes a que propongan, trabajen y expongan piezas muy cortas, para poder comentarlas, reelaborarlas y modificarlas en el momento, incluso marcando el tiempo de manera estricta como en el caso de las ponencia. Por lo demás, ¡me encantaría repetir la experiencia!»
[A continuación, Simone nos habla de una experiencia de narración y traducción la semana siguiente al laboratorio con Martin Manasse, en el Libertad 8 de Madrid, donde Martin contó en inglés y Simone Negrin y Elena Pérez en castellano.]
«En cuanto a la experiencia con Martin, fue más bien una corroboración de lo que te acabo de decir, porque se trató más bien de una traducción “clásica” repartida entre Elena y yo. Las dificultades mayores fueron la falta de tiempo para poder montar algo diferente, el hecho de que Martin no entendía prácticamente nada de lo que nosotros decíamos en español (que hacía que cualquier guiño o juego pudiese parecer una burla hacia él), y su propia propuesta, que iba encaminada a lo que al final fue, es decir, una traducción tradicional. Habiéndole escuchado por la mañana en casa, yo lo hubiera dejado actuar sin traducción la verdad, ¡era mucho más bonito!»

[Notas sobre el laboratorio )babel( 0.1 de APAC]
«17 participants, 10 pays représentés, 8 langues, français, arabe, gun (du Bénin), galicien, catalan, espagnol, anglais, allemand. Nous avons travaillé par groupes de deux, trois ou quatre conteuses. Nous avons travaillé dans un premier temps à effacer les rôles entre narratrices  et traductrice, pour arriver à un travail artistique incluant la traduction. Nous avons ensuite présenté les travaux au reste du groupe qui a fait des retours. Nous avons terminé par une table ronde ouverte au public du centre d’animation Pati Llimona qui nous accueillait. La bienveillance de tous et tous les participants, dans l’esprit des Actes Collectifs de l’APAC,  a permis aux expérimentateurs de laisser libre cours à l’exploration et des propositions très différentes ont ainsi été présentées. Nous avons questionné la position de la conteuse et celle de la traductrice, rôles clairement distribuées ou glissement de l’un à l’autre, frontière invisible. Nous avons exploré les options de jeu, comment garder l’attention du public sans perdre l’esprit et essence du conte.
Lors des premiers AC « conte et traduction » il est apparu que l’option traducteur neutre traduisant phrase par phrase est très ennuyante pour le spectateur.
Mais attention, l’histoire doit être respectée ( à moins de faire le choix de raconter deux versions de la même histoire, ou la même histoire sous des points de vues différents). Dans tous les cas il faut nous pouvons facilement faire des propositions qui rendraient la compréhension  difficile. Nous avons travaillé des contes merveilleux, facétieux, randonnées, mythes… parce qu’il apparaît évident que la forme choisie et le jeu de traduction sont fonction du genre de conte et du style de la narratrice. La traductrice doit être fidèle au conte et au parti pris de narration du conteur. La traductrice est au service de la conteuse et de son spectacle. Nous avons travaillé le rythme, faire le choix du contraste ou même rythme conteuse/traductrice?
Le contre-masque est toujours efficace pour un effet comique. Deux énergies identiques donnent plus de poésie. Nous avons travaillé l’expression corporelle, la possession et l’occupation de l’espace. Les corps parlent et traduisent aussi pour faire comprendre au public. Nous avons vu comment la « chorégraphie » des déplacements peuvent nourrir l’histoire plutôt que d’enfermer l’imaginaire du public, il ne s’agit donc pas de mimer ou de répéter par le geste ou le déplacement ce qui est déjà dit. Nous avons travaillé en groupes de deux ou trois et nous est apparue la différence entre raconter la même histoire à plusieurs et en plusieurs langues et une histoire traduite par un autre narrateur, dans ce dernier cas le traducteur est au service de la narratrice. Pour arriver à une symbiose narratrice/traductrice, l’écoute est primordiale. L  n’improvisation, la réactivité, la créativité en découlent.
Nous avons remarqué que l’écoute entre le conteur et le traducteur amplifie l’écoute du public.»

Andrea Ortuzar (MANO)
«El taller en el que participamos me ha encantado, todo lo que se ha creado y compartido en ese fin de semana en Barcelona fue muy rico. A diferencia de la experiencia que tuve de contar en una ONG, aquí en Madrid, era traducción pura y creo que era algo más formal. Yo he estado dándole vueltas, pensando en cómo se podría llevar a cabo lo aprendido con los emigrantes. Y pensé que sería una herramienta muy buena para compartir y concienciar, aunque no sé si esto que te comento suene raro.
A mí me gustaría poder utilizar esta herramienta en los colegios, para tratar temas sobre la emigración, el racismo y también hablar el tema de los refugiados. Me gustaría poder llevar gente que cuente en su lengua, algún cuento de su tierra y que otra persona pueda traducirlo y después hablar acerca de la experiencia de esta persona, sin intermediarios, de forma directa, para que el curso entero pueda tomar conciencia de lo que es emigrar.
Esto es lo que me gustaría poder trabajar, creo que primero habría que trabajar con los emigrantes, hacer un taller para trabajar distintas áreas: lo corporal, la voz, hacer juegos, hasta llegar a contar en dos lenguas, preparar una historia entre dos compañeros, así como lo hemos hecho nosotros. Me gustaría llevarlo por ese lado. Espero estas reflexiones sirvan. Un abrazo Susana.»

Martin Manasse (Society of Storytelling)
«The primary purpose of the Barcelona visit was to attend a two-day event entitled “Babel” and described as a laboratory to explore multi-language storytelling. This was the brainchild of two organisations, ANIN and APAC from France. Some sixteen participants from various countries worked in twos and threes exploring stories in more than one language, predominantly Spanish, Catalan and French. There was a smattering of German and some English from me plus an African language from a storyteller from Benin. It was amazingly refreshing to be involved in an international event where English was not the leading language. We had a wonderful time, learned a lot, discovered to nobody’s surprise that working in threes was exponentially more difficult than work in twos and before we broke up there was already talk of the possibility to run another “Babel” in another country in the future. The final session was a public event in which we performed some of our work and there was a “round table” discussion involving members of our group, other visiting tellers and a researcher in two languages as well as the audience. Particular thanks to the founders and animators of the event, A.P. from APAC and Susana Tornero from ANIN

Narrar en tándem, Tim Bowley (article), AEDA’s newsletter, March 2017
Team up! Tell in Tandem!, Jonatha Hammer Wright, Presto & Us Storytelling Publications 2010
Tell The World – Storytelling Accross Language Barriers, Margaret Read MacDonald, Libraries Unlimited, 2008
The origin of language, Merrit Ruhlen, John Wiley & Sons, 1994
Multilingualism – Understanding linguistic diversity, John Edwards, Routledge, 1994

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.