Interview with translator Ramya Satheesh

Many of the contemporary Tamil picture books that we’ve come to love today by publishers like Tulika or Pratham were originally written in English and then translated into Tamil.  The people we need to thank for that are the translators! It’s not easy getting the flow and nuances right, but they work through the texts to bring some beautiful stories to us that we’re able to enjoy with our children. Today we have with us translator Ramya Satheesh, sharing with us her experiences.

Tell us about what it’s like being a translator. What does your work entail?

Translation is a very tricky Job. We need to stay true to the original.  The challenge lies in conveying the content and expression of the original without compromises. I thoroughly enjoy the exercise. In a way I am fortunate since Tamil has rich vocabulary that makes the job little easier.  My work entails translation of content from English to Tamil.

Do translators need to be well read in the genres they translate for?

I would definitely think so. It is possible to bring out the correct flavour of the original script only when we have an in depth understanding of the genre. The appreciation for the genre surely helps in usage of appropriate expressions.

Translations vs original Tamil works: Many of the contemporary stories we see being published today were originally written in a different language and then translated into Tamil. Do you feel there is a lack of original Tamil content being published for children?

We have been story tellers for thousands of years! I don’t think there is a lack of original Tamil content. But I do believe, there is an issue in terms of our ability to present the stories appropriately packaged for children. The west is really at good that! Regarding, different language stories being translated into Tamil, I see it as a healthy exercise. We are throwing open the doors of different countries and cultures. I still remember! The first ever novel that I read was a translation and how much I could relate to the country where the novel was set when I happened to travel to the country much later in my life.

In your view, is there a market for original Tamil children’s literature? Why do you feel more authors are not coming forward?

Yes. There is a market for Original Tamil Literature. The growing number of Tamil literature magazine /book stalls and the footfall in such stalls in Chennai Book Fair makes me believe the same. One of the reasons for authors not coming forward to write could be because of the fact that it is difficult to make a living out of literature writing. Piracy and Plagiarism do not help the cause.

What are your thoughts on the general state of Tamil children’s literature today? Has it progressed over the last 5 years? What is missing?

Compared to the previous decade, I think there is a lot more potential for Tamil Childrens literature. There are many children’s publications. The reach of these publications remains questionable though. Also there is a gap in terms of availability of appropriate content for specific age groups. For eg , there is a dearth of material for Pre- Teens. The medium of availability of the literature is also a constraint.

What new developments do you hope to see in Tamil children’s literature in the next few years?

It will be great to see lot more new books in Tamil for kids from many authors from different walks of life.  Hoping to see publications of different genres at affordable prices that will entice more population ,even the non-Tamil Speakers ?

Comments (0)


Super idea! We need people like you for our children to learn Tamil and our culture. Well done Ramya Satheesh. Congrats !
Dr. Muthu Jayaraman


Good Ramya ..well spoken…
Best wishes for many more translations…


Very well said Ramya. Nothing better than getting children to read especially in their mother tongue. All the Best.

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