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Maori translations make history

8 March 2004

Maori translations make history with
international book publisher

Maori will join the 17 languages that international publishing house Dorling Kindersley (DK) produce when seven fully translated titles are launched on March 9.

The books are the first ever DK titles to be translated entirely into Maori.

“I was contacted by the head of the Maori language unit in the Ministry of Education in 2000. They expressed an interest in the translation of selected DK titles to provide high quality early learning and primary school material,” says Penguin Group NZ Managing Director, Tony Harkins.

In 2002 Penguin teamed up with KCSM Consultancy Solutions Ltd, who provide consultancy services to support Maori development, and successfully obtained a contract to select, translate and produce seven DK titles in the Maori language.

Penguin Group NZ Project Editor Alison Brook says “It was a great project to work on because we had a lot of feedback that although there are some preschool titles published in Maori there weren’t many books for older children or adults trying to learn the language.”

However a few challenges now faced Alison, KCSM and typesetters Egan-Reid, including the fact that a passage of translated text in Maori is 25 percent bigger than the same passage in English.

Some of the words used in the DK books selected did not even exist in Maori.

“DK prints the text of its books in such a way that foreign language changes can be made to the black plate and be dropped on top of the photographs prior to print runs,” says Ms Brook.

”This makes exchanging the English text for foreign text speedier and more economical,” she says.

However depending on the interpretation and translation of the Maori words, some of it simply didn’t fit in the spaces provided.


The text was translated two or three times for maximum efficiency of space while still maintaining the integrity of the original Maori text.

Once the production process was completed, the books joined international print runs of translated DK books in China, where the same titles were being printed in Taiwanese, Chinese and Indian.

“Being able to join these large print runs made producing the books significantly cheaper than it would have been, and therefore viable for Penguin,” says Ms Brook.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the final product because DK produce books of very high quality, the titles are carefully researched and are on subjects of universal appeal such as Frogs, Space and the Human Body,” she says.

50 percent of the stock will be distributed by Penguin on behalf of the Ministry of Education, while a further 25 percent has been set aside for the Books in Homes and Kids in Homes schemes.


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