'The Little Prince' gets two editions in Chabacano

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 19) — The French literary classic "The Little Prince" now has not one, but two translations in Chavacano -- the Spanish creole language based primarily in Zamboanga City.

"El Principe Niño" is translated by Robin Atilano De Los Reyes, who chairs the Languages Department at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. This edition comes from the Germany-based publisher Edition Tintenfass, and is the 94th translation from the company.


De Los Reyes, who noted that the orthography of Chabacano had "yet to be standardized," took five months to translate the book. He drew from dictionaries by Bernardino Camins and Rolando Santos, and when spellings differed, he turned to their origin. He used Spanish, Tagalog and Cebuano spellings for words that came from those languages.

"It was challenging, but it was my desire to contribute to the preservation of Chabacano that sustained my energy to finish it," said De Los Reyes.

The professor said he wants to contribute to a larger archive of the language for scholars, and help preserve Chabacano for future generations.

"This is important because Chabacano is taught in schools... yet teachers do not have adequate resources to go by their teaching," he added.

"For Chabacano readers, [my hope is they will] appreciate the beauty of the language and... encourage them to use the language in other projects."

The second translation of the literary classic, "El Diutay Principe," was self-published by Chabacano enthusiast Jerome Herrera. Hailing from Zamboanga, Herrera is a former bilingual customer service representative, working in Spanish for a multi-national company in Metro Manila. He founded the blog Bien Chabacano, which chronicles Herrera's journey of discovering the language of his hometown.


Herrera used the Chabacano orthography recommended by the Zamboanga City government. He took a more traditional approach to translation when the text was figurative, but tried to sound natural for the rest of the text.

"I hope that the book will serve as a preeminent piece of Chabacano literature and will help Chabacano evolve into a standardized written language in the future," said Herrera.

He said he also invested in the production of the book, because he wanted to show Chabacano readers that it was "not a third class language."

"Often, Chabacano speakers themselves feel that their language is inferior to Filipino or to English and I think that this is primarily because most works in those languages are generally of better quality compared to the ones in Chabacano," he said.

Originally titled "Le Petit Prince," the 1943 novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is one of the most popular literary works in the world. It chronicles the adventures of a boy known only as the Little Prince, as told to an aviator who crashed in the Sahara Desert. It also has a translation in Filipino, "Ang Munting Prinsipe."

Floraime Pantaleta, an instructor at the Western Mindanao State University, has not yet read the two renditions of "The Little Prince" -- but she says the efforts are a big step towards making the language more visible. Pantaleta is a budding Chabacano translator herself, most prominently having translated "Amina y el Ciudad del Maga Flores (Amina and the City of Flowers" by Christina Newhard, a children's book about a young Yakan weaver.

Pantaleta stressed that translation is more about evoking culture and experience, not just words. She said translations must work within "the realities of these languages, and not just to work in remembrance of [them]."

"These two editions of [The Little Prince] is indication that we all think of Chabacano, no matter how far away from Zamboanga we go," said Pantaleta.

"I would like to think that these regional efforts in translating English into our native tongues all contribute slowly but productively to the revitalization of our mother tongues-coming home, as I would think of it, to our languages," she added.