Treaty of Waitangi to be published in 30 languages

New Zealand's historic founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, is to be published into 30 different languages including two from the Pacific.

Both the Māori and English versions of the treaty have been translated into the 30 languages and also New Zealand's sign language by the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters.

The translations will be published in a book called Treaty Times Thirty and gifted to the New Zealand public at the end of this month.

The project's spokesperson, Stefan Grand-Meyer said the project celebrated the society in its 30th year and involved nearly 150 translators and reviewers who worked on the translations.

"For one language to qualify, we needed to receive a contribution by a minimum of three translators who would agree then to work together collaboratively to come up with the best translation possible."

Mr Grand-Meyer explained the reasons behind translating both the Māori text of Te Tiriti O Waitangi and the English text of the Treaty was to help other cultures understand the differences in meaning between the two texts.

Because of the difficulty in finding translators who could translate directly from Māori into another language, the modern English rendition of the Tiriti O Waitangi by Sir Hugh Kawahru was used as a source document for the Māori text.

"So we translated both the Treaty and Te Tiriti via the English modern rendition but to show the differences between the two. And there are key differences and this comes across through the translations. It's quite striking."

In order to avoid further differences in other translations, translators were well supported with resources and were given collaborative tools including a forum where they could share any questions or ideas they had.

"We consulted with Dame Claudia Orange who is an expert in treaty matters and we also had the support of two Treaty Educational organisations, Tangata Tirit and the Waitangi Network Otautahi," Mr Grand-Meyer said.

"They developed resources for our translators to better understand the Māori version and we have a number of layers for quality assurance in making sure that the meaning that is expressed is a true reflection of the source document."

While translations of the Māori and English versions of the treaty have already been published in Samoan, Tongan, Niuean and Tuvaluan, the Treaty Times Thirty project has added two other Pacific translations in Bislama and Fijian.

Mr Grand-Meyer said the aim of the book was to make the treaty more accessible to immigrants and encourage a better understanding of it internationally.

"New Zealand is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of Ethnicities and Languages. It's very difficult to really be a part of and to participate in society if you're not aware of our history," said Mr Grand-Meyer

"So I'm really excited that we managed to produce these translations because I see this as a fundamental way of involving and including people in New Zealand and New Zealand history."

The New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters will present the book to the Governor General at a reception at Government House towards the end of February.


Photo: Supplied/ Treaty Times Thirty project (A group of Chinese translators discussing translation choices at the 2016 annual NZSTI conference).