SM East students translating children’s books to French for Haitian kids

SM East students work on translating children's books into French
Molly Gasperi (left) and Janet Fields work on translating children’s books into French at SM East

SM East French Honor Society head Laure Losey is constantly looking for ways to help students connect their classroom study with real-world experiences.

So when one of her French Honor Society students suggested the group take on a literacy project for children in Haiti, Losey was listening.

SM East senior Pauline Werner asked Losey if the French Honor Society could translate children’s books into French for Haitian children.

Werner came up with the idea after hearing about a similar activity at Academie Lafayette, a K-8 French Language Immersion school, where her mom teaches.

“It’s a pretty simple thing we can do that should hopefully make a big difference,” Werner said.

Losey invited a teacher from Academie Lafayette to speak to honor society students and tell them about several trips she’s made to the country. The teacher explained that there is a shortage of books at several schools. Losey said her East students immediately wanted to help.

“They all came with books of their own and books that they bought,” she said.

Originally the plan was to tape over the English words with the French translation. But students and Losey had another idea.

“We left the English there and put the French under it or on the same page,” Losey said. “That way if those kids want to learn English then they have the book in English as well.”

The students translated the work on a piece of paper and left it with Losey to correct. She also recruited Werner and a foreign exchange student from Belgium to help with the process. Once corrections were made, then students copied the translation directly into the book.

“I think it really gave me a solid way to use my French in a way that would help people,” Werner said.

She thinks other students also broadened their understanding of how their classroom academics can be used well beyond their time at East.

“It might not be just a trip to Paris,” she said.