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‘To be or not to be’ in 23 languages

Today we are publishing a very special video on the occasion of the European Day of Languages.

Mareike Doleschal

The European Day of Languages has been celebrated since 2001 through activities such as radio programmes, festivals, language classes and activities for children. The aims of the EDL are to increase intercultural understanding, encourage language learning and to promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe. As the editor of the Translating Shakespeare blog series I feel that the aims of the EDL very much reflect that of the series so I decided to mark this occasion by asking colleagues at the Trust and at an international library conference in Frankfurt if they might contribute a reading of Shakespeare’s most iconic speech in a range of European languages.

This trailer features the first line from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy – to be or not to be, that is the question – in 23 languages. Individual videos of the full speech in a range of languages can be viewed on our youtube channel [see links at bottom of this blog]. 

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all Trust staff who helped me in many different ways with putting together the collection of filmed readings. Special thanks go to the Trust linguists and our external contributors - without your language skills this would have never happened. Thank you to our talented photographer Andrew Thomas for taking great photographs of our books that accompany our blogs in the Translating Shakespeare series. In his spare time Andrew also researched and wrote a blog about our French translations uncovering previously unknown facts about the books’ provenance.

Special thanks to our many external contributors who have enriched our trailer with their languages. We have been sent videos from Latvia, Estonia, Norway, Holland, Finland, Lithuania, Russia, Ireland, Iceland, Portugal and Germany. Thank you to Kristel Palk, librarian at Tallinn Central Library in Estonia, who put me in touch with many contributors including those from Lithuania, Russia, Latvia, Iceland and Finland. I feel very touched by all the time and effort everyone has put into creating these videos – thank you for making this such an enjoyable project! 

I would like to thank my colleague, the digitally talented and creative Nicky Hand,  for coming up with the great idea of creating a trailer and all her excellent editing work.

This project is a work in progress - as you will see, there are many languages still missing and I am determined to expand our collection of filmed readings. If you know someone who might be interested in getting involved and who can fill a gap in our collection of filmed readings, please let me know.

I hope the videos will inspire you to learn a new language. This project has introduced me to translators, writers and libraries that I have previously not been aware of; it has made me want to go on a tour of European libraries and has deepened my love of foreign languages. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to learn all languages featured in our trailer! So, like Hamlet, I face a dilemma but mine is definitely the more pleasant one: which language will I be learning next – that is the question!

“Paldies  -  Aitäh – Diolch – Obrigado - Takk skal du ha - Dank je – Tak – Grazie – Merci – Kiitos - Dziękuję  - Ευχαριστώ – Danke – Köszönöm - Go raibh maith agat – Ačiū – Gracias - Mulțumesc - Tack själv – спасибо - Merci vilmal  -  Շնորհակալություն - Thank you”

List of readers:

Hamlet translations group photo
Hamlet translations held in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library

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