Swahili – English Translation Project

Posted on 16/08/2017
By Commonwealth Foundation
Photo by Wahabi, Soma Book Cafe, Dar Es Salaam, July 2017

Building on the 2014-16 Bangla-English Translation Literary project model, Commonwealth Writers partnered with the E&D Readerships and Development Agency – Soma (Tanzania) and English PEN, to develop a programme to support literary translation skills development and promote contemporary writing in Kiswahili from East Africa.


The programme has taken place in three stages:

1. A five-day workshop focusing on consensus translation and skills development, November 2016.

Read a blog about this workshop by participant Esther Karin Mngodo here.

2. Six-month period of mentoring and translating work for the anthology with translators identified through the above workshop.

3. A five-day workshop critiquing and editing translated texts for anthology, July 2017.

See photos from the July workshop.


The next stage will be to publish the translated texts in a forthcoming anthology.


Kiswahili is a major world language and the lingua franca of East Africa and yet Kiswahili books are rarely translated into English. Kiswahili-language writers struggle to reach a global audience because there is a lack of highly-skilled literary translators.

Kiswahili is one of the languages in which entries for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize are accepted. It is hoped that this project will encourage more Kiswahili writers to enter the prize, and identify potential readers and translators for the prize.