All posts by Christian Griffiths

Recipe: Korean pancakes!

(In Korean and English)

By Baek Jong-won. Translated by Yoon-hwa Choi and Laura Donea.

A great little collaborative translation session between our stars Yuna and Laura. A scant 30 minutes collaborating with tasty results! Stay tuned for more intercultural cuisine.


감자 작은거 6개
식용유 약간
홍고추 1개
소금 약간

1. 먼저 감자는 깨끗이 씻어서 믹서기에 갈아주세요. 갈으실때 물을 조금씩 섞어가면서 해주세요.

2. 다 갈리면 체에 걸러주세요.

3. 거른 물은 버리지 마시고 15분동안 방치! 그러면 녹말만 가라앉고 물은 따라 버리세요.

4. 이 녹말을 감자와 함께 섞으세요.

5. 소금으로 간을 살짝 해주세요. 홍고추는 어슷썰기를 해서 고명으로 올릴거에요.

6. 이제 후라이팬에 기름을 조금두르고(많이 두르면 오히려 뒤집기 힘들어요.) 가장자리부터 포슬포슬한 느낌이 나면 기름을 조금더 추가!

7. 이제 후라이팬을 살살 돌리면 떨어짐이 느껴지시면 뒤집으시면 되요.

8. 감자전 완성이랍니다~


6 small potatoes
a little bit of oil – any
1 spicy red pepper
a little bit of salt

1. Firstly, wash the potatoes and then blend the potatoes. While blending, keep adding water to the potatoes.

2. When finished blending, strain the potatoes.

3. Do not throw away the strained water, leave it for 15 minutes! The starch will sink to the bottom of the bowl and then you can remove the water so that the starch can be used.

4. Mix the starch with the potatoes.

5. Season the potatoes with a little bit of salt. Sliced the red pepper and garnish the potato pancake.

6. Now, put a little bit of oil in the pan (if you put a lot of oil, it’s hard to flip the pancake). If the edge of the pancake feels crispy, lift the pancake with the spatula and add more oil under the pancake.

7. When the pancake no longer sticks to the pan, flip it.

8. The potato pancakes are completed~

View the original recipe here:

The Infantilisation of Language-Learner Identity

By Christian Griffiths for TransCollaborate.

In a recent post, Julien Leyre wrote about some of the specific challenges that face language learners, especially in the context of migration. Foremost among these is the challenge of “incorporating the new language to your identity, and enacting a persona consistent with your own in the new medium.” Rediscovering a persona in the structures of a new language may be difficult enough, but in some ways the traditional structures of language education make it harder.

Leyre also observes that, when learning a new language …” your adult self [is] trapped in the linguistic body of a 2 year old”. One consequence of this is a tendency towards infantalisation in the ESL classroom, where learners are structurally disadvantaged in the transaction of knowledge sought (by the learner) and knowledge possessed (by the instructor). This disadvantage can become rooted in the learner’s emerging identity, and pose a genuine obstacle to their developing a mature, newly-integrated self. Collaborative translation has the capacity to disrupt this trend. 

In a 2019 series of TransCollaborate workshops, Mandarin speakers collaborated with their native-English instructor to translate short prose texts from Mandarin into English. The instructor had no previous experience of Mandarin, and so the learners were suddenly the ones who possessed the required knowledge – and the instructor who lacked it. What was observed in these workshops was that the learners started exhibiting signs of ownership and authority that had been absent in their earlier classroom interactions. It is clear that bringing their own linguistic and cultural knowledge into the learning space provides learners with an opportunity to shift some of their own adult personas into their developing L2 identity.

A TransCollaborate workshop, Wheeler Centre, 2019

TransCollaborate’s recent VicHealth project has witnessed how this process of learner empowerment can be further supported through engagement with local and national literatures. In our Romanian workshops, for example, we have noticed that a great deal of enthusiasm has arisen when participants have worked with texts by Romanian writers such as Vasile Baghiu, Cosmin Perta and Diana Badica, and have bonded over this connection with their shared culture. In addition, by delivering this literature to a new readership in English, the participants are undertaking the important work of representing their home culture in a new social context. These outcomes represent significant gains for participants whose identities may have struggled to mature in the context of their new language and new home.  

TransCollaborate at the Toowoomba Languages and Cultures Festival!

On May 30th, our newest committee member, Angus Moffat, helmed TransCollaborate’s stall at the 15th Toowoomba Languages and Cultures Festival at Queensland City’s Queens Park. As usual, our stall attracted a high quality of attention from among the 6000 local attendees. Even the Festival founder and organising chair, Gitie House OAM, and The Hon Leanne Linard MP, the Queensland Minister for Multicultural Affairs, dropped by to say hello!

15th Toowoomba Languages and Cultures Festival.
The Hon Leanne Linard and Gitie House OAM, centre.

If past experience is anything to go by, we should expect some operations to start springing up in Queensland in the near future.

The Toowoomba International Multicultural Society (TIMS) and the Modern Languages Teachers’ Association of Queensland devised the festival as a celebration of Toowoomba’s growing migrant and refugee population.

The festival unites more than 100 community groups, service organisations, businesses and partners to support and encourage a sense of belonging and community harmony.

Toowoomba is a Refugee Welcome Zone and in recent years has accepted more refugees than Brisbane, including several hundred Yazidis (also referred to as Ezidi, who have been resettled from parts of Syria and Iraq, with the assistance of Multicultural Australia).

“Unwritten poetry”: an interview with Vasile Baghiu

By TransCollaborate, June 2021

What is unique or characteristic about Romanian literature/poetry?

Vasile Baghiu

Well, it’s not easy to clarify the identity elements of any “national” literature. Obviously, the first characteristic of Romanian literature/poetry is the Romanian language. This is important, I think, because all languages are unique, and Romanian is no exception. Our poetry is infused with local themes, and it breathes a ”Romanian air”, but from time to time Romanian literature goes beyond the borders and attracts the world’s attention, as was with the case of avant-garde experiments, including Dadaism, or with the international validation of some writers (Cioran, Ionesco, Eliade) who emigrated to the West after the Second World War. More recently, during the last 20 years, some Romanian writers have been translated and have ended up achieving a certain level of validation through Europe.

The internet and all the new possibilities of communication support the visibility of Romanian literature/poetry as an important piece in the European puzzle. I think that, despite its local flavor, recent Romanian literature/poetry of today is more synchronized with what is written everywhere else, because many Romanian writers have travelled much more than they could in the communist era. They’ve made contact with other writers from all over the world, and they’ve also obtained access to international bibliographical resources. So, even though it illustrates the turmoils, frustrations and pains of a society borne out of a dictatorship, Romanian literature/poetry is somehow alive and authentic, and has that universal potential that’s already produced a deserving echo beyond Romanian readers.

The improved profile of Romanian literature and poetry throughout the world hasn’t just come from institutional/official initiatives; I think it’s also come through all the interpersonal connections that writers themselves can make with the literary milieus of other cultural spaces. In the excellent book Romanian Literature as World Literature (Bloomsbury 2018), it’s argued that “small” literatures are “parts and details of the general landscape”, and they deserve the same attention as “central” literatures. Each local literature is a “world literature”, and belongs to the world.

When did you first become interested in poetry?

The first attraction was during high school. I was rather a sad teenager, too serious and melancholy, with thousands of questions in my head. I studied at a nursing high-school, so I witnessed a great deal of suffering early in life by caring for ill people in the hospital practice. it was inevitable that I’d look for answers and meanings. We were also in the middle of a dictatorship that heavily censored the media, so the most accessible tools for finding answers were books.

That was the way I started to read poets in the public library – in excellent translations and in bilingual editions – belonging to other cultural spaces, all the amazing poets that I hadn’t heard of at school.

I felt that poetry displayed a diversity of forms and styles that brought to my eyes something fascinating and difficult to define, something that was very much related to the essence of life, that I had not seen in other fields of knowledge, or even in other arts. It fed the emotional parts of my life, which I was always looking for at that time.

That strange feeling that poetry contained subtle truths about life, which in most cases contradicted the official slogans, made me continue the feverish exploration, and even motivated me to write my first poems. I started to say in poetry what I felt I could not say by any other means. And of course my first lines were in accordance with my sad mood, sentiments like,

All the trees have blossomed at the dissection room’s window.

What attracts you to poetry today?

Today I am still attracted to poetry, both reading it and writing it, but I’m especially attracted to what I like to call poezie trăită (“lived” or “unwritten” poetry). That is, writing about current lived experiences. To give an example, I like to write poems from the perspective of a traveler, so I also like to travel properly and to live the traveling mood. I feel that any poetry can give life a special meaning, but “lived poetry” has such an intensity that it’s able to multiply the real experience of life. This is among the most precious gifts that life can offer to a human being. Therefore, what draws me to poetry today is mainly the chance to live poetically, which is actually the chance to live as a human.

In recent years, your poetry has been translated into English. How do you feel about this, and what do these translations add to or take away from the originals?

I am fortunate that my poetry has aroused the interest of an excellent translator like Cristina Savin in recent years (see links below), and her translations of my poetry have been published by English language journals, in Australia and elsewhere, including attention from TransCollaborate, which honors me.

It’s an opportunity that not many poets have – believe me, I know. During the past few years, in my attempts to go out into the world, I had to do self-translations. So I managed, on my own, the feat of publishing in some journals in the USA and in the UK, as well as getting some literary residencies in Europe, but now I think that these new translations, in contrast, look more professional, and they are very encouraging for me.

The translations make me think that the poetry I write is actually addressed to people from everywhere, not necessarily to Romanian readers only, and that is a great feeling. In addition, I could say that the translations have influenced my writing. They often change my perspective while writing, and the poems acquire new nuances that enrich them. The poetic substance is not “lost in translation”, as they say, and I find this illustrates the idea that poetry is not first a matter of language, but rather one of the capacity to see life.

Since 2019, some of your poems have been collaboratively translated into English, including several versions of your “pandemic” poem Ecuaţie Cu Multe Necunoscute (“Equation with many variables”) What do you see as the main value of collaborative translations? Do you feel they are “accurate” translations? Do you feel that they “serve” the original?

I would say that simple acts of socialization and communication over poetry are very important for the participants in collaborative translation. The communication I’ve witnessed is highly qualitative, because there are two types of experiences that are mixed: that of poetry being translated, and that of people – poets, translators, scholars, people from non-literary professions, people belonging to different cultural spaces – having the opportunity to learn about each other, to share ideas, variants, alternatives and to explore together a special universe, not to mention sharing humor, which sparkles all the time. And the result, the creation of new (sometimes multiple) versions of the poems/stories in another language, is quite a great accomplishment. It’s the result of serious play mixed with work. You suddenly realize that all the variants are suitable and that the translation can re-create the original poem in different ways, without deviating harmfully from the original.

Workshops of this kind, including that one in which I participated, were pleasant and useful for me, because I understood (yet one more time) the possibility of poetry to say the same things differently. I am grateful to TransCollaborate for the interest they’ve shown in deciphering my poem and in giving to it a new sound, (actually, five new sounds).

What do you see as the possibilities of collaborative translation for poetry?

I see an increase in the volume of the translations. I also see chances for good poets who write in languages that are not internationally familiar to become known more quickly to a wider audience.

Collaborative translation is actually a very efficient tool to allow people from different places in the world to get close to each other and to learn what poetry is really made of, what is behind the ability to combine some words on a paper-sheet. This is because the details that one can see in a text are put in the discussion all the time and the process of re-creating in another language a certain poetic substance that a poem contains becomes very efficient in a shorter time.

I think poetry needs to be used more in these kinds of collaborative activities (including in schools) because the collaborative process is a much more relaxing way in which – why not? – people can spend their time. In addition, the collaborative translation process makes the poetry itself more friendly and accessible to more people. So, I see also an increase in the number of those who decide to get close to poetry.

Vasile Baghiu is a Romanian poet, novelist and essayist of many volumes – among them: Taste of Alienation, Fever, Life Plans, Assisted Breathing. He coined the concept of poetic chimerism, a cross between bovarysme and literature, defined as a tendency to escape everyday realities and to create a parallel universe. Baghiu has been awarded writers-in-residence grants in Germany, Austria, Scotland and Switzerland. Several of his poems (self-translations) can be read in magazines and anthologies such as Magma Poetry, The Penmen Review, Poetic Diversity, The Blue House, Subtle Tea, The Orange Room Review, L.A. Melange, also in the poetry collection Transatlantic Crossings: The Constant Language of Poetry (USA, 2006). For the last years, many poems of him have been featured, in translations, in literary magazines and e-zine in Australia, such as The Cordite Poetry Review, The AALITRA Review, Bordertown (TransCollaborate), Poetry in Process, Parallel texts. Words reflected, Coolabah. Baghiu had in the past diverse work experiences: nursing, journalism, teaching , and he works now as a psychologist in the health promotion domain.

To learn more:

Cristina Savin. “Translating alienation – between escapism and adventure. Translating Vasile Baghiu” Coolabah, no 30 (2021): 73-102.

Afterlives #2: Poetry by and inspired by Vasile Baghiu” A TransCollaborate Zine

“Cristina Savin on Vasile Baghiu’s poetic chimerism” by Owen Bullock. Poetry in Process. 23 November 2019.

Metode simple de încetinire a timpului/ “Simple methods to slow down time.” Cristina Savin and Vasile Baghiu. Parallel Texts: Words Reflected. 11 August 2019.

“4 Translated Vasile Baghiu Poems” By Cristina Savin and Vasile Baghiu. Cordite Poetry Review. 1 August 2018

Vasile Baghiu – Blogpost (in Romanian)