Recently we brought a Danish friend to Rizal Park and Intramuros in historic Manila. As always, I tried to find a connection between our guest’s heritage and our trip, and in this case, it was finding something they can relate to our hero Jose Rizal.

The Rizal Monument in Manila.
The Rizal Monument in Manila.

Rizal is mostly known for authoring his two great novels, the Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. He was also known for his expertise in ophthalmology (as an eye doctor), and an advocate for equal rights between Spaniards and Filipinos during his time when the Philippines was under Spanish rule.

What people don’t know as much (myself included, until our Intramuros tour this weekend!) was that he was also a localizer.

What is a localizer, you may ask?

Localizing Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

As Wikipedia puts it:

Localization is the process of adapting a product that has been previously translated into multiple languages to a specific country or region.

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author of several fairy tales known the world over. His works have been translated into several languages, including German. Rizal’s journey brought him to Germany, in one of his travels as a doctor improving his craft on ophthalmology.

Rizal's sketches in his translation from German to Tagalog of five fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, 1886.
Rizal’s sketches in his translation from German to Tagalog of five fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, 1886.

From German, he translated five of Andersen’s works into Tagalog:

  • The Fir Tree
  • Thumbelina
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • The Angel
  • The Little Match Girl

Reference: “‘Hans Christian Andersen and Jose Rizal’: Tying 19th literary titans to our time”

It is amazing that there is a connection between these two nations through Rizal! Now I myself would want to see how these literary works look like in Tagalog, how Rizal did the localization. Localization is not a simple task of translating works word-per-word; you also need to know and understand the culture from which it originates so you are able to convey its meaning as thoroughly as possible to your intended audience.

14 October 1886 — Rizal translates five Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales into Tagalog.

Personally, it also inspires me as I see another connection between Rizal and what I’m into these days — localizing Firefox into Tagalog. All this time, we have one hero who has been one of the earliest Pinoy Localizers!! He may not know what Firefox Tagalog is, but he has undoubtedly helped imbibe Danish literature into the minds of Filipino kids even before the turn of the 20th century. He probably should be the patron of Pinoy localizers. Mange tak for oversættelsen , Jose Rizal!