Henry Wadsworth Longfellow clearly loved the English language – the Portland native’s enduring poetry is testament to that. But Longfellow also was a linguist who appreciated other languages. So, in honor of his 210th birthday this week, some Portland High School students originally from Iraq, Iran and Rwanda translated his poetry into their countries' languages: Arabic, Farsi and French.
The event took place on Feb. 27 at the Maine Historical Society.
“Please congratulate students students Elaheh and Nila Seddiqi, Amy Umutoni, and Riham Mohammed for a job well done!,” said Glenn Nerbak, director of the Portland Mentoring Alliance. “Also, Ibtisam Ali deserves credit for assisting Riham with the translation of a Longfellow poem into classic Arabic.”
WGME Channel 13 covered the story, which you can watch by clicking HERE.
The Maine Historical Society throws a community party on Longfellow’s birthday every year but decided to add a global component this year, inviting the students to read their translations.
“This year we will mark Longfellow’s birthday in a very special way by honoring not only his poetry, but also his appreciation for the languages of the world,” the historical society said. “A professor of modern languages at both Bowdoin and Harvard, Longfellow could speak eight different languages and was the first American to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into English. Today, his birthplace and hometown of Portland is a vibrant multicultural and multilingual community where dozens of different languages can be heard every day on our streets, in our schools, homes, libraries, and shops, and that is something we know Longfellow would have appreciated and celebrated!”