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Published 2024-04-16

Aftenposten translates news for newly arrived kids

It started with Ukrainian, now Aftenposten Junior offers news in four languages for kids who have just arrived in Norway. And more will come – all with the help of AI and Schibsted employees.

“It all started with the war in Ukraine and with families fleeing to Norway,” says Mari Midtstigen, editor of Aftenposten Junior, a paper for children from Aftenposten.

In 2022, hundreds of Ukrainian children began attending Norwegian schools. Since Aftenposten Junior provides educational content to schools via their digital news service, Aftenposten Junior skole, teachers contacted Mari and her team to see if it was possible to supply reading materials for the Ukrainian children.

Aftenposten Junior produces news for kids. They write about the war in Ukraine – but also about a lot of other things that kids are interested in, like animals, sports and trends.

“We realised that it would be fantastic to be able to offer some of that content also in Ukrainian,” says Mari.

Mari and her team started by contacting certified translators, but since there aren’t many who know Ukrainian in Norway, they were all very busy supporting authorities in translating information to refugees.

Then they tried out AI translation, which worked well – but the texts needed to be checked by Ukrainian-speaking humans.

“That’s when we realised that we had a Ukrainian colleague in Aftenposten, working as an analyst. He immediately wanted to help out, and we started a project, where we translate several articles every week to Ukrainian,” says Mari.

Andrii Tiazhkyi.

That colleague was Andrii Tiazhkyi who came to Norway in 2019 and started working at Aftenposten in 2021. To support the project has become a way for him to stand up for his country.

“I was raised with the idea that no matter where I am, first of all, I am Ukrainian. This is my will and duty – to do everything to support Ukraine to bloom and be successful”, he says.

He thinks that learning the new language is key to becoming part of the new country and culture.

“Helping Ukrainian kids to adapt in a new country that gave them a place to hide from Russian bombs and weapons is a small thing I can do.”

After a while, they also got additional help from another colleague with a background from Ukraine, Oleksii Shpylchyn, who is a Data Engineer in Schibsted.

Oleksandra and David, two of the pupils who are using the content, like it.

“There are several things that I can read in Aftenposten. I enjoy reading in Ukrainian and Norwegian because then I learn many words and expressions in Norwegian,” says Oleksandra.

David agrees:

“I think that Aftenposten helps me to learn the Norwegian language faster. Also, I can find a lot about football.”

But kids also arrive in Norway from other countries than Ukraine and teachers pointed out that it would be great to have translations in more languages. Aftenposten Junior took on the challenge and today kids who speak Arabic, Somali and Polish also get news in their own language from Aftenposten Junior.

Since it worked out so well with Andrii and Oleksii checking the Ukrainian texts, Mari has kept looking for help from within Schibsted. So Boushra Kolko who is a developer in Finn is helping out with texts in Arabic, Marta Chmura-Escobar, Senior Analyst in Finn with Polish, and Abdirahman Hassan who is a former journalist in Aftenposten with Somali.

And the feedback from teachers using the translated content is positive.

“They say it is a great resource, both for learning Norwegian, but also for understanding what children in Norway are interested in. It can make it easier to connect with the other children,” says Eivind Mørk who is leading the project at Aftenposten Junior.

Now the team is looking into adding Tigrinya, Turkish, Russian and Finish.

Tsion Bruk.

Tsion Bruk will help out with Tigrinya. She came from Ethiopia when she was nine years old. Now she works in Schibsted Partnerstudio in Bergen as a project manager. She can easily relate to the newly arrived childrens’ challenges and would have liked to have stories to read in her own language when she came to Norway.

“To be able to follow the news is a great way to learn how a society works and to become part of it,” she says.

But if supporting the kids wasn’t enough, Aftenposten Junior is also helping to preserve a Norwegian minority language that is on its way to disappearing. Kvensk is a very small language closely related to Finnish and a result of early Finnish immigration. No one (that we know of) in Schibsted speaks it – but with the help of the Kvensk Institute, content in Kvensk will also be available from Aftenposten Junior.

All the texts can also be listened to, to help children who can not yet read well.

“I am so grateful for our wonderful colleagues who have made all of this possible. I really think this shows our strength as a company to be able to do this project for newly arrived children,” Mari says.