Richard Benn is translating Shakespeare's plays into Somali

By Candice Krieger, September 7, 2010

Know how to say "To be or not to be" in Somali? Teacher Richard Benn does. The 40-year-old, who is head of English at Silver-dale comprehensive school in Sheffield, has teamed
up with his colleagues - and pupils - to translate William Shakespeare's works into the Somali

They have founded the The Somali Shakespeare Company - a community-based group established to promote Somali-language theatre and culture. Around 16 per cent of students at Silverdale are Somali. Glasgow-born Mr Benn tells People: "My colleague was out for
a run one day with a Somali-born boy who mentioned that he found doing Shakespeare difficult. We had a look and couldn't find any translations so we decided to work with a group of pupils from the school who have a Somali background to translate Shakespeare's works."

First up, Romeo and Juliet, which the group have already performed in Sheffield and at the Lambeth Academy in London. They will be taking their production to the Shakespeare Schools Festival at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield. Mr Benn, 40, says: "We feel all the pupils have benefited. They have learned a lot more about their own language in addition to Shakespeare.

"It really does promote the sharing of traditions and cultures, and of language. And it has given a lot of pride and value to the Somali language - because performers have to speak in the Somali language, it has gained a lot of prestige."

Mr Benn is in his fourth year of teaching in Sheffield. He was previously working at an international school in Belgium.

Last updated: 12:47pm, October 12 2010