Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Unrecognized Translators

In my Feb. 21 post about the Winter Olympics - where, as you may have heard, my fellow Canadians walked off with the most medals - I remarked that a tremendous amount of translating and interpreting goes on unrecognized because it’s given another name or it constitutes just one part, whether explicit or implicit, of another job or function; and I mentioned the hosts and hostesses at the Games. A further example of ‘another name’ is facilitator, a new partial synonym for business laison interpreter. Now here’s another instance of ‘one part of another function’. It comes from Maryland, USA, and the context is education - in a big school system there. It’s parent liaison, or just liaison.
For two years, Benjamin Santamaria helped Spanish-speaking parents and students at University Park Elementary in Hyattsville navigate the public school system… The school system is laying off administrators, instructional specialists, support staff and teachers. But the biggest chunk of those let go, about 120, are paid parent liaisons, including Santamaria. Liaisons are one way schools in the Washington region and throughout the country have sought to involve Latino immigrants, the nation's fastest-growing ethnic population, as well as parents generally. Santamaria said he engaged parents with an array of events…, in addition to interpreting and translating documents. The son of Dominican immigrants, Santamaria is fluent in Spanish and able to communicate with many of University Park's nonnative-English speakers.
So they’re paid and they do more than translate; but they have no training, therefore they start out as Natural or Native Translators. And we’re not talking about a few scattered individuals:
In 2006, Prince George's officials placed a liaison in each of the county's more than 200 schools [see image] in an effort to boost parental involvement.
One parent told a school board, "Without the translation aid of bilingual liaisons, parents will be forced to use their children as translators to communicate with teachers."

How many jobs can you think of where translating is not called translating or is a regular but secondary function? Less than three is Insignificant, more than six is Excellent.

More soon.

Nelson Hernandez. Latino liaisons hit hard by school cuts in Pr. George's. The Washington Post, July 8, 2009.

Megan McKeever. Potential loss of bilingual liaisons causes concern: Parents, officials make plea for help in schools., March 4, 2010.

Image: Prince George's County Public Schools

N.B. Notice the fossil of British colonialism in the name Prince George's County. But then there's another one in Maryland.

1 comment:

  1. Unrecognised translation is the rule rather than the exception in most parts of Africa. Imagine somebody writing in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish to an acquaintance who does not speak the language? How do you think the person gets to understand the message? Imagine someone seemingly reading the Gospel in a native African language when the text is actually in English, French, or any of the other exogenous official languages of Africa?...