Monday, May 5, 2014

University Students As Advanced Native Translators

A good source of volunteer non-Expert translators for NGOs is university students. There are plenty of them in most countries who are foreigners or who at least know a foreign language. They aren’t Experts because they haven’t received training and lack experience; but on the other hand nor are they naive Natural Translators. The very fact that they volunteer for translating shows they have some awarenes of it. More than that, however, their migrations and their education will almost certainly have obliged them to use translations and even do some themselves, either perceptibly or in their heads. This is especially true of any language learning courses, because even now the grammar and translation method is still widespread. These experiences place them, on my scale of translating ability development, as Advanced Native Translators. (For the complete scale, enter definitions in the Search box on the right.)

It’s often a form of social service. The latest example to come my way is from prestigious Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania.
"Early this academic year we wrote about World Pulse Correspondent Neema Namadamu’s visit to campus as part of Agnès Peysson Zeiss’ Praxis III French course in which students translated blog posts for the organization. We revisited the class in October to get an even better sense of what the students were doing to help women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Now, Seniors Su Oner and Lianna Reed have written a piece of their own on what it meant to work with the women…

"Over the past year, through the Praxis III program…, we have worked as volunteer translators for World Pulse. This semester, six of us have translated four ten blogs a week. Although we are comfortable with our French, it remains a challenge to this day to read and translate Congolese French into English. Many of the women… for many of them, French is not their mother tongue. Our weekly meeting with Professor Agnès Peysson Zeiss focused primarily on understanding challenging blogs so that we could translate them into English. We often come to class with words written phonetically that we cannot decipher. Other times there are idioms and acronyms that we are not familiar with. It all comes together when we post the blogs below the original version on the World Pulse website. We comment under the blogs we translate and interact with these women (in French) through these comments."

Notice this last remark mentions that the translators also comment - something that Expert Interpreters aren't supposed to do according to dogma.

An unexpected mention in this report is Congolese French. All the major languages have varieties and dialects that may be more or less understandable to people brought up on the ’standard’ language taught in schools. Congolese French still bears traces of the country’s colonial past, which has bequeathed it similarities to Belgian French. Canadian French can also be hard for Europeans to understand. We Canadians are sometimes amused to see our films and TV programmes subtitled in so-called International French for export. People can be quite ignorant about dialects. I was once called in to interpret Glaswegian (the English of Glasgow) on the grounds that after all I'd been educated in England. My favourite story in this respect is about how Gaddafi stymied the very Expert Arabic interpreters at the United Nations in New York by addressing the General Assembly without warning in his native Libyan dialect. The problem is particularly acute in court interpreting, as this current example shows:
"Exactly three years after they were arrested at Toronto’s Pearson airport, a pair of accused Jamaican drug smugglers remain unable to stand trial because of a critical shortage of Jamaican Patois interpreters."
It may be more satisfactory to employ a Native Interpreter who knows the dialect than an Expert Interpreter who doesn't.

Sue Oner and Lianna Reed. BMC Seniors reflect on translating blogs for women from Democratic Republic of Congo. Bryn Mawr Commmunications Office, 30 April 2014. Click here.

Languages of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Wikipedia, 2014.

Mark M. Orkin. French Canajan, Hé!. 1975. Out of print, but the second-hand copies from Amazon are inexpensive.

Multi-Languages Corporation. Jamaican patois interpreter shortage causes mistrial, leaving alleged drug smugglers in legal limbo. Multi-Language Newsletter, May 2014.

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