The Linguist

The Linguist 59,1 - February/March 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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CRISIS TALKS In conflict scenarios (right), security agencies and the press (above) access information via linguists 24 The Linguist Vol/59 No/1 2020 FEATURES In times of conflict, translation and interpreting should become a political project, argues Carmen Pena-Díaz C ommunication is vital in human interactions and this is especially understood when there is a lack of it. crisis situations lead to a serious disruption of the proper functioning of a community, and usually involve widespread human, material, environmental and/or economic losses and impacts. In such circumstances, it is essential that people communicate effectively with administrations and with other community members. they need to be able to understand emergency news, instructions, alerts and warnings, as well as directives about evacuation scenarios, actions and information about assistance, in addition to other matters that affect response and recovery. It is important that community members empower themselves as to what they can do for themselves and for their families and peers. If people cannot communicate properly they will be left to their own devices, possibly adding to a sense of anxiety or public fear. effective communication during a crisis is thus strategically important, 1 helping to ensure public safety, cooperation and a collaborative response. In contrast, insufficient linguistic and cultural competencies limit access to – and comprehension of – important crisis-related information. 2 The fight against terrorism In multicultural settings, communication is often difficult, but in situations of emergency – where chaos usually thrives – clear, accurate and accessible lines of communication are even more complex. It is in that context that the role of the translator or interpreter can become life-saving. they are needed in conflict areas and to provide support in the fight against terrorism, alongside intelligence services and public administrations. terrorism is one of the most worrying concerns globally, and should thus be dealt with at international level, whether in response to terrorist acts or a known threat. Linguistic analysts have become essential, providing expertise for intelligence services to communicate with immigrant populations. In such situations, information and knowledge management are the key to success, according to Bonilla Navarro. 3 translators and interpreters are vital to the prevention of both international and 'home- grown' terrorism, for example through the long history of terrorist activity by Basque separatists (eta) in spain. combat strategies there included linguistic initiatives such as the training of new interpreters and creation of language resources, while raising awareness of the need to master 'conflict languages' – i.e. those relevant to certain crisis scenarios. Before the 2010 eta ceasefire, translation from Basque into spanish, and vice versa, was a matter of life and death, for example in wire- tapping. translators and interpreters were vital for national security and the creation of a society equipped to deal with such threats. today, international terrorism requires a complex response, and it is essential to train linguistic analysts who can collaborate with the intelligence services, as well as experts who can communicate with the immigrant civilian population to meet their basic needs and provide education to avoid radicalisation. Influence and responsibility Local translators working in a crisis scenario typically perform alongside, and in support of, official channels and authorities, such as military officers and government officials. Very often they also provide information for media outlets. By enabling information to have much greater reach they can thereby exert influence via the creation of new public narratives in a world where english-speaking and Western cultures predominate. this turns translation into a complex public media task that comes with a high degree of responsibility involving the formation of public opinion. this includes the power to broaden mentalities in Western cultures by raising awareness about these conflicts to those who live in safer places. translators and interpreters are hired by Western military services in armed conflicts, which creates an alliance between them and governmental agencies, yet these agencies sometimes display a lack of trust towards local translators. their mistrust could arise from suspicion of the unknown and/or a fear that translators/interpreters will favour the The peacemakers Images © shutterstock

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