The Linguist

The Linguist 53,3

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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Page 11 of 35 FEATURES many of the details of their complaints. They, in turn, fail to have agency in their own affairs and miss many subtle details in the negotiations due to the lack of a common language. This situation continues to repeat itself in almost all of the projects currently organised in Haiti. The world debates Haiti's future In the reconstruction efforts supported by the international community, the issue of language has surfaced on various occasions, particularly during the major donor conferences organised in 2010 in Fort-de- France, Martinique; Montréal, Canada; the Dominican Republic; and at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York. At the UN meeting, the issue of language – ie, the need to produce documents in Creole and to communicate with earthquake victims in Creole – was barely explored. By contrast, in Martinique entire panels were devoted to language and to repairing the education system in Haiti. However, these panels included mostly experts from France, who strongly advocated for a single language of instruction: French. The argument was that Haitians would gain by embracing a language of wider use, such as French, which could give them better visibility on the world stage, and would give them access to books and other pedagogical materials and tools. At my insistence, and that of another member of the education panel, it was noted that the two of us felt that Haitian Creole, an official language of the Republic of Haiti, should be fully incorporated in any reorganisation of the educational system and should be the language of instruction. The main idea behind Fatal Assistance is that the donor community failed, to a certain extent, to provide the necessary assistance to the Haitian victims of the 2010 earthquake. Raoul Peck uses metaphor to explain: 'The patient was dying and there were too many doctors around him, not communicating with him, not telling him anything about his condition and how he might recover.' According to Peck, the majority of the Haitian people were excluded from the reconstruction efforts because the use of Haitian Creole was avoided during the many meetings of the donor community. As for the rescue efforts, the first group to reach Haiti in the hours that followed the earthquake was a group composed mostly of women from Martinique. They managed to extract a very large number of people from the rubble. These French citizens of African descent had brought along two precious tools: Creole language and Creole culture. A couple of days after their arrival in Haiti, a contingent of men from the French army arrived in Haiti. Their efforts, although less successful, made headlines. The French language as a tool of communication was exalted. The images displayed in the press in Europe and elsewhere were that of this latter group. Once again, the role of the Creole language had been diminished. W hen I started to work as a freelance translator 18 months ago, I was not new to the notion of working from home. For much of the previous 10 years, I had run a wine-importing business from a spare bedroom, so I had some experience of solitary working. In those days, however, I was regularly on the phone: to my colleague, producers in France and Italy, warehouses and wholesalers, HM Revenue and Customs and, just occasionally, to customers. Nowadays, if the phone rings it is more likely to be a cold-caller offering me roof insulation than a client or translator. The keyboard and monitor have replaced the voice as the primary medium of communication for translators. Living alone, with only an eccentric cat sharing my space, it can be strange to realise that I've barely spoken to a human being for two days. Setting up the home office When I moved into a new flat, the first issue to resolve was where to put my office. There was limited room for a desk in the two bedrooms, and sleeping and working in the same room seemed unhealthy. A desk at one end of the living room was a far better solution and, since it is about 480 sq ft, there was no shortage of space. However, I like to preserve a physical and psychological separation between working and private life, and I am an untidy worker. I didn't want to start erecting walls, but I did need to find a way of preventing the mess on the desk (and even the floor) from intruding on space where I might wish to relax or entertain. I once heard that to screen off an untidy area of the garden, it is not necessary to erect a fence; it can be more effective to divert the attention with a feature that discourages the DESTRUCTION One of the first airdrops on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince following the earthquake; and (inset) the Japan Air Self-Defense Force mobilises a medical support team to help survivors in Haiti

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