The Linguist

The Linguist 54,5

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 10 of 35

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER The Linguist 11 FEATURES particularly if it is a small local language, may not have a harmonised writing system (orthography). 3. Lack of conceptual equivalence. The conceptual gap between the source and target languages may be too wide to allow for meaningful translation. The target could become heavy on translation strategies, such as borrowing, calque and transliteration, making it unpalatable for the target reader and necessitating a different or complementary strategy. This can lead to an awkward translation, as explained by one of the research participants: "There was, for example, an Ebola case in Port Harcourt. There was an effort to communicate over radio in the indigenous languages to reach all sectors of the population. There were technical difficulties to this approach. Interpreting English words into the native language did not make any sense." 4. Social value of a language. Information may be communicated in a certain language but the target audience wants to receive it in a different language (as mentioned, language use is context-dependent). For example, when addressing a group of Yoruba-speaking youth in Lagos, you may want to consider if they prefer Yoruba (as at home) or Pidgin English (as on TV). 5. Cultural sensitivity of a topic. The target audience may perceive the topic to be sensitive (for example, when discussing family planning or HIV/Aids testing with young women or girls). In this case, face-to-face dialogue may be a better way of making sure that the audience understands both the message and the options they have. Combination of strategies To assess multilingual communication in the field of development, I had to consider not one but a number of language strategies, including translation; community interpreting; cultural mediation; use of pictorials (picture- coded material); use of items to promote certain behaviours (e.g. a demonstration of how to use a mosquito net in a malaria-ridden area, rather than just a talk or poster); and the training of bilingual staff and community members so that they are able to spread the message. I was told that people are more likely to accept a message if it comes from the community leader or a trusted community member, rather than from an outsider. Most of the research participants relied on a combination of language strategies to get their message across. Due to the prevalence of illiteracy in certain areas of the country, community interpreting, in combination with cultural mediation, appeared to be the most frequently used strategy. The translators and community interpreters that these organisations employ do not usually hold any professional qualifications or receive any basic skills training that could help them. One participant commented: "We initially assume that someone who is highly literate in English can function as an interpreter." Despite the costs involved in translation, the non-profit organisations I consulted would not consider working with a translation charity. "If they are not on the national register of NGOs then we do not work with them," I was told. It is likely that non-profits would be more effective and successful in their efforts if they employed professional translators and interpreters, because professional practitioners are acquainted with the problem of non- equivalence in translation and should be able to convey REACHING OUT: Different approaches to communication on two signs warning against ebola: one in French, the other using a universally intelligible symbol (above) EFFECTIVE DIALOGUE: The communication challenges for healthcare professionals working with multilingual communities are complex and numerous (far left) IMAGES: © SHUTTERSTOCK

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