The Linguist

The Linguist 55,1

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 16 of 35 FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 The Linguist 17 a working language in 2006. The language joined the ranks of Spanish and Portuguese, and the first batch of Guarani translators and interpreters was hired. A special case A recent case shocked the nation and brought to light a clear need for dedicated court interpreting services in indigenous languages. Reina Maraz Bejerano, originally from Bolivia but a legal resident in Argentina, was accused of murder in 2010. She was tried, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison – but she did not have the opportunity to defend herself because, as a native Quechua speaker, she did not understand Spanish, the language of the trial. Her five-year-old son, also a native Quechua speaker, served as a witness during the trial. Her lawyer, José María Mastronardi, has already appealed the case, and believes that "this could lead to a change at the legislative level, in regards to the clear need for interpreters with indigenous languages." Yet, at the provincial level, it is another story. The northern province of Chaco, in Argentina, has passed a law to ensure that all residents have the right to a court interpreter for any of the indigenous languages spoken within the territory: Toba (Qom), Moqoit and Wichi. The Universidad Nacional del Nordeste even created a degree to train future court interpreters. Although these developments are rather recent, they are the result of a 2012 push at the national level to promote minority languages and bilingualism in certain areas. Toba, with around 70,000 speakers, got its own bilingual school in Chaco. However, each community has had a different experience. Another recent trial made waves when a Mapuche woman in the province of Neuquen was acquitted of attempted murder after throwing a rock at a police officer during a protest in 2012. In a rare turn of events for aboriginal rights, she was tried, and declared innocent, by an intercultural jury – unprecedented in the province – that included six Mapuche jurors. "I'm very happy, celebrating," Relmu Ñamku said as she left the tent in which the trial took place. "This marks a precedent. We can shine a light on the voice of indigenous peoples." Although the national government has made efforts to protect the rights of its indigenous communities, there is still a lot of work to be done. "We are not bi- or pluri- national, like Bolivia," explains Villarruel. "There have been some steps forward, yet not in a unified manner throughout the entire territory. There are many provinces that protect the right to having a court interpreter who speaks the local indigenous language, and many others in which these languages have achieved co-official status, as is the case of Chaco and Río Negro." The media law passed in 2009 also gave rise to local community radios. In the north- east, Toba radio stations abound, while in Patagonia, Mapuche radio stations can be heard. These languages are being used every day and, as Lopez says, "the best way to preserve a language is speaking, reading and writing it." Looking to the future Given the rise in interest in these languages at his school, Villarruel can say with confidence: "This is not going to stop, these cultures are more visible than they ever were." They fight to recover their territory, their rights and their languages," he adds. "And language constitutes an important tool to make this breakthrough." Lopez recommends a focus on translation. "[Governments] should invest in projects to translate classical authors into these languages, so that the speakers of Guarani can read the best writers in their native tongue." He believes that this is the only way to raise the profile of the language, so that young people consider it to have the same standing as English or Spanish, rather than being related only to heritage and identity. A clear sense of pride is rising, which will likely have lasting effects on plurilingualism. "Before, people from indigenous communities would hide their origins," Villarruel says. "They were ashamed, they did not use the language, they lost it." Changing views have reduced discrimination, which, in turn, has made the youth more interested in speaking the language of their forefathers and finding a source of pride in doing so. There is still much to do though. Argentina could take an example from its neighbour, Paraguay, and modify its policy at the national level. It is time to stop pretending that Argentina is a monolingual country when it is so vibrantly multilingual. STANDING STRONG Relmu Ñamku became a 'poster girl' for indigenous rights after being tried and acquitted by a jury including six Mapuches (left); and (above) she was joined by other native people of Argentina at the second Summit of Indigenous Peoples in Abralaite, in the north-west of the country, in September IMAGES: COLECTIVO CHAKANA, 'U NIDOS COMO EL FUEGO | ABRALAITE 18.09.2015' VIA FICKR (CC BY-NC 3.0) FEATURES

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