The Linguist

The Linguist 55,2

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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12 The Linguist Vol/55 No/2 2016 MIGRANT CRISIS When people flee conflict, a lack of communication can result in death, making the work of translators vital, says Marleen Laschett I magine you are a refugee fleeing a war- torn country. You have spent several days at sea on a rickety raft. When you finally approach land and step into the freezing waters to wade to shore, you don't really know where you are, except that you far from home in a land where no one speaks your language. You cannot guess at the meaning of any signs as you don't know the alphabet. You don't know who the people around you are – whether they will help you, drive you away or hurt you. Your baby is crying, your toddler has a bad cough and you have lost sight of the rest of your family. You are hungry and tired. You feel lonely and abandoned amidst all these people. Because you cannot communicate. Language is a massive issue for refugees. Rebecca Petras and her family spent ten days on the island of Chios in Greece as volunteers, helping refugees as they first reached Europe. There, the Translators Without Borders (TWB) Deputy Director experienced first-hand the urgent need for communication in the right language. "It was a moving and eye-opening experience," she says. "Language is an issue from the moment refugees arrive; they have many questions. Rescuers tend to be Greek locals, Greek coast guard, volunteers and lifeguarding units from around Europe." The language issue is especially acute among women. Recently, 60% or more of the people arriving on boats were women and children. Over the past months, volunteers and aid organisations have been providing material and medical assistance to tens of thousands of refugees seeking safety in Europe. To help improve communication on the ground, TWB has established virtual Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), consisting of translators for Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Greek, Pashto and Urdu. RRTs are remote. They are available ten hours a day, five days a week, and they collaborate on delivering high-quality translations. The project manager of an RRT receives files in English from client NGOs such as Internews, and sources volunteer translators and editors via Skype groups, the TWB Facebook group and email. They translate under each paragraph without deleting the original English text. Editors review the translated files, and the texts are then sent to the client, usually within a couple of hours. Most refugees have smartphones, which provide a valuable channel for keeping track of weather reports. Many places of arrival provide free charging and wifi. Other than that, refugees need guidelines for travelling; instructions on how to reach specific locations or camps and on what to do inside asylum centres; information about which border crossings are accessible, and which refugee camps are open and accepting people; and details of changes in policies in their target countries. Breaking news Translator teams produce materials of practical use, updating refugees if there are likely to be any complications on their way, such as ferry strikes, informing them how to register, and directing them to the people they need to see if they are sick or have lost their luggage. The news of the day is crucial. News.That.Moves, managed by the Vital signs for life © SHUTTERSTOCK

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