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Archive for May, 2008

Lost, even in translation

Despite the Hollywood A-list air and oomph he exudes, Jakrapob Penkair is no Bill Murray or Scarlett Johansson. His lamentation that all the intent and substance of his infamous speech were “lost in translation” may sound glamorous, but it is as hollow as the sense of emptiness that permeates the movie itself. No doubt, the movie is good, praiseworthy. But as a spin on this very controversial issue, it’s bad. As a defence, it’s extremely weak and vulnerable to backfire. Early this week, at a press conference that appeared almost like a red-carpet reception thanks to the packed room, intense attention, flashing lights and the feeling of high drama, embattled PM Office Minister Jakrapob claimed that all the problems he is facing because of that speech stem from an inaccurate translation. This is an arrogant assertion, to start with and to say the least. Minister Jakrapob cannot truly believe that all the reaction to his speech was only caused by people who don’t know English.

For those who have not had a chance to read the speech, the English-language transcript – plus three different versions of Thai translation – can be viewed on the government’s website. The three translations were done by, respectively, Pol Maj Wattanasak Mungkitkandi, the opposition Democrat party and PM’s Office Minister Jakrapob himself.

True, there are mistakes in one of the versions. There are variations in word choice here and there among all three. There is a phrase that the minister omitted from his translation altogether. I am not sure if he would describe his own translation as being “inaccurate and misleading” too, in this case.

True, the inconsistencies contribute to a difference in tone but not that much in the overall meaning. The minister was shifting the responsibility when he made the lost-in-translation argument instead of addressing the real issue.

His dramatic threat to sue the leader of the Democrat party for defamation is simply absurd. The words were his. The translation might not carry all the intricate nuances inherent in one or the other language, but the differences are arguably only in degree, not in substance. Style is an imprecise thing. It’s the content that matters. And how would he make a case that the content of a document vilifies him when he wrote it himself?

Instead of making the wayward “bad translation” argument and pointing the finger at other people, Mr Jakrapob could have tried to explain if he was anti-monarchy and intended to portray the institution in a slanderous manner in his speech in front of the foreign press corps. If not, as he indeed tries to reassure everyone, how and where was he misunderstood?

It could be that Mr Jakrapob’s only way out of this very sensitive situation would be to admit that he is guilty of being shallow and biased in his analysis. Of liking the media attention too much? Or of being a pawn that had grown so pompous it thought it could make its own smart move but ended up alone in distress?

Instead of defining what he meant when he used the term “patronage system” and what he thinks it constitutes, which would have made his intention clearer, Mr Jakrapob made things even murkier by becoming belligerent. Instead of explaining himself as honestly and sincerely as he could when he still had a chance, Mr Jakrapob wasted it by challenging Mr Abhisit to point out which part of the speech was a transgression to the King, and challenged the opposition leader to a debate.

True, he probably desperately needs someone by his side in this increasingly lonely fight, even if that someone would only be there to box with him. Again, that someone may help deflect the uncomfortable public glare and deadweight of pressure that have been singularly pressed on him. If someone actually accepts the challenge and gets up there to debate his speech, then the responsibility is automatically shared – it would not be his problem exclusively any more.

It’s a cunning move. Would it prove to also be a wise one? I do not think so. With the issue becoming more politicised than it already is, a lot more can be lost, and not just in translation.

Atiya Achakulwisut is Editorial Pages Editor, Bangkok Post.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com

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An Ithaca businesswoman will be leaving to join an international rescue team in China soon.

Kim Gosline, who owns Shangri-La Gifts at 156 E. State St. on The Commons, will travel to Shifang, which is in the Sichuan Province in southwest China, the epicenter of the May 12 earthquake.

Gosline will be a Chinese translator for the rescue team and assist the survivors and orphaned children. She plans to leave Friday, May 30 and return by August to teach Chinese at Ithaca College. She is accepting donations of cash, surgical masks, milk powder and baby formula.

Contact Shangri-La to make a donation or e-mail gosline@hotmail.com

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New rules on availability of European criminal records to be tightened up

Grundläggande rättigheter

How can we ensure that someone who has been found guilty of a crime and is banned from certain professional activities cannot do those jobs in another EU Member State? In the light of cross-border crime and the trauma of the Fourniret case, the EP Civil Liberties Committee is backing the introduction of a scheme for swapping data on criminal records. However, the committee wants to see tighter rules on the way the information can be used.

Recent events give added meaning to the report by Agustin Diaz de Mera (EPP-ED, ES) on a draft Council framework decision adopted with just two abstentions by the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday. This legislation would make it possible to prevent paedophiles convicted in one Member State from taking a job looking after children in another state.  In the run-up to the vote, the EP rapporteur mentioned several times the case of serial killer Michel Fourniret, who was able to work as a supervisor in a Belgian school while he was banned from doing the same in France after being convicted there.

Under the new legislation, if an individual from one Member State is convicted in another state, the latter must forward certain data from that person’s criminal record to the state of his/her nationality.

Each Member State will have to designate an authority to store data from the criminal records of its own nationals and the data must be updated systematically so it can be consulted by any judicial authority of the Union that makes a request.

Beefing up the Council’s text

MEPs want to improve the legislation by making the exchanged data easier to read, for example by including a special section on convictions for sex crimes.

They also want national authorities to be required to give information on disqualifications arising from a criminal conviction (in the draft text this is optional).

MEPs concerned about data protection

The committee report also calls for better data protection by banning the processing of certain information (on racial and ethnic origin, political opinions, sexual orientation or health), except where a court mandate is issued.

Lastly, the draft framework decision envisages the creation of a computerised system of data exchange on criminal convictions using a standard format.  This would allow data to be swapped on the person as well as the form, content and facts of the conviction, using a standard, computerised format that would allow for automated translation.

Source: http://www.europarl.europa.eu

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Kurdish interpreters for U.S. Army share experiences

An Iraqi interpreter walks with American soldiers with his face covered so as not to be recognized by locals. PRESS PHOTO
Responsibilities go beyond simply breaking the language barrier.Living on the edge as interpreters for the U.S. Army in Iraq may not be their first choice of professions, but it certainly provides a better standard of living-assuming they live to talk about it. They say Iraqi interpreters who work with coalition forces have the deadliest job. Two Kurdish interpreters who worked with American troops in middle and northern Iraq shared their experiences with The Kurdish Globe on condition their names not be revealed.

Hogir Ahmed (not his real name), 29, worked for the U.S. Army as an interpreter for two years in Anbar province, once an al-Qaeda stronghold. Three years ago, when he graduated from university in Kurdistan Region, he couldn’t find a job in the private sector. The only job available was to teach, but the salary was low. For that reason, he chose to become an interpreter.  “In the beginning it was very scary, especially when we were outside on a mission or raiding houses in the villages, but gradually it became normal and not as frightening,” said Ahmed.  “I always tried to convince U.S. soldiers not to harm people or break people’s doors down,” he added. Once, a roadside bomb blew up under his armored Humvee, but he was moved to safety.  He said his most miserable day was when a friend of his, an Arab interpreter, who had only been working for three days, was killed by an insurgent sniper while on a mission in a rural area in Anbar province.

He believes that interpreters are the most invaluable assistants to the U.S. army.  Ahmed said there were always arguments among Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite interpreters, down to which TV channel to watch.
“The Shiite and Kurdish interpreters were friendly, but they disliked Sunni interpreters; also, Sunni interpreters disliked Shiites and Kurds, particularly Shiites,” said Ahmed. In the beginning, Ahmed tried to befriend every interpreter and not involve in political quarrel with them. Gradually, however, the situation became unbearable and he decided to take sides. “Some Sunni interpreters always defended Saddam’s actions, and we always argued that Saddam attacked Kurds with chemical weapons and killed hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Shiites,” he said. “When Saddam was executed, a Sunni interpreter cried,” he added.

“In the end, we all decided to divide our container [sleeping room] into two parts, Shiites and Kurds together and Sunnis alone; but this did not stop the arguments,” he concluded. Osman Ali (not his real name), 25, worked as an interpreter for U.S. troops in Q West Base in the Qayara area in the northern Iraqi province of Mosul. He said he always carried a pistol when he traveled between his home in Erbil city and the base in case insurgents attacked or kidnapped him. Shortly after he became a U.S. Army interpreter, Ali was very disappointed when he heard that the Americans had allegedly left a translator behind after insurgents attacked them. “There was a meeting in one of the Arab villages in Mosul province between the Iraqi and American armies on one side and tribal leaders on the other side; then, insurgents started shelling the village with mortars. U.S. troops left their interpreter behind,” Ali told the Globe.

He said when he started working with the U.S. Army that he was terrified of roadside bombs, but after awhile they became not only normal but amusing. “Sometimes when we were outside on a mission, on the road inside the truck, instead of being careful and watching out for bad guys, we [he and U.S. soldiers] discussed women and social affairs and sometime sang to each other,” said Ali. His main topic of discussion with U.S. soldiers was about social differences between U.S. and Kurdish societies. Ali said there were always quarrels among Kurd, Shiite, and Sunni interpreters, but they always tried to hide it from the Americans by saying they were just joking with each other.

“Arab interpreters all the time complained to the Americans that Kurdish authorities won’t let Arabs enter Kurdistan Region; we told them that if we let all Arabs enter Kurdistan then the situation in Kurdistan Region would become like Baghdad and Mosul,” said Ali. People in Kurdistan Region do not consider those who work for the American Army “traitors,” unlike most Iraqi Arabs, who consider anyone who works for the Americans “A’ameel,” which is Arabic for collaborator, or, literally, “agent.”

Arab interpreters lead duel lives to avoid being killed, concealing their identities and addresses. On patrol, the men cover their faces with military-issued bandannas that they pull down to the bottom of their sunglasses. But Kurdish interpreters have no such problems.  Washington established a program in 2006 that allows interpreters who have worked with U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq for at least 12 months to move to the United States with their families. The program, however, limits the number of “special immigrant visas,” which means only a fraction are granted refuge. In 2008, all 500 visas were issued by April, although a recent law raised the annual quota to 5,000 starting in October. Ali told the Globe that obtaining visa to the U.S. is a priority for Arab interpreters. Since the war began five years ago, at least 200 Iraqis translating for U.S. troops have been killed, most of them in targeted killings, according to L3 Communications, a New York company that supplies interpreters to the American military.

Source: http://www.kurdishglobe.net/

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Beijing withdraws advice on disabled

Olympic organizers said Thursday that they had withdrawn parts of an English translation of a guide for volunteers because of “inappropriate language” used to describe disabled athletes. Zhang Qiuping, director of the Paralympic Games in Beijing, did not offer an apology and attributed the problems to poor translation. “Probably it’s cultural difference and mistranslation,” Zhang said. The Chinese-language version of the text remained online and was nearly identical to the English, using essentially the same stereotypes to refer to the disabled. A section dedicated to the disabled says: “Paralympic athletes and disabled spectators are a special group. They have unique personalities and ways of thinking.”

To handle the “optically disabled,” the guide advised: “Often the optically disabled are introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions.” It added, “Try not to use the world ‘blind’ when you meet for the first time.”Regarding the “physically disabled,” the guide said: “Physically disabled people are often mentally healthy. But they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability.”It went on: “Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial and introspective; they usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling; they may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues. Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called ‘crippled’ or ‘paralyzed.

Source: http://www.iht.com

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Man goes from the dock to bid for job

UNEMPLOYED Antonio Martins Vieira was released from custody and able to make a job interview on Wednesday afternoon – because his court case was adjourned as there was no Portuguese interpreter available. The 46-year-old appeared at Boston Magistrates’ Court, where he pleaded guilty to stealing a bottle of wine worth £3.49 from a Co-op store in town.

The defendant appeared in custody because he had also failed to attend court on May 14, to which he also pleaded guilty. Magistrates decided they wanted a report by the probation service before passing sentence. However, the report could not be dealt with later that day due to there being no interpreter available. Vieira was released on bail and able to make a job interview in Spalding that afternoon.

In prosecution, Deborah Cartwright said that store CCTV had seen Vieira stuff the bottle down his jeans.
She added: “When the defendant was interviewed by the police he said he stole because he had no money.” In defence, Nick Alderson said his client had missed his previous court hearing because, through ‘desperation for funds’, he had left the area to go flower picking. He added: “It was an uncomplicated theft, it’s right he had no money. He needs help. He is not an alcoholic, but when he has no work he tends to take to drink.” Vieira, of Laughton Road, Boston, will return to court on June 4.

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Yolngu struggling with basic legalese, report finds

The Northern Territory Opposition has backed a report calling for more Aboriginal interpreters in the legal system. The research conducted by the Aboriginal Resource and Development Service shows 95 per cent of the Yolngu people from north-east Arnhem Land do not understand the meaning of the words ‘bail’, ‘consent’, ‘remand’ and ‘charge’.

Opposition leader Terry Mills says while more services are needed in the courts, the focus should be on education. Justice demands that a person going through the system understands the system, so of course there needs to be a greater capicity for interpreters in that context.

“But further than that, we need to draw attention once again to the poor level of education delivery in remote communities.” And the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency says $330 million dollars earmarked for a new prison in Darwin should be channelled towards increasing the number of Indigenous interpreters in the legal system. The agency’s Glen Dooley says the study highlights the struggle many Aboriginal people have understanding the legal system.

“We have a Government that is about to spend $330 million on a new jail, the toughening of the criminal law, all routes are leading to jail now and already one in every 23 Aboriginal men are behind bars as we speak in the Northern Territory. “It’s about time that Aboriginal people had a fair crack at the system and be able to better defended with better communication in a system where we are about to invest all this money in locking people up.” A spokeswoman for the Northern Territory Justice Minister says the Government already provides an Aboriginal Interpreter Service and has committed more than $2 million to establish a total of ten community courts which operate in communities with input from elders.

Source: http://au.news.yahoo.com

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