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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External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will, during his visit to China next week, formally inaugurate India’s new consulate in China’s economically vibrant province of Guangzhou – a step that promises to take rapidly burgeoning business ties between the two countries to a new high. Mukherjee’s four-day visit to China starting June 4, announced by the Indian external affairs ministry Thursday, marks the first high-level political exchange between the two countries since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to China in January. It is also Mukherjee’s first official visit to China since he became the external affairs minister in the Oct 24, 2006, cabinet reshuffle. Jaswant Singh was the last foreign minister of India to visit China on a bilateral visit over six years ago.

Besides discussing an entire spectrum of bilateral, regional and global issues including the boundary row and intensification of economic ties with his counterpart Yang Jiechi, Mukherjee will call on Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. Mukherjee’s formal inauguration of the consulate in Guangzhou, that opened quietly in March, is a significant step that will boost trade, investment and tourism between the two Asian powers.

The decision to set up India’s consulate in Guaggzhou and China’s consulate in Kolkata was taken during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India in 2006. Gautam Bambawale is India’s consul-general in Guangzhou, a province that is known for being in the forefront of China’s economic reforms programme and boasts external trade of over $650 billion. India’s bilateral trade with China has already surpassed $40 billion. During Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing early this year, the two countries set a target of scaling their bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2010. Mukherjee will also meet Ji Xianlin, one of China’s leading Indologists who warmed the hearts of millions of his countrymen with his translation of the Ramayana from the Sanskrit to Chinese during the ‘Cultural Revolution’.

Ji was this year named for the Padma Bhushan, one of the top civilian honours of India, for his contribution to strengthening Sino-Indian cultural ties. The 97-year-old scholar is the first Chinese to receive this honour. Announcing the visit in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters Thursday that Mukherjee’s visit, at the invitation of the Chinese foreign minister, will help promote “mutual political trust” and take forward the Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

Mukherjee’s visit to China takes place at a time when both countries feel more confident with each other to raise and discuss any issue that is of concern to them. The leadership in Beijing has already expressed its appreciation over the way India handled the Tibetan demonstrations in its capital last month without allowing this to affect the torch relay for the Beijing Olympic Games.

Source: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com

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The American Indian Language Development Institute, now in its 29th year, is working to preserve American Indian languages by teaching educators and others how to preserve them.

Research has shown that students of color who learn in their native language and are taught about their respective cultures and heritage tend to perform better academically. That is one reason why The University of Arizona’s American Indian Language Development Institute is working to preserve and revitalize indigenous languages and to also help educators figure out ways to teach languages to others.

“Our native language means so much to us,” said Regina L. Siquieros, the institute’s program coordinator and a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “It is much more powerful than English and helps us to better understand ourselves and to be better people.” The annual summer institute, part of the UA College of Education, is in its 29th year and will be held at the University June 4 through July 12 with a focus on American Indian educators and the classroom environment.

The institute promotes the idea that educators, parents, tribal leaders and community members must be actively engaged to avoid the loss of language and also preserve language. This year’s theme is “Creating Spaces for Indigenous Languages in Everyday Life” and, concurrently, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Languages. It is particularly important to discuss the preservation of American Indian languages now – particularly in the classrooms – because of recently approved English-only mandates and legislation, Siquieros said.

“Everything we have worked so hard for is now in danger,” she said. “But it is important for us, as Native people, to be represented in all settings, including the classroom. In the classroom, we need more support.” Another concern is the fact that most American Indian youth speak in English, not their native languages, Siquieros said, adding that the “Western society” has long pushed for assimilation rather than the type of education that enables indigenous people to maintain their languages and cultural heritage.

The institute has trained thousands of people since its inception, such as educators, students, administrators, health care professionals and others. Each year, the institute draws people from all over the United States, Mexico and Canada. This year, one person from Australia has registered to attend. Divided into two streams, the institute offers six credits at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, encouraging participants to become researcher and bilingual and bicultural curriculum specialists, as well as language teachers. “Creating spaces for language involves both creativity and determination – that is, a conviction that revitalizing endangered languages is important – and finding ways to encourage students to use their ancestral tongue,” said Mary Carol Combs, an adjunct associate professor at the UA who specializes in language planning and policy, indigenous language revitalization and bilingual education law and policy. With an agenda of presentations and field trips, participants will learn the implications of the No Child Left Behind legislation, immersion methods, children’s literature and writing, the particular needs of American Indian students, endangered languages, and linguistics and bilingualism. They will attend demonstrations and lessons in indigenous languages, harvest Saguaro fruit – a long-standing practice among the Tohono O’odham – and visit both Kitt Peak and the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum.

“This is an event in which immersion teachers can share what they do and encourage others to teach only in the language,” Combs said. She will teach a course about indigenous language and identity in films produced by filmmakers around the world, exploring whether films can transmit language and culture, she said. “We’ll be looking at ways teachers can use indigenous films in secondary classrooms, and at film as an alternative language text,” Combs said, “as a non-traditional means of addressing issues of importance to global and local indigenous communities.”

Source: http://uanews.org

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If Darfur doesn’t suffer from international inattention, it certainly suffers from international neglect. Here we are, five years after the region became a household term and the grim statistics – at least three million displaced and 300,000 killed – only tick higher. For years, editorials have been written, campaigns launched, peacekeepers dispatched, but the violence simply escalates. In just the past few months, the Sudanese government has persisted in its bombing campaigns against villages, rebels have attacked Khartoum, and aid workers have come under increasing threat. More than 150,000 people have fled their homes in Darfur this year alone, and terrible stories of suffering continue to pour out of camps around the region.

More than a few such stories inhabit the pages of Daoud Hari’s The Translator. There is Hari’s account of the young mother, terrorised and raped by the janjaweed, who then abandon her in the desert far from any village. She walks for days with her children in tow, and when they die of starvation and thirst, she places them under a tree and hangs herself from the nearest branch. There is the slightly crazed man who pulls Hari aside at a Chadian refugee camp, desperate to share a terrible secret. When the janjaweed attacked his village, they tied him to a tree and began to beat him savagely. At the sight of the thrashing, the man’s four-year-old daughter ran out from her hiding place in a vain effort to protect her father. As she approached, one of the janjaweed fighters bayoneted her through her stomach and lifted her above his head, prancing around the tree as her blood rained down on him. “What was he?” her father asks Hari. “A man? A devil? . . .What is better torture than this?”

Telling just a few of Darfur’s stories is the humble premise of this slim and simply narrated memoir. Hari is hardly the first to send such wrenching accounts into the world, but his contribution to what we know about events on the ground in Sudan extends far beyond the pages of his own book. After a terrifying attack on his village in 2003, in which he lost his beloved elder brother, Hari and members of his family fled to Chad. Rather than pick up a gun, Hari risked life and limb by repeatedly returning to Darfur as a translator for journalists with the BBC, the New York Times and NBC News. If you have learned anything about Darfur from these sources, the chances are you have already encountered Hari’s work.

But Hari’s memoir is also unique in that it provides a window into life in Darfur before the region became synonymous with genocide. He offers us a portrait of village life, so that we can begin to understand the paramount importance of family and the extended bonds of tribe and kinship that are so necessary when forging an existence in a harsh environment. In clean, straightforward prose, he describes the marketplaces of nearby towns, the games that young children play to while away time, the travellers packed together in the Land Cruisers that connect the villages of Africa.

If only we weren’t aware that these brief snatches of routine are mere interludes in a horror story. Hari’s homecoming, after years spent working abroad illegally in Libya and Egypt (for which he served time in prison), is brief and sorrowful; hearing of the rising troubles, he makes it home just days before his own village is attacked and his family is scattered. While serving as a translator for aid workers in swelling camps along the Chad border, he meets untold numbers of young women for whom, Hari writes, “rape [is] now the going price of camp firewood”. He escorts a team of BBC reporters into Darfur, where they come upon a thickly forested area where human limbs and heads fall to earth around them; villagers had made a last stand in the trees. Nearby were the bodies of 81 men and boys killed in the same attack.

The misfortune described in The Translator is not always Hari’s to observe. On a trip into Darfur in August 2006, he was serving as guide and translator to the Chicago Tribune‘s Paul Salopek when he, Salopek and their driver were captured by rebels allied with the Sudanese government. Understandably, Khartoum does not look kindly on reporters (or their Sudanese translators). What followed was more than 30 days of detention, with harsh interrogations and severe beatings. Several times, guards from Hari’s tribe offered him the chance to escape, but he refused to leave the others behind. Only the intervention of high-level officials from the United States, and international appeals from people such as the Pope and Bono, secured their release. In the wake of the episode, Hari was granted political asylum in the US. From there, he continues to investigate the fates of his extended family members and awaits the day when he, like millions of others, can return home.

Source: http://www.newstatesman.com

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