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Metaglossia: The Translation World
News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
Curated by Charles Tiayon
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Afghan conflict spawns new word

A RISE in attacks on soldiers in Afghanistan has led to the term "green-on-blue" being anointed word of the year for 2012.!
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Army interpreters fear for lives if left to face the Taliban

AFGHAN interpreters used by Australian forces fear they will be left behind to face certain death with the imminent drawing down of troop numbers.!
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Interpreters in danger 'won't be left behind'

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has defended the resettlement package offered to interpreters working with New Zealand troops in Afghanistan.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said the offer was lean in comparison to packages offered by other countries and could permanently scar New Zealand's reputation.

The 23 interpreters currently working with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan were expected to be offered resettlement in New Zealand or a three year salary payout if they remain in Afghanistan.

The offer does not include to former interpreters.

Last week 12 former interpreters wrote a formal plea to the Defence Force asking the offer be extended to them.

Spokesman for the group, Bashir Ahmad, said the former interpreters had begun to regret risking their lives as translators for New Zealand.

Coleman said the Government would consider all factors and give everyone a fair hearing.!
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Former translator for American troops studying in new program at Maine law school

PORTLAND, Maine — Five years ago, Ali Farid was in his native Iraq living like an American soldier. He slept on same base, ate the same food and wore the same uniform they did.

Today, he is one of three international students in a new master’s degree program at the University of Maine School of Law.

“I used to dress exactly like a soldier, but I didn’t carry a weapon,” Farid, 24, of Westbrook said recently in a telephone interview.

What he did do was translate for the American forces. His first assignment was with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. He also worked as a translator with 101st Airborne Division.

“I went on patrol with the soldiers,” he said. “They would usually go out to talk to people to establish security in certain areas. They did checkpoints and road clearance.”

Farid began learning English in his early childhood. His father, who is an electrical engineer, and mother, who has a college degree in psychology, valued education and sent him to one of the top schools in the country at an early age, he said.

“In school, we studied Arabic, English and French,” Farid said. “As a teen I listened to American songs and bands. What really helped improve my English was my connection with Coalition Forces when I spoke English 24/7.”

Farid worked with American soldiers for three years. During that time he also was studying law and taking exams. Law school in Iraq is not a graduate program as it is in the United States, but students must earn very high grades in high school to be admitted to the college program, he said.

His close work with the Coalition Forces also put his life in danger, Farid said. Shortly before he left Iraq for the United States, a taxi driver held a gun to his head and threatened to kill him and his family. His aunt, who lives in Westbrook, told him Maine was a safe place to live and a good place to start over.

When Farid first moved to the state a year ago, he went to the law school to see if it offered a graduate degree. Since Maine Law, as the law school is known, had not yet started the program, he considered moving to Boston to take classes there. But Farid decided to stay in the Portland area and be one of the first three students in the law school’s master’s degree program. The other two students are from Somalia and Saudi Arabia.!
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Interpreting in Conflict Zones, Expert roundtable discussion, 4.10.12

Interpreters in Conflict Zones is the topic of the Expert Roundtable Discussion taking place at swissnex Boston on 4 October (7 am-10:30am), with experts from swissnex Boston, the University of Geneva, Harvard University, Boston University, MIT, the ILO and other institutions.
Barbara Moser-Mercer, Director of InZone and member of AIIC, will introduce the expert discussion in Boston.
A parallel roundtable will take place in Geneva, at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (room 6050, 2pm-4:30pm), with a video-conference connection to the event in Boston.
The event will also be webstreamed via
For more information, please click here!
danielle d'hayer's curator insight, August 26, 2013 4:54 AM

Do not miss this event. Barbara Moser Mercer, ETI and AIIC have worked very hard to bring the interest of interpreters in conflic zones. Congo-Kinshasa: Linguistics Expert Begins Testimony at ICC

Today, linguistics expert Professor Eyamba George Bokamba started testifying at the Bemba trial on the origins and 'social linguistics' of the Lingala language, which is widely spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Professor Bokamba, who has lectured at the University of Illinois in the United States since receiving his Ph.D. in linguistics from Indiana University, is providing testimony that the defense hopes will enable the trial chamber assess accusations that Jean-Pierre Bemba's soldiers, who spoke that language, were the perpetrators of atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR).

He said a key element of the report he has prepared for the court is on the social linguistics of Lingala in the CAR. Another is the structural relationships between the Central African language Sango and Lingala, as well as the use of Lingala in the CAR.

The expert explained that Lingala developed around 1866-1880 as an amalgamation of various Congolese languages spoken around the confluence of the Mongala and Congo rivers.

The witness also said while Lingala belongs to the Bantu group of languages spoken in numerous countries in east, central, and southern Africa, Sango belongs to the Oubanguian language group.

Numerous prosecution witnesses testified that soldiers who brutalized civilians during the 2002-2003 conflict in the CAR were members of Mr. Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). They primarily identified them because they spoke Lingala and not Sango.

However, the defense argues that there are Central Africans, particularly in border areas that were the scene of the conflict, who speak Lingala. Furthermore, the defense argues that elements of Central African armed forces spoke Lingala, some of them having been trained in the Congo.!
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Surviving terror: Confessions of an Iraqi translator

Surviving terror: Confessions of an Iraqi translator
Ahmed Abdullah put himself in danger by volunteering to help coalition forces inside Iraq. Now a prison guard in Lawton, OK, Abdullah dreams of becoming a U.S. citizen.

By Ken Raymond | Published: September 10, 2012 27

Watching the men approach, Ahmed Abdullah readied the Glock 9 mm pistol in his lap and waited.
Traffic had stalled, as it often did, on Main Supply Route Tampa. American forces somewhere ahead were sweeping for improvised explosive devices, turning the highway from Balad south to Baghdad into a makeshift motor camp. Parked vehicles, scattered haphazardly on and off the pavement, had disgorged their occupants into the summer heat. People stood in clusters to talk or walked in search of a breeze.

Ahmed Abdullah is a man without a country. A native Iraqi, he emigrated to the U.S. after harrowing years spent as a translator for coalition forces. He and his immediate family live in Lawton but are not yet American citizens. DOUG HOKE - The Oklahoman

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Surviving terror: Confessions of an Iraqi translator
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Not all of the vehicles were empty, though. Abdullah, for one, remained in his sweltering Ford Windstar minivan, leaning outside the driver's side window. His face betrayed no evidence of the fear that was trickling like perspiration down his spine.
Surrounded by danger
Abdullah, now 31, was no stranger to terror. He'd lived with it his entire life; by now it was as familiar as hunger and discomfort. All three were the product of growing up in an Iraq governed by dictator Saddam Hussein and the Sunni-led Ba'ath Party.
Hussein had risen to power through luck and intention. He was an early member of the revolutionary Baathists, who merged a wave of nationalistic fervor with socialism. Hussein failed in an attempt to assassinate a government official, then survived exile and imprisonment to become a political strongman, officially taking power as Iraq's president in 1979.
The occasion was marked by blood. Hussein immediately denounced many of his fellow Baathists as traitors, and within two weeks, hundreds had been executed.
Hussein was a Sunni, like Abdullah and about 80 to 90 percent of Muslims worldwide. In Iraq, though, the majority population is Shi'a. The two major Islamic sects are much the same but divide along some theological, legal, economic and social lines. Both suffered under Hussein's totalitarian regime.
“Hussein ... was one of the world's indisputably evil men: He murdered as many as a million of his people, many with poison gas,” Dexter Filkins wrote for The New York Times Magazine in 2007. “He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis.

Read more:!
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Actualités Israel - L’Iran fausse le discours de Morsi. |

Image historique à Téhéran, c’est la première fois depuis 30 ans que le président égyptien se rend en Iran. Le président égyptien Morsi s’est rendu et a été reçu avec respect, à une conférence des pays arabes neutres à Téhéran en Iran. Dans son discours, Morsi utilise l’opportunité de parler sur la situation en Syrie. Mais le traducteur iranien, a choisi de fausser les traductions. Il semblerait que le régime iranien savait qu’il allait attaquer Assad, c’est pourquoi le traducteur a reçu l’ordre d’écrire Bahreïn à la place de la Syrie et de changer les mots. Voici la véritable traduction. S’ils ont choisi Bahreïn, c’est parce qu’ils ne voulaient pas parler de l’alliance entre Assad et la Syrie. Et le but était aussi d’allumer le feu avec Bahreïn, le pays le plus proche de l’Arabie saoudite, ennemi sunnite de l’Iran. Voici comment la traduction a été faussée. Les gens disent que cette contrefaçon montre la crainte de l’Iran de perdre l’alliance avec la Syrie, et nous montre aussi l’intérêt iranien de réveiller la stabilité des Etats du Golf sunnite.Moyenne!
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Morsy’s words changed in Farsi translation

President Mohammed Morsy’s speech at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran was mistranslated to sound less critical of Syria. Al Jazeera showed video of Morsy speaking and ran a translation of the Farsi audio that accompanied it. Morsy clearly stated that those who are struggling for freedom are the “Palestinians and Syrians.” However, the translation clearly said “Palestinians and Bahrainis.”

The tampered translations continue in a later part of Morsy’s speech when he said, “The Egyptian Revolution represents the cornerstone of the Arab Spring.” The Iranian translator replaces this with the words “Islamic Awakening,” a term that would bring Iran into the revolutionary fold and also add an exclusively religious label to a movement embraced by seculars and Islamists alike.

The switch from Syrians to Bahrainis is likely born out of Iran’s steadfast defense of the Bashar Al-Assad regime’s violent repression of the largely Sunni rebels, while Iran voices support for protestors in Bahrain who are largely Shi’a. Still, the willingness to tamper with Morsy’s words will not help the growing camaraderie between Egypt and Iran.

Lately, Iran has seemed almost desperate to ally with Egypt, with its foreign ministry giving a sycophantic interview to the Egyptian press. However, the translation debacle shows that Iran is having difficulty engaging honestly with their fellow Muslim power. It is reminiscent of a fake interview published by the Fars state news agency soon after Morsy’s election that claimed the newly elected leader was seeking closer ties with Iran and that he was interested in revising the Camp David accord. Not only did Morsy have to ensure the international community that the interview was false, but he had to deal with the backlash that was elicited entirely outside of his control.!
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À Téhéran, Morsi défend la révolution syrienne, les interprètes iraniens travestissent ses propos

DIPLOMATIE - Au sommet des non-alignés à Téhéran, les interprètes iraniens ont eu tôt fait d'évacuer les critiques du président égyptien Mohammed Morsi contre le régime de son homologue syrien Bachar Al-Assad en remplaçant la "Syrie" par le...!
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Bahrain: Iran translation sidestepped Syria

MANAMA, BAHRAIN — Bahrain says it has filed a formal protest with Iran over a broadcast translation that wrongly substituted Bahrain for Syria in a speech by Egypt's president.

A statement by Bahrain's government says Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi referred to the Syrian rebels fighting an "oppressive" regime during a speech at a Tehran conference Thursday.

Instead, Bahrain claims Iranian state TV replaced the word "Syria" with "Bahrain" in its Farsi translation.

Morsi's speech was an embarrassment for Iran, which is a close ally of the Syrian regime. But Shiite power Iran has frequently criticized Bahrain's authorities for crackdowns against mostly Shiite protesters seeking greater political rights.

Bahrain says the formal complaint was filed Saturday with an Iranian diplomat.!
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How the war on terror changed translation in government

In today’s post-9/11 era, almost every U.S. government agency has been affected by the war on terror. For consumers, TSA security checks and the presence of the National Guard at major events are continuing reminders of the increased level of government attention and effort toward national security. As part of this shift, the government has had a more urgent need to access and understand content in a number of different languages to maintain effective global intelligence. This need has coincided with a major explosion of the use of new communication technologies like cell phones and Internet. Though not as visible to everyday people as the enhanced airport security checks, government translation has significantly evolved during the past decade, propelled by intelligence efforts and supported by new translation technologies.!
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Seven Afghans, four NATO troops killed

Seven Afghans working with Westerners have been executed, and four NATO troops and an interpreter killed in bomb attacks.!
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Four NATO soldiers, interpreter die

KABUL: Four NATO soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in separate roadside bombings in southern and eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the military alliance in the war-torn country said.Two International Security Assistance Force service ...!
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Three NATO troops, one Afghan interpreter killed in attacks

Three soldiers with the NATO-led military alliance and one Afghan interpreter were killed on Wednesday in two separate roadside bomb attacks, the coalition said in a statement.

"Two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members died following an improvised explosive device attack in eastern Afghanistan today," the statement said. It added that a contracted Afghan interpreter also died in the attack.

In the east, one NATO soldier was killed in a separate roadside bomb attack, the alliance said. It did not mention the exact locations of the incidents.

Source: GNA!
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Afghan interpreter arrives in Canada

Sayed Shah Sharifi, a former combat interpreter for Canadian forces in Kandahar, arrived in Toronto from Afghanistan Sunday, ending a more than two-year fight to reach safety.!
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Current criminal justice domestic violence policies have been severely criticized by some feminist scholars as undermining victim autonomy. This criticism is puzzling given the fact that these policies were drafted in response to the activism of feminists involved in the early battered women’s movement and that autonomy, or the agency of women, was a key goal of
this movement. This apparent paradox can be explained, however, by the fact that activists involved in the early battered women’s movement and actors in the current criminal justice regime speak in two different “languages.” Thus, victim autonomy is a concept that got lost in the translation of some of the goals of the early battered women’s movement into criminal justice policy. While this Article acknowledges that victim
autonomy is not the chief goal of the criminal justice system, it still urges proponents of current criminal justice policies to take seriously the fact that a high number of victims currently do not want to engage with the criminal justice system. This number is an .....!
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Translation as violence?

~~~~~~~~~ “Translation rewrites a foreign text in terms that are intelligible and interesting to readers in the receiving culture. Doing so is akin to committing an act of ethnocentric violence by ...!
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Jon Solomon: Translation, Violence, and the Heterolingual Intimacy |

The Biopolitics of Translation

The question that looms ahead of us today is how can we mobilize translation in order to help us survive the potentially violent transition to a global society of one form or another? The assumption of this essay is that the greatest source of violence we face today is not political, but rather biopolitical: it concerns the ways in which life becomes an object that can become treated in terms of “populations” which are then organized according to various competing classificatory schemes that oscillate between the biological, anthropological, and the political.

Translation is related to violence in two, essential ways. The first intrinsically occurs in the operation of translation itself, precisely because it is never definitive and always bears some kind of metaphorical violence towards the original enunciation or text. Any translation is inherently subject to the ever-present possibility of counter-translation, against which further arguments for retranslation can be posed, thus forming a kind of on-going linguistic tug-of-war. Precisely because of this possibility, the institution of preferred, “standard” translations inevitably governs not just linguistic exchange but social organization. Hence, the second aspect of violence seen in translation concerns the historical dimensions of social praxis, and it occurs precisely when indeterminacy is resolved through institutionalization and its disciplinary measures. It is for this reason that the politics of translation must address the segmentation of society according to gradients of majority/minority relations composed on the basis of gender, class, ethnicity, race and postcolonial or civilizational difference.!
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Veena Das: Violence and translation

My writing on the events of September 11th is on two registers – the public event of spectacular destruction in New York and the private events made up of countless stories of grief, fear, and anticipation.1 I hope I can speak responsibly to both, neither trivializing the suffering of the victims of the September 11th attack and those in mourning for them, as in the rhetoric of "deserved suffering" (as if nations and individuals were painlessly substitutable) – nor obscuring the unspeakable suffering of wars and genocides in other parts of the world that framed these events. A recasting of these events into conflicting genealogies by the politics of mourning in the public sphere raises the issue of translation between different formulations through which these events were interpreted and indeed, experienced.

See also the essay by Marita Sturken on memorialization.
There are two opposed perspectives on cultural difference that we can discern today – one that emphasizes the antagonism of human cultures as in some version of the thesis on "clash of civilizations" and the second that underlines the production of identities through circulation and hence the blurring of boundaries. Both, however, are based on the assumption that human cultures are translatable. Indeed, without some power of self-translatability that makes it possible for one to imagine oneself using the categories of the other, human cultures would not be able to live on any register of the imaginary. The stark denial of this translatability on both sides of the present conflict concerns me most, though I note that this is not to espouse a vision of justice that is somehow even-handed in distributing blame. My concern is of a different kind – I fear that classical concepts in anthropological and sociological theory provide scaffolding to this picture of untranslatability despite our commitment to the understanding of diversity. There are obviously specific issues at stake in this particular event of destruction, its time and its space, and the response casting it as a matter of war rather than, say, one concerning crime. But it seems to me that there is a deeper grammar that is at work here that invites us to investigate the conditions of possibility for this kind of declaration of war – as a genre of speech – to take place.!
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UKRAINE • La guerre des langues est déclarée

L'adoption, le 5 juin, d'une loi dotant le russe du statut de langue régionale (soit, de fait, de deuxième langue officielle du pays) pourrait déclencher un déferlement de violence dans ce pays où vit une importante minorité de russophones.!
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