Languages matter- Nairobi 2008-ONU


Languages

matter

Training of Translators, Conference Interpreters,

Public Service Interpreters

In Africa

An Analysis presented by

The Division of Conference Services

United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON)

October 2008

It is preferable to coin words that could be understood by native speakers of a given language, than use words, coinages, that may be understood by international community but not by native speakers”

Claude Hagège, Collège de France

La pensée ne doit pas se plier devant la langue, la langue doit se plier devant la pensée”

Danica Seleskovitch, ESIT SORBONNE

SCOPE AND OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

  • Intercultural Language Mediation at Large

From the language confusion in Babel through the loaded cryptic messages of the Oracle in Delphi, and the Dragoman in the Ottoman Empire, to the Nuremburg Trials, language mediation has been necessary and has contributed to communication in all walks of life and society. Throughout history we have seen how the professions were in the hands of fortune tellers, military men, scholars and ambassadors who, by accident or voluntarily and in the case of the Dragoman by training, played the role of linguistic mediator. In more recent times, the emergence of international cooperation through international organizations which came into being after World War II, as in the case of the Nuremburg Trails for instance, where the profession of conference interpreter and translator took its modern form, many well known professionals had no other specific training than the natural talent to communicate and to speak different tongues.

The aim of the study is not to dwell on the history of those professions but rather to underline that multilingual Africa might benefit from the experience gained in Europe where it took years to train highly qualified Interpretation and Translation teams and to merge different training programmes into a common framework for training language specialists, culminating in the setting-up of the EMCI and EMT Consortium. In other words there is a need to distinguish these training programmes from the purely language teaching programmes offered in universities and on which the proposed master trainings build further.

  • Languages

Languages are part and parcel of people’s identity, instruments for communication and tools for negotiation. Hundreds of studies and analyses on multilingualism have been written identifying over 6,500 languages in the world, with more than 2000 in Africa, underlining the importance of languagebe denied. The migration flows and the growing mobility of citizens thus entail problems in terms of communication and understanding. The purpose of this study, hereinafter referred to as the Project, was not to analyze the complexity of African multilingualism but to examine in what form of appropriate training in language mediation, Africa can sustain this multilingualism and indeed offer a platform for multilingual training. Furthermore, in meetings, conferences, seminars or business negotiations it is common practice not to use all languages represented by participants for reasons of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and lack of qualified language specialists in general. On the other hand, in some circumstances, less widely spoken languages are of paramount importance for the parties involved, such as in court proceedings, hospitals, administrative offices etc. learning in educational systems for the purposes of local, regional, national and international understanding and cooperation. Some of these languages are more widely spread than others, while others die and in a global world, the tendency to use a lingua franca is very real. Yet, when transparent communication and direct understanding between people is not possible due to language barriers, the language expert is brought in, the interpreter for the oral message, the translator for the written message.

The impact of the colonial administration on what were then called indigenous languages but now referred to as national languages and the consequences of the imported European languages on all layers of African society cannot be denied. The migration flows and the growing mobility of citizens thus entail problems in terms of communication and understanding. The purpose of this study, hereinafter referred to as the Project, was not to analyze the complexity of African multilingualism but to examine in what form of appropriate training in language mediation, Africa can sustain this multilingualism and indeed offer a platform for multilingual training. Furthermore, in meetings, conferences, seminars or business negotiations it is common practice not to use all languages represented by participants for reasons of efficiency, cost-effectiveness and lack of qualified language specialists in general. On the other hand, in some circumstances, less widely spoken languages are of paramount importance for the parties involved, such as in court proceedings, hospitals, administrative offices etc. […]

Noel Muylle, Division of Conference Services, United Nations Office at Nairobi (extrait du rapport final de la Conférence)

Télécharger le rapport final de Mr Noel Muylle

Project-Report-by-Mr.-Noel-Muylle.doc (39 téléchargements)