Modern languages

You are currently browsing the archive for the Modern languages category.

By Dr Wine Tesseur, Post Doctoral Research Assistant in Modern Languages and European Studies

This blog has been translated to over 15 languages with the support of ‘The Language Industry’. See the translated versions.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to put the most vulnerable populations first and to leave no one behind. This implies communicating in a multiplicity of languages, yet the SDGs are silent on language issues.

Although proponents see the realisation of the SDGs as emerging from dialogue with vulnerable populations, it is unclear how sustainable, two-way democratic communication will be ensured.

The absence of any mention of language in the SDGs was the topic of a United Nations Symposium titled ‘Language, the Sustainable Development Goals and Vulnerable Populations’, held in New York on 11-12 May 2017. It was the second event organised by a Study Group on Language and the United Nations, an independent group of scholars and practitioners.

As a researcher on the project ‘The Listening Zones of NGOs: Languages and Cultural Knowledge in Development Programmes’, jointly organised by INTRAC (the International NGO Training and Research Centre), the University of Reading and the University of Portsmouth, I participated in the symposium and contributed a paper on the role of languages in the development work of international UK-based NGOs. I was curious to find out more about the work of other researchers as well as practitioners working on the role of languages in development. In this blog, I share some thoughts and insights on the discussions and debates that took place over these two stimulating days.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags:

Professor Hilary Footitt, from the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies, has a major interest in ‘Languages and international NGOs’ (non-governmental organisations) and how research into languages and cultures can support the work of NGOs and aid agencies as they operate ‘on the ground’ in international conflict and crisis zones. It focuses on the language and cultural challenges faced by international NGOs, and the role and status of the local personnel they increasingly employ.

The occlusion of non-military linguists, their apparent absence from policymaking for conflict, is in many ways related to a much more fundamental problem, a classic tendency to ignore the presence of language intermediaries altogether, to deny personal subjectivity to those ‘middle’ men and women who stand between institutions and foreign populations. Two discourses, one from those who employ interpreters, and one from the profession of interpreting itself, arguably contribute to the continued invisibility of the linguist.

For institutions in conflict situations, interpreting and translating are often seen through the lens of logistics. In this perspective, language intermediaries are one element in the overall matériel of war, as interpreters in Bosnia/Herzegovina explained: “That was our favourite briefing for soldiers when they were going on a patrol. Don’t forget your kit. Helmets, body armour. Don’t forget your satellite box, the orange box of the satellite phone. Don’t forget your interpreter…as if I am a tool”; “ …the Americans used to call the interpreters ‘lips’. ‘ Hey, lips’, you know, and the lips would come over and do the interpreting and they were supposed to be invisible.” (Baker b, 2012, 208). Paradoxically, this tendency to deny personal visibility to the interpreter can be reinforced by the traditional discourse of professional interpreting, developed and codified after the Second World War, in which the primary ethical requirement is for the interpreter to be impartial at all times.

Both the notion of the language intermediary as a part of operational logistics, and the neutrality concept of professional interpreting contribute in their different ways to the invisibility of language mediation in accounts of conflict.

http://www.reading.ac.uk/modern-languages-and-european-studies/Research/LINGOs.aspx

Tags: , , , , , ,