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17 Apr Linguists’ contribution in times of crisis

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Relief efforts during international crises call for a wide range of professionals, including translators and interpreters. In the midst of such difficult endeavours, linguists can help make an incredibly difficult job just a little bit easier.

Linguists can provide their services during a crisis in a number of ways. Translators and interpreters who are physically present during a crisis can enable communication between afflicted individuals and rescue teams. But even if they are located abroad, translators and interpreters still make a difference. They can translate documents via email or interpret via telephone and video.

Professional translators and interpreters can contribute to alleviating unfortunate circumstances during a crisis by offering on and off-site interpretation, translation of medical and legal documents and other relevant language services. When disaster strikes a highly-developed country, the need for communication is paramount and different languages must be properly interpreted and translated. However, humanitarian organisations often have limited resources available to them, especially when they are working in the centre of a crisis. As a result, NGOs might have to settle for non-professional translators, thereby resulting in inaccurate translations and the dissemination of incorrect information. Inaccuracies in interpretation and translation can be dangerous, as they could result in improper medical care being administered, relief services being sent to the wrong location, or other complications in an already chaotic situation.

In case of emergency, language professionals can help even if they don’t speak the first language of the affected area. Through a method called “relay interpreting”, a pair of translators or interpreters who share a common language work together to communicate between parties. For example, a Korean/English interpreter could interpret the speech of a Korean worker in Japan into English, whereupon an English/Japanese interpreter would render the English speech into Japanese.

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  • Jane Marks
    Posted at 09:47h, 17 April Reply

    Very informative article, Maria. Thank you for the concise explanations. It was interesting in particular to learn more about relay interpreting – is this something that is used a lot?

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