Une erreur est survenue dans ce gadget

jeudi 29 septembre 2011

La traduction et l'interprétation au service de l'humanité. When translators and interpreters help save lives.

Dans la plupart des cas, lorsqu'on se fait une image de la traduction, elle est composée de boîtes de céréales, d'affiches sur l'autoroute ou d'étiquettes et de guides d'utilisateurs variés, entre autres. La profession peut bien paraître un peu banale, pratiquée dans des cabinets stériles par des intellectuels acharnés qui se penchent sur d'énormes livres de référence. On risque de surtout s'imaginer les interprètes à des conférences, couvrant tous les sujets de la politique à la culture. Cependant, de temps en temps (avec ou sans cape et cabine téléphonique) les spécialistes de la traduction et de l'interprétation peuvent aider à sauver des vies. Que ce soit dans les zones de catastrophe ou en aidant les ONG à effectuer leurs tâches essentielles, les linguistes jouent un rôle indispensable au niveau de la libre communication entre les personnes en détresse et les organismes de sauvetage.

Afin de mieux faire connaître cet aspect de l'industrie, le Collège Glendon a invité un conférencier et une conférencière à l'occasion de la Journée internationale de la traduction le 28 septembre : Henry Dotterer, fondateur de l'agence de traduction en ligne Pro-Z et membre du conseil de Traducteurs sans frontières; et Lola Bendana, présidente de l'association internationale des interprètes médicaux et médicales, la International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA).

Deux Canadiennes ont soit fondé, soit aidé à diriger des organismes à faire exactement cela. Lori Thicke est Torontoise basée à Paris et a lancé Traducteurs sans frontières en 1993 après que Médecins sans frontières (MSF) l'ait approchée pour qu'elle leur fasse un prix. Elle a décidé plutôt de fournir le travail humanitaire gratuitement. Comme le raconte Henry Dotterer, MSF a répondu qu'on avait le budget pour le travail. Thicke a répondu que l'argent pourrait servir à fournir davantage de vaccins, le sujet même du travail à traduire.

Depuis, TSF a attiré 678 bénévoles à sa base de données. On évalue des traducteurs à l'aide d'un rigoureux processus d'examen, après quoi il en revient aux organismes humanitaires et aux bénévoles de se retrouver et de s'accorder sur les projets. Les ONG qui profitent du service comprennent Oxfam, MSF, Zafèn, la fondation Fais-Un-Vœu, Enfants du monde et GoodPlanet. Suite au tremblement de terre d'Haïti, des bénévoles ont aidé à traduire des documents sur la gestion des cliniques où on effectuait des amputations; et sur le traitement du traumatisme et du trauma. TSF appuie environ 40 clients actifs. Son prochain défi est d'offrir davantage de services en Afrique et d'aider à y bâtir l'industrie de la traduction, tant pour les langues locales que pour celles qui sont mieux connues.

De son côté, Lola Bendana, la présidente torontoise de l'IMIA, aide à coordonner les efforts effectués pour rejoindre les victimes de catastrophes partout dans le monde. L'IMIA est un organisme de revendication, fondé en 1986, voué à la professionnalisation de l'interprétation médicale. Il regroupe 2 000 membres de 11 pays parlant 70 langues. Diplômée du programme de traduction de l'anglais vers l'espagnol du Collège Glendon, Bendana s'oppose habituellement à l'idée du travail gratuit pour les traducteurs et interprètes. Cependant, le travail humanitaire est une exception fondamentale. Par le biais de sa base de données d'interprètes pour le secours des personnes sinistrées, l'IMIA permet aux interprètes médicaux et médicales bénévoles de communiquer avec les ONG et autres organismes oeuvrant en zone sinistrée.

L'initiative est née du séisme haïtien de janvier 2010. Pendant sept semaines, le navire hospitalier Comfort a soigné les sinistrés; cependant, les premiers bénévoles n'avaient pas de formation professionnelle et ne connaissaient pas la terminologie médicale, ce qui a occasionné des ennuis. Donc, la Croix-Rouge a approché l'IMIA pour demander de l'aide. Le séisme et tsunami au Japon en mars 2011 a fourni une autre malheureuse occasion de prêter secours : la représentante japonaise de l'IMIA, Kazumi Takesako, a organisé un groupe d'interprètes bénévoles et a également demandé l'aide des traducteurs. Ces derniers étaient nécessaires à la traduction de documents concernant les problèmes nucléaires à l'installation de Fukushima. Takesako avait juré d'empêcher les tragédies futures semblables à celles d'une mère qui avait perdu son enfant au cours d'un séisme antérieur, parce que les secouristes ne voyaient pas le bébé et ne comprenaient pas ce qu'elle disait pour les avertir.



Most of the time when we picture translation, we may think of cereal boxes, highway signs or various labels and manuals. It may seem like mundane stuff carried out in sterile offices by diligent scholars thumbing voluminous reference books. We may picture interpreters mainly at conferences, covering every conceivable subject from the political to the cultural. However, every once in a while – and with or without capes and phone booths – translators and interpreters can serve a higher purpose: helping to save lives. Whether in disaster zones or aiding NGOs carry out their crucial tasks, linguists play a crucial role in ensuring communication flows freely for those in distress.

To highlight this lesser-known aspect of the business, Glendon College invited two guest speakers in honour of International Translation Day on September 28: Henry Dotterer, founder of the online translation agency Pro-Z and board member of Translators Without Borders; and Lola Bendana, president of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA).

Two Canadians have founded or helped direct organizations to do just that. Lori Thicke, a Torontonian working in Paris, founded Translators Without Borders in 1993 after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) approached her for a quote. She decided to provide the humanitarian work for free. As Henry Dotterer tells it, MSF answered they had a budget to pay the work. Thicke replied that the money could be used to provide more vaccine, which was the subject of the work to be translated.

Since that time, TWB has attracted 678 volunteers to its database. Translators are screened through a rigorous testing process before they gain admission. After that, it's up to the humanitarian organizations and volunteers to find each other and agree on projects. Amongst the NGOs served are Oxfam, MSF, Zafèn, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Enfants du monde and GoodPlanet. After the earthquake in Haïti, volunteers helped translate documents on how to manage clinics where amputations are performed; and how to treat shock and trauma. TWB supports about 40 active clients. Its next mission: to expand into Africa and help build the translation industry there, for local languages as well as better-known ones.

Meanwhile, Lola Bendana, the Toronto-based president of the IMIA, helps coordinate efforts to reach out to disaster victims worldwide. The IMIA is an advocacy organization founded in 1986, representing 70 languages, 2,000 members and 11 countries and dedicated to professionalizing medical interpretation. A Glendon College English-Spanish translation programme graduate, Bendana usually opposes the idea of translators and interpreters working for nothing. However, humanitarian work is a crucial exception. Through its Disaster Relief Interpreter Database, the IMIA puts volunteer medical interpreters in touch with NGOs and other organization working in natural catastrophy zones.

The initiative was born from the Haïti earthquake in January 2010. For seven weeks, the Comfort Hospital Ship ministered to patients; however, the first volunteers were non-professionals who did not have any in-depth knowledge of medical terminology, which proved problematic. As a result, the Red Cross approached the IMIA for help. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011 provided another unfortunate opportunity to lend assistance, as Japanase IMIA representative Kazumi Takesako organized a group of volunteer interpreters and reached out to translators as well. The latter were needed to help with documents concerning nuclear problems at the Fukushima plant. Takesako had vowed to prevent tragedies such as the case of a mother in a previous earthquake who lost her baby because rescuers couldn't see the child and couldn't understand her entreaties.

mercredi 7 septembre 2011

I love you, my cabbage, and other sweet nothings

Aside from wildly incorrect translations, another source of amusement for translators and bilingual people at large is the idiosyncrasy of national idioms. In French, the word "idiom" is "idiotisme", which itself sounds like a funny "false friend".

One of my favourites has always been "mon chou" (my cabbage) as a term of endearment in French. True, "chou" can also refer to a pastry, and therefore something sweet and delicious, but I prefer the vegetable explanation. In a similar vein, it's tough to explain why "être dans les choux" (to be in the cabbage) means feeling distant or being in trouble. According to some , the reason is that "chou" sounds like "échouer" (to fail).

Another expression I encountered comparatively later in life was "avoir du chien" (to have some dog). Again a counterintuitive concept, it means to have style, or to be sexy. When I first heard someone use it, however, I thought it meant something like being assertive and energetic. There are different suppositions as to how dogs came to symbolize sexiness. Some report that "dog" was a quality attributed to talented actors in the theatre. Others believe that the association comes from the mischievousness and playfulness of the dog.

One intriguing idiom from Québec is "le bonhomme sept heures" (the 7 o'clock man), a frightening character parents once invoked to get their children to exhibit desired behaviour. As a young girl, I thought this "bonhomme" always had to show up at 7, but in fact the expression as a whole is a contraction of the English term "bone setter". Itinerant doctors would show up to set the broken limbs of patients in various locations. Patients' resultant screams would invariably frighten children, so parents took advantage.

A last example I like is "avoir coiffé Ste-Catherine" (to have styled the head of St. Catherine, as in put on a hat or do the hair), which means to be older than 25 and unmarried. Ste-Catherine's Day is on November 25th, and she is the patron saint of scholars and unmarried women. At one time, my sister and I used to wear our favourite hats and go out on the town to celebrate our single status each 25th of November. It's traditional to eat toffee on that day, which fits the occasion perfectly.

There are, of course, hundreds of entertaining idioms in every language. One that puzzled me in English was "happy as a clam". I didn't understand why clams were so happy. As it turns out, the expression as we know it today is incomplete: originally, it was "happy as a clam at high tide", since then the clams are hidden and tougher to harvest.

English endearments can be just as strange as their French counterparts: why would anyone be flattered by being called a pumpkin? A "sweet nothing" in itself is equally odd, when you think of it.

Meanwhile, I don't mean to "let the cat out of the bag", but the bag in question was supposed to contain a pig obtained in a medieval market place. Dealers would substitute a cat for the pig on display and the shady switcheroo would only be discovered on arrival.

All in all, idioms enrich language even as they often stump the efforts of translators. They certainly lead to entertaining discussions, in any language of choice.