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Green Spaces Issue

Issue 6 Considering translation

Guidance Paper 6

Considering translation

Black Environment Network - September '03

Simplistically, translation is just putting text from one language into another. But, careful consideration is needed if translating something is to result in serving a purpose. This paper addresses some of the contexts driving the consideration for translation.

Some key questions and points for consideration

What information should be translated ?

  • No organisation can translate everything. The cost would be prohibitive. It is unnecessary in various instances. Sometimes other ways of communicating is preferable.
  • Thought needs to be given as to what the purpose of the information is, and what the needs of the target groups are. Translation is not a tick box item for provision of information to particular ethnic minority groups.
  • Some ethnic minority groups may specifically request the translation of a particular item because they feel that it is of significant relevance to them. It is important that such requests are carefully considered.
  • Translated words can also be a symbolic gesture of the recognition of cultural presence, even for groups which do not need translation, e.g. a leaflet on planting trees may incorporate the word “tree” in many languages in its design while the main information is in English.

How can organisations work to achieve communication with ethnic groups with varying degrees of understanding of English ?

  • Organisations need to have local knowledge of the different ethnic minorities present in the area, plus their own perception of their needs and wishes. Very often what may be necessary is the establishment of a dialogue with the community group's key worker rather than translation for members of a particular group.
  • Some ethnic minority groups stem from an oral tradition and may wish to have tapes or videos instead of translated text.
  • Communication is a two-way exercise. Translated information going one way can be unsatisfactory. An information session with an interpreter is one way of beginning and building up a real dialogue. In a green space this may take the form of taking a walk together, and giving information and answering questions about the space with the support of the community group's key worker and if necessary a professional interpreter.
  • Members of the group Concrete to Coriander, in a BEN focus group session, said:

    - We would like organisations to give information in plain straightforward English. We can almost always find someone in our group to translate for us.

    - We would like the managers of public places, such as green spaces or libraries, to send key messages and access information in community languages to our community organisations.

    - We would like telephone numbers, dates and addresses in English because that is the form which helps us most when we need to use it or to find places

    - When possible pictures, images or symbols should be used instead of words for signage

What forerunning and follow up work do organisations need to do ?

  • Introduction of new subject matter of interest, or new activities need to go hand in hand with the provision of information. We are inundated with information. Information which seems irrelevant to us is seen as junk mail. For many ethnic groups, information about activities or subject matter with which they have had no contact will result in no response.
  • If material such as grant applications is translated, does it imply that ethnic minority groups may expect to be able to communicate with organisations in their community languages ? This must be made clear on the translated material. There are services, at a cost, which provide 3 way conversations, with the organisational personnel, the client and an interpreter to facilitate communication. Language Line in Birmingham is one such service.

Translation alongside the building of a working relationship with ethnic minority groups

Translation cannot stand alone. The crucial context for successful communication with any ethnic minority group is the building of a consistent working relationship and therefore a continuing dialogue. The relationship will enable the organisation and the ethnic community group to get to know each other and learn from each other.

  • Through a continuing working relationship, specific needs for translation can be identified and solutions found in partnership with the key workers of ethnic community groups.
  • It should be recognised that most ethnic community groups are under-resourced. Whenever possible, ethnic community groups should be paid for specific assistance:

    - Consider whether the information to be translated need professional translation, or translation at a community level. Out of goodwill ethnic community groups which often translate information which benefits their members for free, and put it into their newsletters. Offering to contribute to part of the cost of the printing of newsletters which include your information is a good way of supporting ethnic groups.

    - When possible, pay for the time ethnic groups spend in assisting you to communicate successfully. Ethnic groups can assist you in ensuring that the content of translated information is culturally sensitive and relevant. They can assist in identifying where to distribute information, and in distributing translated information. They can assist in designing the process of a consultation session.

    - When you need to consult with members of ethnic communities, use the premises of community groups and therefore contribute towards their costs. Make a payment to the community organisations when they have arranged for members of ethnic community groups to facilitate the process. This supports the community group, and enable individual members' contribution to their community to be recognised.

    - For many occasions where the information is not technical, the uses of ordinary bilingual members of the community as interpreters may be adequate. A small donation may be made to the community organisation.

    - Use opportunities around communication to support the community group and to build their capacity, e.g. financing training to enable members of ethnic community groups to gain more facilitating skills may enable both the community group and your organisation to communicate more successfully.

Forming a strategy for communication

  • Consider the remit of your organisation and the points where it interfaces with particular ethnic minority groups.
  • Involve appropriate local ethnic minority groups in identifying how best you can fulfil your aims through communication with information and what forms these can take. If appropriate bring in expert advice to facilitate this process, e.g. working with Black Environment Network.
  • Involve appropriate local ethnic minority groups in the roles they can play in assisting you to communicate successfully.
  • Build the capacity of ethnic community groups to work together with you whenever opportunities arise. This includes familiarising the group with how your organisation the sector you work within operates, as well as providing training opportunities in relation to particular skills.
  • Recognise the input of ethnic minority groups, and when possible pay for their services and specific inputs, thereby supporting ethnic community groups while fulfilling your own aims.

Download Guidance Paper 6

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