If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been here in Garoua Boulai for some time (still waiting for peace throughout CAR). Many of my usual activities continue: I talk to the teams I work with in Baboua most week days; I continue to study Gbaya. (The good news on that front is that I can occasionally recognize words in sentences as people say them. The continuing frustration is that I can’t always remember what those words mean and usually don’t catch enough to truly understand.) In all of these areas, one of the skills I am practicing is patience!
This week, I have had the chance to interpret, which I consider great fun! Dr. Chuck Short, retried veterinarian from Louisiana, who is in Cameroon for several weeks, came to Garoua Boulai for five days; his language is English although he knows a little French. Dr. Jonas Donan, Central African veterinarian, came to work with him for four days; his languages are French, Sango, Gbaya, Fulfulé, Peul, and some English. Several other Central Africans were also here for the day Tuesday: National Lutheran church President Goliké and the directors of two programs related to agriculture. They all met on Tuesday to discuss a possible veterinary project in CAR. Details are still being explored and discussed, but the idea is to provide some vaccination and preventative care for cattle, goats, and sheep to improve the quality and quantity of meat available to the general population. The pictures to the right show those who attended the meeting. Picture 1: Paul Daina, Director of AVPE, Dr. Donan, Dr. Short, and Michel Doka, Director of PALID; Picture 2: President Goliké and Paul Daina.
So what does that have to do with me??? Well, it is an education-related project (providing training and information to herders) and I am the Educational Consultant for EEL-RCA, but, actually, I got involved because I could make my time available. During the meeting Tuesday I interpreted for the group – French to English and vice versa. Then, over the next few days I helped Chuck and Jonas communicate more effectively so that Jonas could understand the veterinary medicines and supplies that Chuck had brought and so that they could discuss possible directions for the project that is being developed. They are both exploring the availability of medicines and supplies here in Cameroon and looking at the needs of herders in CAR.
It has actually been quite interesting. I like helping people understand each other and have enjoyed learning about the current situation and possibilities for a project run by the church. I have, however, decided – again – that being a vet, doctor, or nurse is not a viable career choice for me! I would not like to be around the blood, gore, and illness! Fortunately, I am far enough into my own career and have other options, so I don’t need to look to health-related professions – for people or animals!!
I have agreed to help translate the project proposal into English when Jonas gets back from N’gaoundéré, so I will have further knowledge of the developing plan and can help him to do in-depth planning and budgeting before I translate everything into English. Those are skills I have and can use without getting too messy!
By the way, do you know the difference between interpreting and translating? Interpretation is oral. It can be simultaneous (as they do at the UN, for example) where the interpreter wears a headset with a microphone and interprets as a speaker is talking so that the interpretation goes directly into the headsets of the speakers of the other language. I think this takes listening to different things with each ear – or at least listening with one ear and having the words come out your mouth in another language! It is very challenging. The kind of interpreting I do is when one person speaks and pauses while I put the words into the other language. Since what I do is informal, I also have the luxury of asking questions if I don’t understand or asking the person to slow down or repeat a sentence.
Translation, on the other hand, is changing written text of one language into another. It involves more than word-by-word translation – as you know if you have ever tried one of the computer translation programs now available online. You have to consider styles of writing. In addition, there is usually greater variation in word choice in written language. Of course, the translator has the time to look words up in a dictionary and to consider the best way to express the text in the target language.
I like doing both interpretation and translation (although I prefer the former), but my real preference is to do them as a part of another job. Full-time interpretation is stressful! And, full-time translation involves working with a computer with little human interaction. I’d rather do the work I am currently doing with the opportunity to interpret and/or translate as the need arises!