Off topic: Just spare them a minute. Interpreters in war zones.
Thread poster: Agnieszka Hayward

Agnieszka Hayward
Local time: 13:22
German to Polish
+ ...
Oct 10, 2008

Every time I feel like complaining that the booth is too small and soooo stuffy,
and that the fans don't work properly (once again),
and that the client has not provided all necessary materials in advance (hmmm),
and that... this and that...

... I have to think of these guys:

Let me say, they're the true heroes in all this. Yes.
Nobody promised them a safe escape after all this mess ends. And yet, they never abandoned their post.
And they are - literally - dead already, unless... their "good uncles" do something.

Please, spare a few moments and watch this video. And stop for a second. These people are real. Even if their English isn't perfect, they do their best to facilitate communication and understanding.

They are interpreters. Like you and me.
And, being where they are, their profession might bring about their death sentence...


[Edited at 2008-10-10 00:30]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-10-10 00:34]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:22
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good posting and good thought Oct 10, 2008

Thank you for this posting Agnieszka.

In my last visit to the US, I had a long and very interesting conversation with the taxi driver who took me from Manhattan to JFK. He was an Afgan whose whole family had to leave Afganistan when the talibans got hold of power. They live in Pakistan. He works as a taxi driver 16x7 for 6 months a year in New York and the money he makes is enough to feed his family back home (and even enough to save for the future and plan to open his business in Pakistan). He spoke perfect English, and of course Pastun and other languages.

When he asked me and learned that I was a translator, he inquired about the state of my business and my income. We don't do that in Spain, but it was quite OK as he had told me about his income and plans before. He told me that he knew some translators (he meant interpreters) back in Afganistan who made more or less the same as me. When I asked him whether he had ever considered it, given the money available in that, he looked back at me and said: "No! It's dangerous! Translators get killed there!".

I felt like living in an undeserved luxury, with my little office in a quiet part of town... :-/


Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:22
+ ...
Thank you for sharing! Oct 10, 2008

Thank you for sharing this video Agnieszka, it's really moving. Even though most of us are aware of their situation, sometimes it's easy to forget how truly brave and inspiring they are.


Claudia Tirado (X)
Local time: 06:22
English to Spanish
it's not the first time... Oct 10, 2008

Thanks for posting this. The interpreters have always been an important asset in times of war, like the ones that worked for the Spanish conquerors, they were treated as traitors by their tribes, although they didn't get paid, they often were prisoners forced to act as mediators.
It's impressive how people take for granted the act of communication, I'm sure many don't even think they have such an important role...


Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:22
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Brave people Oct 10, 2008

Yes, I've often thought how brave these war zone interpreters are and how little notice seems usually to be taken of them.
We so often hear news reports on the lines of "14 marines were killed in a roadside bomb attack in XXX yesterday" and sometimes, as an afterthought, "and a translator".
We all know how many years it takes to become proficient in two or more languages and can surmise how important interpreters must be to the armed forces in war zones.
Let us indeed spare them a thought.
Best wishes,


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thanks, Agnieszka Oct 10, 2008

tygru wrote:

... stop for a second. These people are real. Even if their English isn't perfect, they do their best to facilitate communication and understanding.

Reminds me of a librarian's conference I worked in where they were launching an "intercultural mediation training" programme that seemed rather half-baked to me as a language professional. When I asked the resource person to expound upon the idea at the pre-conference briefing, he said, "it's basically where you're coming from", just that it didn't have as much technical specialization.

That started me thinking. We all started somewhere, and deep back in time this was what our colleagues were doing. Today we stand on their shoulders and we barely thank them for breaking ground.


René Stranz-Nikitin  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:22
Czech to German
+ ...
Not brave! They support to make war! Did you forget that? Oct 11, 2008

Sometimes I have such a feeling, that the 21st century is not mine (I am 39 years old). The youngsters got crazy!!!

Why do you regret people or call them brave, which got involved into war for money on their own will? It's their own choice, a very poor choice! If they got killed, they just sold their souls to a governments will.

I have a principle not to do translations, which obviously support the military complex of ANY country. This principle until now didn't cost me much money, but it makes me sleep much more quietly (and thus live healthy without "costs" on worrying about wars).

To work for producers of wars will never be sustainable! It will always produce war and death.

Where are the people on, who despise armament and wars???


Local time: 13:22
French to English
+ ...
They're right here! Oct 11, 2008

"Where are the people on, who despise armament and wars???"

When you work with languages you work to form a bridge between people and ideas.

ANYONE working to improve communication between languages and cultures is, by definition, working towards peace. Whatever camp they find themselves in.

Belittling and brushing off their oft dangerous contribution by saying:

"It's their own choice, a very poor choice! If they got killed, they just sold their souls to a governments will."

Is, to say the least, blinkered!


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Just spare them a minute. Interpreters in war zones.

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