Language diversity or tolerant inclusion?

2005-08-09 00:00:00

Language diversity at the WSF 2005 - this is not a simple
issue. How shall we manage with all the cultures, accents
and worlds everyone lives in ? But then, it doesn't seem to
be that complicated when we speak about the same issues--we
somehow manage to find common words.

The language barrier WSF 2005 can be characterised with one
word - communication. If we cannot communicate, then we
better not meet at all. But what language shall we choose
for that ? The Forum participants come from different
continents, countries and regions, where many people do not
speak any other language than their mother tongue. Despite
this difficulty, there is no translation in at least 30
percent of the events.

In this Forum, we meet people with common ideas, who are
doing what we are doing in our own country, but we do not
speak the same language. What shall we do in such
situations? How do we communicate with each other ? The
most difficult part is when we have to talk about topics
that we are not so familiar with. There comes the language
barrier, the mixture of cultures, the diveristy of
languages, the paranoic fear that no one understands you.

Diversity and tolerance Language diversity and the
corresponding need for translation has become a great issue
in Porto Alegre. Small and big events have had no
translation. The problem is not with the lack of
translators--there are actually a lot of volunteer
translators. The problem lies with the lack of facilities
and equipment like translation booths and headphones which
perhaps really boil down to lack of technical and financial
resources. In many workshop venues, the audience are
grouped in different corners of the room, and in the middle
of each group a Babels translator translates the speeches
and the presentations consecutively--Babel is the network
of volunteer translators in the WSF. This happened in big
sessions such as the Forum on Communication Rights, and the
Assembly of the World March of Women. In small sessions,
translation was not provided at all. The event organisers
choose the language - if they are from the U.S., then it is
English, if they are Braizilians - it is Portuguese. These
were actually the main languages where translation was made

But what do South and Central American people do when they
only speak Spanish ? What do Brazilians do in English
sessions ? What do we all do--we, people from different
countries--to ensure that we are getting our messages
across ?

The solution? Yes, solutions were found! Some have chosen
alternative ways : t-shirts, dress or even tattoos. Others
are more artistic: they dance, sing or paint together.
Solidarty is the solution. More and more volunteer
translators have come into the rescue in different events.
The collaboration is amazing Imagination breaks all rules.
Mixtures of languages are invented : people speak Portanol
(from Portuguese and Spanish), or Frenglish (between
English and French). No need to depend on high technology,
when cultures need to meet. One more thing is helping too :
when we talk about our commonalities, when we have the same
problems to share, and when we search together for
progressive solutions, language is not a problem.

What language do you speak ? Does it really matter ?

-Christina Haralanova, GERT, 28 January 2005