“Access to information is a basic human right,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, according to the World Bank Institute, at a conference on the subject last year in Accra, Ghana. Information is also power, and more and more organizations are recognizing that it will play an essential role in Africa’s future. Having access to information enables people to do things like take care of their health, understand their rights, start businesses, and participate in political processes.
When it comes to information access, most of the discussions are about the delivery systems such as mobile phones, which in many parts of Africa are the computing devices of choice. Obviously, getting information into people’s hands is critical. But what good is it if they cannot understand that information once they receive it? Africa is home to more than 2,000 different languages spread across six major language families – Nigeria alone has more than 500 tongues spoken within its borders. Some of them – such as Amharic, Berber, Hausa, Igbo, Oromo, Swahili, and Yoruba – are used by tens of millions of people.
Because of its incredible linguistic diversity, Africa presents numerous challenges when it comes to translation. However, multilingualism is extremely common among Africans, which means that there are large numbers of individuals who could potentially, and with the right professional training, provide translation services. Also, as our research shows, the markets for translation and interpreting in Africa have been growing steadily in recent years, fueled by factors such as global trade and international migration. This has led to a proliferation of language service providers spread across the continent. However, even these positive developments cannot begin to address the need for translated information.
It’s been said that until Africa prospers, the world as a whole cannot prosper. Translation plays an important part in giving people the information that will allow them to prosper in many aspects of life. For this reason, Common Sense Advisory is conducting a new study on translation in Africa on behalf of Translators without Borders. Today we launched a survey for translators of African languages in order to collect more information about the issues they face and to learn more about their views on access to information. We’re inviting all individuals who translate into and out of African languages – whether on a volunteer or professional basis – to participate. Please encourage all translators for African languages in your network or contact database to take the survey. To read a joint press release about the project from Common Sense Advisory and Translators without Borders, click here.
from Nataly Kelly, Common Sense Advisory.