Translator's Notes

4636 Haiti aggregated emergency text messages, and with a team of global volunteers translates from Creole and French to English, then dispatches the request to aid organizations on the ground including International Red Cross, U.S. Coast Guard, InSTEDD, & the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Nearly 20,000 messages have been (as of March 2010) filtered through these evolving efforts.

tanpri kčm ap kase mwen pa ka pran nouvel manmanm

Please my heart is breaking because of no news of my mother
But who is your mother? Who are you? Where are you? I ask other volunteers in a chat room about a few of the words as if I might be mistaken in my translation, but I am just stalling having to select the category on the form called “not enough information.” Not enough information for an aid team to act. Triage is another thing altogether from translation. The group's collective decision-making gives me the stamina to encounter this sadness hour after hour.

Voye lapolis jizi mirak kounye a
Send the police Jesus [send] a miracle now...
Just a fragment. A cry for help. While another part of the team pieces these fragments together, being blind to that part of the process and to the actual incident prompting the message causes me to lean towards the screen as if a flare had been sent up instead of a text. Leaning and squinting maybe I'll see where to send help.

our house is crushed we're hungry make a way for us
When a volunteer got this message, we talked about the tiny word “jan,” which might mean 'path to the victims' or 'way for them to get out' or 'aid to get in,' as if clarifying the slight ambiguity in this sentence would give us enough detail to estimate a latitude and longitude to relay to the relief agency. It's the short, simple ones which repeat the messenger is dying without help and he or she cannot last that I dwell on. If there's an address, even a scrap of a street name, I can rush to look it up, but the defeat of the most urgent and unanswerable plea takes a moment to shake off.

Mwen se rl j?j mwen rete kfou f?ymoun kfou pa jwenn manje pou yo manje map mande tanpri pou nou pase bayoyon ti bagay pou yo manje mwen konte sou nou m?si
My name is Rl, I live in Carrefour Feuilles. People in Carrefour can't find food to eat. I am begging you please come give us a little something to eat. I am counting on you thank you.
Is moving this message from one electronic pile to the next creating a strong enough ripple to move food to your mouth and a tent over your head? Will the accumulation of pinpoints on the incident map swell into the truckloads of relief you await?

Ki sa pou nou fe ak timoun yo kos?nan lekol la e pui kile moun duval nan croi des bouket ap jwen manje pou met nan vant yo
What can we do with the children regarding school and when will the people of Duval in Croix des Bouquets get food to put in their bellies?
I don't know. I don't know. I feel like I should know. The translators ask each other about the status of neighborhoods and if someone has a relative they have heard from today.

Nou gen on paket kay ki kraze nou paka fe anyen pou yo moun yo mouri yo santi nou paka espire nan katye a svp fe me...
We have a house which is crushed we cannot do anything for the people the dead we feel like we can not breathe in this neighborhood please do...
The words themselves seem to pile up and their repetition gives the message an urgency and a claustrophobic quality when I say it out loud. I say them all out loud. After a moment I realize that they cannot breathe because of the stench of corpses. perdir 4 personnes sen conte pied coupe

In the earthquake I lost four people not counting an amputated foot.
I translate this one because I would want to be heard and be counted. There is no urgent request and I quickly move this out of the message queue marking it as “not enough information,” but somewhere this person's feelings of loss have been recorded in two languages. That is all I can do.

Mwen pa k bay san paske map mal viv
I am not able to give blood because I am not well
The first time I read this it sounded defeated and overwhelmed, but a second reading seemed angry and defiant. There was a call out to give blood. Many responded, 'How can we? We are barely alive?' The emotion is not something that is always apparent when I translate the message, but the volunteers share observations each day of how the tone is changing. We discuss if we should redact the curses. Is it important to preserve the sentiment of the message?

nde nou tanpri edem trouve yon bous etid poum ka kontinye fe etid mwen oubyen yon bous nan nenpot domen apre poum vin nan reskonstriksyon peyim. Mesi
please help me find a scholarship for me to continue to do my studies or better yet a scholarship in anything [related to] rebuilding so that I'll be prepared in the reconstruction of my country. Thank you
For the many who deeply care about the future of their country, handling this fragile moment when change is possible has become as urgent as the need for water and food.

non:br: pwofesyon:doukoman:nimewo tel:mwen mande pou nou fem jwen yon travay paske kay mwen kr
Name: Brprofession: dock worker: telephone number I am asking you to find me a job because my house was cr[ushed]
Because this is not an emergency, I must mark it as 'not enough information.' I can't help feeling like I've cheated this person. Sometimes full resumes come in SMS form which give every detail and we certainly have 'enough information.' The volunteers reevaluate the protocol for dealing with job requests often. Could there be a category for these? Where do these requests go? It is because we feel as though we are betraying their good intentions, their amazing energy. For the moment, the messages are shuffled away clearing the queue for true emergencies. Perhaps they will be pulled out one day soon.

Ki rol anseyan yo ap jwe nan rekonstriksyon Haďti a
What role will teachers play in the reconstruction of Haiti?
That is an excellent question. I will do my best to find out for you.

on behalf of the volunteers of 4636 Haiti
by Gwyneth Sutherlin

No comments:

Post a Comment