UKZN Hosts International Translation Day Webinar
In celebration of International Translation Day (ITD) which was held on Wednesday, 30 September, UKZN hosted a webinar titled: Finding the Words for a World in Crisis: Language Practitioners’ Challenges and Opportunities Presented by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The webinar was facilitated by Dr Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst, University Language Planning and Development Office (ULPO) Acting Director, and featured guest speaker, Professor Eleanor Cornelius who serves on the Council of the Federation of International Translators (FIT) and is the Vice-Chairperson of the South African Translators Institute (SATI).
The panel included Professor Sandile Songca, UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning; Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa, Dean and Head of School of the Arts; Dr Boni Zungu from Wits University, Dr Felix Awung from DUT; Ms Buyi Makhanya from MUT; Mr Jabu Simelane from the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB); Ms Thandeka Cebekhulu from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC); and Mr Buyani Mdluli from the KZN Legislature.
In his welcome address, Songca highlighted International Translation Day as an important day for those who are illiterate. He noted the significance of nations being able to access knowledge in their mother tongues and how this can enable them to occupy spaces in trade and commerce. ‘We must reach these translation goals in our time so that our children can take every available opportunity there is in the world,’ he said.
Making mention of the significant role played by language practitioners in the development of communication, Simelane focused on the difficulties faced by these professionals when interpreting new and unseen terminology related to COVID-19.
Thanking UKZN for putting the webinar together, Awung said it was important for language to evolve in order for it to reflect and communicate the many disruptions experienced by mankind. He added that while disruptions can cause many challenges, they can also provide opportunities for language practitioners to work together in synergy.
Makhanya elaborated on some of her institutional projects including working on translating high-risk modules in science and engineering with the aim of improving the throughput rate of students. Examining how students are assessed, she questioned whether Higher Education institutions should align with bilingual, multilingual or unilingual teaching.
Hlongwa said it was important to note ‘the vital role translation played in the intellectualisation of African languages in Higher Education and as an enabler of resource development.’
Stressing the need for the dissemination of clear information that is far-reaching and available in different languages, Cornelius commented on the new challenges brought by COVID-19 and how this has forced language practitioners to be resilient and reinvent themselves.
She listed some of the hurdles faced by language service professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, including loss of income, decreased workflow, lack of physical events, desperation for work, demanding clients, not having all the right equipment to work remotely, and psychological effects. Going forward, Cornelius urged language service professionals to think differently and invest in technology that allows them to work efficiently from home or remotely, schedule work times, maintain a work-life balance that prevents burnout, and to improve their skillsets. ‘It’s important for us to keep up with the times and stay informed because our world and the industry we are in are constantly changing,’ she said.
Thanking all participants for honouring this day, Makhubu-Badenhorst reminded attendees of the importance of this day.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela