Problems, Difficulties and Learnings during the Translation of Scientific Contents for the Interactive Museum "El Rehilete"
The other day I participated in an online congress about innovative educational practices during the pandemic. Each day they talked about a different topic. My main interest from this Congress was Intercultural Education, and today I want to share with you some of my notes. Since sharing all of them would make a very long post, I'll make three different posts.
The first conference was a round table discussion titled "Problemas, dificultades y aprendizajes en la traducción de contenidos científicos en el Museo Interactivo 'El Rehilete'" ["Problems, Difficulties and Learnings during the Translation of Scientific Contents for the Interactive Museum 'El Rehilete'"].
So for context, El Rehilete is an interactive museum for children in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Other similar museums in the country are Papalote, Museo del Niño in Mexico City and Trompo Mágico in Jalisco. Their aim is to teach children about multiple sciences by playing.
Mexico is one of the most linguistically diverse countries, with 68 indigenous languages, each with its own variants, besides Spanish. In Hidalgo, around 12.3% of the population speaks an indigenous language. It's for this that the museum wanted to make its contents more accessible. They hired three indigenous women: Irla Elida Vargas del Ángel, speaker of Nahuatl; Lauriana Ñonthe Silis, speaker of Hñähñu (Otomi); and Juana Quirino Santiago, speaker of Tepehua, to translate texts and make recordings for the guided tour in their own indigenous languages. For now, the museum is closed due to the pandemic, but everything is ready for when it opens.
The translators found many difficulties, here I'm going to point out the ones I found more interesting:
The translating job in Mexico is not very valued/appreciated. [Personal note:] In other words, they think it's easy and/or pay too little, and/or they don't see it as relevant.
Some words don't exist in the other language. This might not come as a surprise to some of us. Nevertheless, when we think of this situation, we tend to think about rare or specific words, like "cafuné" from Portuguese or "tsundoku" from Japanese. This was not the case for the translators. Two of them (explicitly) pointed out "dinosaur" as a nonexisting word. In fact, many scientific terms showed the gap in indigenous languages. Therefore, they turned to use loan words.
There's a lack of standardization for indigenous languages. This meant some difficulty for the selection and writing of some words and expressions.
Also, the lack of resources. When you need a word in Spanish or any other majority language, you just go to a dictionary or to a thesaurus to find it. But for indigenous languages, there's not such a thing.
These are just the linguistic difficulties, but Irla Elida Vargas del Ángel, translator for Nahuatl, also mentioned some cultural problems:
We know there are living (animals, plants...) and nonliving things (minerals), but for the Nahuas, everything is alive. How do we deliver this information if it goes against their beliefs?
Also, in the Nahua culture, the wind is a deity, so when talking about wind energy ("energía eólica" in Spanish, from Eolo, the god of wind in Greek mythology), how do we name it without violating the deity, the religion?
For these people, everything is concrete, everything exists. So, what do we do when talking about optical illusions?
The shadow is of great importance to this community. In the Nahua culture, it's believed the shadow is related to ancestral health (as far as I understood, some clarification would be appreciated). At the museum, there's an activity called "Congela tu sombra" ["Freeze your shadow"]. Just... how?
Other reflections made by the translators was that they weren't completely alone for this project, they turned to their elderly to find a way to handle some topics or how to translate some things. That way, the main source is not only the norm of the language (if it even exists) but also your own family and community. They also commented that the translation and interpretation labor requires a lot of preparation since you have to know very well both cultures. Finally, one of them said it's definitely not the same thing to speak and to write, since they also made the guided tours recordings.
This is it for now, later (and I mean, another day) I'll upload the rest of my notes.
22 notes · View notes