Oct 22 2013

How to overcome language barriers between you and your sponsored friend

horizontalShanxi

By Shanxi Omoniyi, CFCA correspondent

A letter from my sponsored friend always makes for one of the best moments of my day.

I love to sit somewhere quiet, pore over the words from another country, and think about the time and effort it took for that paper to wind its way from a remote location in Kenya to my mailbox.

Sometimes, though, the letters raise more questions. Continue reading

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Feb 25 2011

Foreign phrases that don’t compute in English

Although it’s based in Kansas City, CFCA is a global organization with more than 4,000 employees around the world.

Though many of our international colleagues speak English, we occasionally encounter the odd phrase or sentence that makes us wonder, “How come we’re speaking the same language but not always understanding one another?”

1) “He was promoted into glory.”

Means: He died.

Context: An elderly widow is awaiting sponsorship in Kenya, and three members of our communications staff encountered this strange phrase on the description the project sent us: ” Ö after her husband was promoted into glory.” Only one of us knew what that meant; the other two had no idea.

2) Which “DUI” is it?

Can mean: “Documento Unico de Identidad,” or unique identity document in El Salvador

Context: In the U.S., a DUI means “driving under the influence.” On the other hand, the national ID card in El Salvador lists a DUI, or unique identity document, for every citizen. Very different …

3) “I’m fighting to help my children.”

Means: “I’m struggling to provide for my children.”

Context: That pesky English language strikes again! Our child services department routinely gets descriptions of parents “fighting” to provide for their children who are living in poverty. We change it to “struggling” lest readers think these parents are champion boxers or prizefighters.

4) Help yourself … ?

Can mean: I need to use the restroom.

Context: In the U.S., we routinely say “Help yourself” when offering something to someone. For example, if there’s a cake on the table, we might invite guests to “help themselves.” In Kenya, that phrase is often a polite excuse to use the restroom ñ “I would like to go and help myself.”

For our sponsors who have been on mission awareness trips or perhaps seen a funny phrase in your sponsored friend’s letters, was there anything that ever puzzled you? Feel free to share with us in the comments below!

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Oct 23 2009

A Simple Translation

By Chris Palmer, Project specialist for International Programs Department

Each day, Augusto wakes up in his small and unassuming home on the outskirts of Guayaquil, Ecuador. He gets ready for work by starting up his computer for a full day of CFCA letter translations. With more than 2,300 sponsored children and aging members in the Guayaquil project, one can imagine that there are plenty of translations to do in a given year.

Augusto is a simple man with dark, black hair, and his inviting demeanor is calm and genuine as he speaks with passion and wit. He has been translating letters and other documents for CFCA since 1995.

ìIt is important to have a quality translation to accompany the original letter, whether it is from a sponsor in the U.S. to a child here in Guayaquil or a child from here to a sponsor,î he said.

AugustoIn a given day, Augusto is able to translate on average eight full letters from Spanish to English, only stopping for a lunch break in the afternoon.

ìSometimes I can do more depending on the length of the letter; however, there are a few cases in which children write three- to four-page letters that will in turn take me longer to translate,” he said. “In these instances, I am only able to get four or five done per day. There is one girl in particular from the Mira subproject who I think is slowly trying to write a novel to her sponsor, letter by letter.î

Although taxing at times, Augusto keeps a positive perspective on his important duty and role in the journey of a CFCA letter.

In 1979, Augusto was serving in the Ecuadorian Air Force when, during a “red alert” situation with a neighboring country, he found himself rushing back to the airbase with three other comrades. On the way back they suffered a severe car accident.

ìRight away, I knew I lost the mobility of my legs,î he said.

It was discovered shortly after that Augusto had severed his spinal cord in the accident and would require the assistance of a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Augusto was transferred between military hospitals in Ecuador until, with permission from the minister of defense, he was sent for treatment and rehabilitation to a specialized hospital in Houston, Texas. Even though there were others in the hospital who spoke Spanish, the majority of conversation in the hospital was in English. During his twoñyear rehabilitation stay, a professor came to the hospital to give English lessons to those interested.

It was through immersion in the English language that Augusto slowly turned a positive light on his time in Houston. More than 10 years after his return to Ecuador, Augusto was asked to by a director of a local school to assist in the translations of letters for a sponsorship program called CFCA. Little did Augusto know at the time, but this part-time job would eventually become his full-time vocation.

ìThis is an activity that I do with much care and dedication because it has filled many spaces in my own life,” he said. “In countless ways, this position is therapeutic because it gives me the opportunity to be utilized for the benefit of others. It also keeps me busy while allowing me to pay my daily expenses, as my translation fees are my only source of income.î

The impact of CFCAís program not only affects the lives of those who are sponsored, but the ripples and reverberations continue to affect those in proximity to it. By employing local translators, CFCA exposes the hope and potential of the poor to others in the community.

A translation may seem like a simple act, but this behind-the-scenes service is doing a lot more than transforming one language into another. After meeting Augusto, one can clearly see that the work he does for CFCA brings him much freedom, despite the physical limitations of his disability.

ìIt is through the letters I am able to become acquainted with the customs of each region,” he said. “If you ask me to describe Mira (a town located up in the highlands of Ecuador) I feel as if I am able to picture the landscape and its surroundings in my mind.

“When I translate the letters from the U.S. or other countries, I am able to get a unique description of each of those places also. Although I am unable to travel due to my condition, it is through these letters that enable me to travel all over the world. Each letter is a new journey for me.î

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Apr 15 2009

A good experience at Good Earth

Danielle Litt is a college student from the U.S. who volunteered with the Centro Educativo La Buena Tierra, (The Good Earth Education Center). CFCA partners with La Buena Tierra to provide services to sponsored children. Children sponsored through the CBT subproject are either attending or have attended the pre-school program Danielle describes below, and older children are served by the centerís staff in after-school programs, in addition to other benefits.

Dear CFCA sponsors,

My name is Danielle Litt. I am from New York City and am a junior at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Go, Tar Heels!). I am majoring in Latin American Studies and minoring in Hebrew. This semester, I am studying abroad in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and I have had the amazing opportunity to intern at La Buena Tierra, the education center that serves the children you sponsor.

I performed a variety of tasks including translation of the childrenís letters into English. I enjoyed reading these letters, as it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the lives of the children. I enjoyed reading about what they do for fun, hearing their stories and learning about the struggles they face and overcome. I also enjoyed reading about how important you, as sponsors, are to them, and seeing all the thank-you letters. The children are so appreciative of the letters and photos you send them!

The children play games.Let me tell you a bit about a typical day at the Buena Tierra. The children enter the school one by one, tell each teacher good morning and greet them with a kiss on the cheek. Then the children proceed to breakfast, but first say grace, which includes thanking God for you, their sponsor. The staff also teaches the children good table manners. During the day, the children learn about a variety of subjects, including the alphabet, counting, nutrition, families and animals. At the center, there is a lot of singing, playing, drawing, laughing and learning. At the end of the day, all the children gather together, sitting on blankets. They have story time and sing songs.

There are so many amazing people who make it possible for the children to attend the center. The teachers work patiently with every student to ensure they are learning and being challenged. The students come to class with smiling faces and an eagerness and excitement to learn. They are what makes all of the work worthwhile. The childrenís families contribute any way they can and support their childrenís attendance at the center. And while you are not physically at the center, your presence is felt by your sponsored child and the whole organization that feels gratitude for your contribution. Each sponsored child is provided with the opportunity to have a preschool education and begin elementary school with the skills needed to succeed. Older sponsored children are alumni of the school and receive after-school tutoring to make sure that they are keeping up in their classes.

Although I am excited to return back to my community in the United States, I will be sad to leave the Buena Tierra behind. Although you donít know me, I have great appreciation for the gesture you have made by sponsoring a child through CFCA, as you reach across borders of class, nationality, ethnicity and age to show solidarity and provide opportunities for the children who are served through the Buena Tierra. You are doing something that truly matters!

Thank you,
Danielle L. Litt

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Mar 3 2009

Would it help if I wrote my letter using translation software?

Ask Sponsor ServicesQ. I do not speak the same language as my sponsored friend. Would it help if I wrote my letter using translation software?

A. We truly appreciate your desire to communicate with your friend in her or his native language. This language may be Spanish, Swahili, Hindi or one of many hundreds of indigenous languages.

CFCA employs translators to translate your letter into your friendís language. Although the translations may be less than perfect, the translators try very hard to convey the sentiments of sponsors and sponsored friends.

We prefer that you do not use translation software. Using such software often results in an unintelligible translation because the software is incapable of recognizing context and common phrases and expressions. For example, the word ìMassî can be translated as ìlumpî in Spanish. That is only one example among many. Sometimes, the translations are so poorly constructed, the letter must be returned to the sponsor.

If you do decide to use translation software, please include the English version of your letter so the translator can use it as a reference.

Thank you for writing to your friend. Letters are an important part of the sponsorship relationship and a sign of your love.

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