T as in Translator. That’s Traduttore in Italian, as in Traduttore, traditore, which, depending on the context, means the translation does not reflect the original, or the translator should be shot.
That’s why Maya Hess started the Red T Movement. In typical TranslationGuy fashion, I scoffed and then became fascinated with what Maya was doing. The Red T is a global advocacy with the mission to protect translators and ‘terps working in harm’s way. Maya figured that linguists would wear a Red T for identification in dicey situations, just as medicos working with the Red Cross do. I figured that T would just be more like a bull’s-eye on the battlefield, which gets to the larger problem of how quickly translators are dumped in the traitor category, whether they’re targeted as adversaries rather than intermediaries by the courts in the US, or they become targets of opportunity in conflict zones.
Matt Grotenstein writes in Targama, “it has been confirmed that at least 360 conflict-zone interpreters working for the US troops have died between 2003 and 2008, and more than 1,200 were injured. The losses for the coalition forces are also grim: one source states that at least 60 linguists have been systematically tortured and assassinated, and the British military reportedly lost 21 interpreters in 21 days, 17 of them in a mass attack targeting interpreters. Of course, some of the people included in these lists were injured or died in the tragic but regular course of warfare; however, the descriptions of brutality such as beheadings, abductions, or death resulting from multiple injuries sustained during torture point to the translator-traitor mentality as the cause.”
Last time I spoke to Maya, I told her she was nuts to think that she could change that fear of the other that drives the fear of foreigners and their interlocutors.
“Hard-wired, Maya, that kind of hate is in our DNA. Can’t be helped.” So there. Harrumpf. How can you argue with that kind of curmudgeonly cynicism?
Her answer was simple. “Well, we’ve got to start somewhere. Are you in?”
So now I’m in. Here’s the link to the Facebook page, and here’s the priority list:
– Redefine the role of conflict zone linguists and work towards obtaining complete protected-person status
– Unite translator/interpreter initiatives launched by individuals, groups and trade associations under a common cause
– Create and maintain a central data registry for translator/interpreter incidents and compile statistics
– Track policy progress by country (re legal developments, asylum grants, insurance protocols, etc.)
– Raise awareness of the Red T, its logo and its cause in order to secure worldwide recognition
– Conduct information campaigns to alert linguists to new and present case law
– Formulate policy proposals to mitigate the legal vulnerability of translators/interpreters working in prison settings, etc.
We’re posting the Red T on our site to show our support, and I invite you to do the same.