The gift of language: a little French goes a long way

16 01 2013

By Caroline Hope Griffith
Research Analyst, Duke Global Health Institute

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Dr. Philemon and Sister Marie-Bernard from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two leaders who asked me to interpret for them in our community health seminar.

One of the many things I enjoy about this Institute on peace and reconciliation taking place in Uganda this week is hearing so many different languages spoken all around me. All of the participants either speak French or English, but many also speak other local languages. When the Institute first started, the dominant language for all presentations and communications was English. Over time, the conference organizers realized the importance of having interpretation between English and French to ensure that all of the French-speaking participants were able to fully participate.

Now, during all of the plenary sessions, an interpreter stands beside the speakers, who are free to speak in either French or English. I still marvel at the skill and talent of these interpreters. Being a French-speaker myself, I know how difficult it is to stand in front of a room and communicate an English lecture in French to an audience on the spot.

During this conference, I have had the opportunity to serve as an unofficial interpreter for members of my seminar group. Several of the members come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, and while their English comprehension is high, they are more comfortable expressing themselves in French.

Over the past few days, I translated for these leaders so that they could share their reflections with the group. It is a humbling experience to be able to serve my colleagues in this way (especially because it has been a long time since I have spoken French!), and I have enjoyed the opportunity immensely. It is powerful to be able to offer this gift – albeit a small one – of communication to these leaders who have shared and taught me so much.

See my earlier posts from the conference:

– Health is Greater Focus of 2013 Peace & Reconciliation Conference in Uganda
– Building Healthy Communities in East Africa
– Don’t give up, don’t ever give up

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22 01 2013
Look at the person, not the disease: A model for holistic health « Global Health Dispatch

[…] – Health is Greater Focus of 2013 Peace & Reconciliation Conference in Uganda – Building Healthy Communities in East Africa – Don’t gift up, don’t ever give up – The gift of language: A little French goes a long way […]

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