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Greater Access to Translation Could Save Lives and Protect Human Rights in Africa

(BOSTON) – Translation is critical for addressing information inequalities in Africa. But could translation also improve economic development, health, human rights, and safety of the citizens of Africa? Findings from a new study reveal that the answer is “yes.”

A new study conducted by Common Sense Advisory on behalf of Translators without Borders finds that translation is critical for the public health, political stability, and social wellbeing of African nations. The report surveyed 364 translators for African languages in 49 countries representing a total of 269 different language combinations. The results are detailed in a new report, “The Need for Translation in Africa,” which is available as a free download at: http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Portals/0/downloads/Africa.pdf.

“We already knew that translation for Africa was severely lacking,” comments Lori Thicke, founder of Translators without Borders. “This report clearly shows that the need for translation is so striking that, for the sake of African citizens, it simply can no longer be ignored.” 

“63.07% of respondents said greater access to translated information could have prevented the death of someone in their family or circle of friends,” explains Tahar Bouhafs, CEO of Common Sense Advisory. “This is clear proof that translation can save lives in Africa, and that the time to address this need is now.”

Africa is home to nearly 1 billion people, or roughly 10% of the world’s population. The African continent also boasts 2,000 languages spread across six major language families. Some of them – such as Amharic, Berber, Hausa, Igbo, Oromo, Swahili, and Yoruba – are used by tens of millions of people. At least 242 African languages are used in the mass media, a minimum of 63 are used in judicial systems and no fewer than 56 are used in public administration.

Key datapoints from “The Need for Translation in Africa” include:

  • 97.14% of respondents said greater access to translated information would help individuals in Africa understand their legal rights.
  • 95.85% of respondents said greater access to translated information would help protect human rights in Africa.
  • 94.92% of respondents said greater access to translated information would have a positive impact on the collective health of people in Africa.
  • 94.87% of respondents said greater access to translated information would help Africans in times of emergency or natural disasters.
  • 91.96% of respondents said greater access to translated information would help people in Africa contribute to the political process.
  • 88.78% of respondents said greater access to translated information would help prevent international, civil, ethnic, or communal conflict in Africa.
  • 63.07% of respondents said greater access to translated information could have prevented the loss of life of Africans in their family or circle of friends.

The report is available at: http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Portals/0/downloads/Africa.pdf.

An accompanying infographic is available at: http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Portals/0/downloads/infographic_translation_africa.jpg.

Submitted On: 5/8/2012

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