25 Guyanese trained to translate COVID-19 emergency messages into indigenous/local languages

25 Guyanese were awarded certificates of recognition and achievement this week for completing a eight week course on emergency translation of COVID-19 related and emergency messages into local and indigenous languages. 

This course was done by the Guyana Languages Unit of the University of Guyana.  These 25 persons would have translated public health and emergency messages into various local languages like Akawaio, Arekuna, Carib, Creolese, Arawak, Makushi, Patamuna, Wai-Wai, Wapichan and Warrau.

Charro Albert, Tatiana Famey, Alim Hosein, Dillon Mohamed, Rosemarie Ramitt, Charlene Wilkison, Samantha Thomas, Ovid Williams, Berbice Rocke, Silverius Vitus Perry and Shondell Rodrigues all received certificates of achievement. Certificates of recognition were awarded to Sandra Austin, Romario Hastings, Akeem Henry, Colleen Frazer, Eileen Charles, James Thomas, Marybeth Singh, Gloria Duarte, Leah Camsimero, Ian Paul, Norman Cox, Magiens Medina and Derrick Henry.

“We in the Guyanese Languages Unit including our overseas members who belong to the University of the West Indies wondered how we can intervene to turn, as the buddhists would say, turn poison into medicine,” Lecturer Charlene Wilkinson explained during a virtual ceremony on Thursday.

The Department had approached the Ministry of Health to assist with translating advisories. University of the West Indies Professor Of Linguistics, Hubert Devonish. Professor Devonish created a training manual for this course since many of the “complicated” medical and scientific terms were not featured in these languages.

“I felt very strongly that this was one occasion when the world, when we, as speakers of these local languages, needed to be connected via our own languages, because there was stuff going on out there , and those stuff were coming at us,” Professor Devonish said.

There were words like virus and germs that there was no translation for.

“We got something in place, we got people who are aware, who have recognised the importance of understanding what the other world, the outer world people saying, in the outer world style and then trying to integrate us into it,” he said.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana Dr Paloma Mohamed welcomed the training as well as the creation of a manual for future use, “The fact that you spent time developing a system and a manual that would help us to replicate this with more people, is really I think fundamentally important, also,” the Vice Chancellor said.

The participants were charged to adopt these messages and to share as far and wide in their communities.