Wednesday, February 7, 2018

paro armado: armed lockdown

In Colombia the ELN guerillas have declared a 'paro armado' for February 10th through 13th. As I explained in my previous post on this term, this is when an armed actor announces that there will be a shut down. What that means is that if you open your business, drive your car, even walk down the street you might get shot (or have your cab set on fire, as in these photos). Entire cities can become ghost towns on these days. These armed lockdowns have been widely used by right wing paramilitaries.

This time the ELN has declared a paro armado for the entire country, but one assumes that it is only in areas that they control militarily that people will stay home to stay safe.

What inspired me to blog about this term last time was that I heard it mistranslated as armed strike, which I think is quite misleading. This time I saw it translated by Reuters as 'blockade'. This gives the impression that all they will do is block the main roads. But then, perhaps a paro armado by the ELN is different than a paramilitary paro armado and will in fact only block roads versus requiring a total shut down? The article does say that the ELN will block major roads and warns people not to travel. I still prefer armed lockdown as a translation for this - most blockades are not armed!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

active listening: la escucha activa

I was reminded of this term by this Aquí estamos article  by Vivian Martínez Díaz about a debate in the Colombian media around feminists' response to former FARC guerillas denouncing sexual violence.

Active listening is a term based on the work of Carl Rogers, definido acá. 

The photo here is from a protest by the Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres, that regularly uses body painting like this. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

atalaya: watchtower

Not really a social justice related term exactly. I stumbled on this term in Alfredo Molano's last weekly column (for now) in El Espectador, as he takes a leave to serve on the Colombian Truth Commission. He called the paper "la atalaya desde donde miro."

Listening to stories of horror for three years will be hard on the hearts and lives of all of the members of the Truth Commission, and I thank them all for taking it on and hold them in the light and send them all good energy for this important work.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


I've often struggled to render racist terms of endearment from Spanish into English like chinito and negrito. It is hard to convey in English how racism is normalized and even used affectionately. Little Chinese man is clearly not going to do it.

There was recently an incident in US baseball that brought this to the fore, and several good editorials in the NYT about a player being suspended for using the term chinito. They are worth reading. 

(and note, this blog is on a bit of a hiatus as I get settled into my new position as an Assistant
Professor of Peace Studies at Kent State University)

Friday, July 21, 2017

partners: copartes

partners: copartes

In a social justice context socios does not work, since it implies business associate, not social change organization we work together with. I've noticed lately that several groups, like Diakonia and Oxfam, use copartes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Homophobia and islamophobia are not actually phobias: alternative terms

Homophobia and islamophobia are not actually phobias. I do not believe that they are mental health conditions (like agoraphobia or claustrophobia) and it is wrong to put them in that category when they appear to be based on hate, not fear. As such, I avoid both terms and prefer instead the terms anti-gay (or anti-LGBTI) prejudice and anti-muslim prejudice. Of course if the term homophobia is said in English I will render it as homofobia in Spanish - but if it is in a social movement context where I can say an aside to the speaker afterwards, I will make this argument to them.

It is strange that the words for different sorts of prejudice and hate can sound so different. Racism, sexism, agism, ablism sound similar, but is there a similar -ism version for the two terms in question here? Sherman argues for the term gaycism, but it seems unlikely to catch on. It could be useful for alliance building if all were said using a standard construction that we could put side by side, and I propose here we simply use anti-black, anti-woman, anti-gender queer, anti-Muslim, etc. Whether you then add on the word prejudice, bias, hate, or bigotry could vary.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

time now for: peacebuilding: la consolidación de la paz

peacemaking: el restablecimiento de la paz
peacekeeping: la conservación de la paz
peacebuilding: la consolidación de la paz

These were the translations offered in this article in Semana magazine about what follows, now that the FARC guerrillas have handed over their individual weapons.

The article begins:
Una de las mayores lecciones que ha dejado a nivel mundial el fin de conflictos armados internos es la importancia de diseñar un plan serio y consistente de posconflicto, con el fin de evitar no solamente la reincidencia de la confrontación al cabo de pocos años, sino que se produzcan olas criminales como resultado de un fracaso en el proceso de “desarme, desmovilización y reintegración” (DDR) de los excombatientes y de la ausencia de otras tareas urgentes y necesarias.

La reincidencia de los enfrentamientos armados es más común en conflictos interraciales, regionales y religiosos, como se ha podido observar en África, Asia y los Balcanes. Según un estudio clásico de Paul Collier y Anke Hoeffler, el riesgo de retorno de los enfrentamientos armados en los conflictos en estas regiones del mundo, luego del fin de la guerra fría, ha sido del 44 por ciento antes de cinco años tras la firma de un acuerdo de paz.

En América Latina, a pesar de que todos los países tuvieron presencia de grupos guerrilleros en algún momento tras la revolución cubana en 1959, tras la derrota militar de la guerrilla (Brasil, Argentina, Uruguay, etc.) o su integración mediante procesos de paz (El Salvador, Guatemala), no ha habido ningún caso de reincidencia.

Más bien, el fenómeno preocupante en América Latina, particularmente en Centroamérica, ha sido el desbordamiento de la criminalidad el cual ha constituido uno de los rasgos principales del clima de posconflicto tanto en El Salvador y como en Guatemala. El excomandante militar del Frente Farabundo Martí (FMLN) de El Salvador, Joaquín Villalobos, sostuvo en alguna ocasión que en su país “ganamos la paz, pero perdimos el posconflicto”. Y nos advierte a los colombianos que debemos no solamente ganar la paz, sino, ante todo, ganar el posconflicto. Es decir, evitar una ola criminal que, en el caso de las dos naciones mencionadas, produce hoy más víctimas que durante la guerra civil.

Desde esta perspectiva, como bien afirman los expertos, una cosa es el restablecimiento de la paz (peacemaking) y otra distinta la conservación de la paz (peacekeeping) y, ante todo, la consolidación de la paz (peacebuilding). Se trata de procesos ciertamente interrelacionados -el primero es una condición para los otros dos-, pero son etapas distintas y con exigencias diferentes. Se puede tener éxito en el uno, pero fracasar en los otro dos. Como dijo el propio Villalobos en una conferencia en Bogotá, "después de firmada la paz, comenzó la otra guerra que no vimos venir", impulsada por el fenómeno de las pandillas, en especial, la Mara Salvatrucha y la Mara Barrio 18.

En efecto, el acuerdo de paz firmado en 1992 no condujo a una disminución de los índices de violencia: mientras que durante los 12 años de la guerra civil murieron en promedio unas 6.250, en los años poseriores el número de homicidios pasó a 8.000 o más, conduciendo a El Salvador a convertirse en una de las naciones más violentas del mundo.
... siga leyendo 

Friday, June 16, 2017

mindfulness: conciencia plena

For some reason mindfulness is often imported into Spanish, as it is in the poster here - even though a term does exist in Spanish. It is also sometimes rendered as atención plena, or plena conciencia, but conciencia plena seems to be the most common version.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

gentrification: aburgesamiento

For some reason the term gentrification is widely imported into Spanish, even though there's this
other great option that is more easily understood by first time listeners. Maybe it's a neologism, maybe I sort of made it up years ago - though others seem to have as well as it has at least a little googlage (including the translation of this abstract of a great geography article that connects it to gendered fear in Toronto). But hey, in French gentrification is embourgeoisement, so it's a clear parallel. 

Not sure how I would render the version gentrifuckation, that's a bit harder. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

para nuestros muertos ni un minuto de silencio, toda una vida de lucha

On May Day the NY Times ran an article about Colombia with what I thought was mistranslation. It was an article about Julian Conrado, a FARC guerrilla famous for singing rebel songs.

In it they render a line from one of his songs as
"For our dead, not a minute of silence, a whole life of combat."

The version that I am much more familiar with is
"Para nuestros muertos ni un minuto de silencio, toda una vida de lucha." I have repeatedly rendered it as
"Not one minute of silence for our dead, but an entire lifetime of struggle!"

This is not only a line from a song, but is widely chanted at marches and events throughout Colombia, and by Colombians around the world. The vast majority of people who use this line are not guerrillas, but part of social movement struggles. They are not referring to guerrillas killed in combat, nor to continuing combat - but to people killed for their struggles for justice and peace, and to their commitment to continue that organizing work in their name.

So I thought that the original was lucha, and that to render lucha as combat here not only changed the meaning of the original slogan, but dangerously tarred a much broader movement with a guerrilla brush - a long standing tactic to delegitimize justice organizing in Colombia.

But then it turns out that his song lyrics do actually use the word combate, rather than lucha. I'm left wondering which version came first. I'm assuming that it was the lucha version, and that the FARC modified it. Does anyone know?

Friday, March 31, 2017

#Noesdehombres: thisisn'tmanly

The NYT today ran a story with this great headline:

The story is about an activist art installation of a penis seat (see this video to see what it's like and people's reactions) that is part of the campaign against sexual harassment #Noesdehombres. They offered this isn't manly as a "rough translation" of the tagline. I don't love it as a translation, but I don't have anything better. Do any readers? 

The subway seat is creative, if a bit obnoxious - but the other images in the campaign, like this one, are about getting men thinking about if this was aimed at your girlfriend, or your mother. Perhaps effective in the short term, but not exactly empowering for women. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

violencia por prejuicio: hate crime

The literal rendition of this is of course violence based on prejudice, but in English it is far more common to use the term hate crime. I suppose that the term in Spanish includes violence that does not rise to the level of a crime, or perhaps even a misdemeanor - and so is a broader term. If you wanted to be a stickler and use the less common literal translation I would add a qualifier the first time you use it, something like 'more commonly called hate crimes in English.'

I have been reading about violence against LGBT people in Colombia and in Spanish violencia por prejuicio is widely used to describe it. The report Cuerpos Excluidos, Rostros de Impunidad gives an overview of it. Carlos's is just one rostro of the 110 LGBT people who were killed in Colombia in 2015.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

add and stir: agregar y revolver

This expression is often used to argue against an "add and stir" approach. This would be, for example, hiring a few women without changing any family leave policies or creating any workplace flexibility. So the stir here means incorporate into the existing structure, without changing it. I'm working on an article where I'm trying to think through whether or not the Colombian peace accords just added LGBT and stirred, or how much adding LGBT to the accords really changed the overall approach.

I saw this translation used by Serrano Amaya in

Serrano Amaya, José Fernando. 2013. “Agenciamiento E (in) Visibilidad de La Diversidad Sexual Y de Género En La Construcción de Paz.” In Paz Paso a Paso: Una Mirada Desde Los Estudios de Paz a Los Conflictos Colombianos, edited by José Fernando Serrano Amaya and Adam Baird, 53–78. CINEP y Editorial Javeriana. available here 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Is Louise doing translation or interpretation?

Amazingly there is a mainstream movie out where a woman academic saves the day with her language skills! I can't recommend it enough. But what exactly is Louise Banks doing in the movie Arrival (trailer below)? Translation? Interpretation? Neither exactly ...

Translation renders a written source text into a written version in the target language.

Interpretation renders from an oral source to oral target.

If you have a written source text and read it out loud, that is to say, you render it orally into the target language, we call that a sight translation.

If you have a transcript of a conversation in the source language, and you render it into a written version in the target language, we call that transcriptlation.

Most of the time what Louise seems to be doing in the movie is transcriptlation - but towards the end she seems to learn the alien's language well enough to do some sight translation.

You don't need to know these later two terms really, but if you want to be taken seriously as a language professional, or even just as someone who uses language services well, it is essential that you at least use the terms translation and interpretation properly. Yes, I know they are widely misused - but that is no reason for you to misuse them.

I have posted here before on how and why I ask social movements to get these terms right. Basically, they are different skills. You could be a good translator and a horrible interpreter. I personally will doubt your interpreting skills if you tell me you are a translator when you mean interpreter!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

enfoque de género: gender approach (enfoque diferencial part 2)

I am absolutely thrilled that the Colombian peace accords have been renegotiated, and that the differentiated approach in it is stronger than before, addressing many of the critiques in my previous post about it. I recently blogged the term enfoque diferencial as differentiated approach. I continue to see the false cognate focus widely used in the media, as well as the false cognate of gender focus for enfoque de género (which is one part of the broader enfoque diferencial in the accords, which now clearly include age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and ethnicity).

The term enfoque diferencial is fairly new, but enfoque de género is a term widely used in multilateral treaties and agreements. Gender approach is the standard UN and EU translation. A good tool for finding these is what used to be called the eurodicautom and is now, sadly, called iate.

As for the term differential vs differentiated, I have spent way too much time obsessing over the difference. The Real Academia defines diferencial as

1. adj. Perteneciente o relativo a la diferencia entre las cosas. Un estudio diferencial.
2. adj. Que diferencia o sirve para diferenciar. Caracteres, matices diferenciales.

I believe that it's this second definition that is at work in this term. I was utterly convinced that differentiated conveyed that meaning more clearly in English, but I have come around. It is not un enfoque diferenciado, but actually uno diferencial. It may not be a term in as common use in English as in Spanish, but it does exist. Merriam-Webster gives the simple definition of differential as

relating to or based on a difference : treating some people or groups differently from others.

Their full definition is:

1 a :  of, relating to, or constituting a difference :  distinguishing b :  making a distinction between individuals or classes c :  based on or resulting from a differential d :  functioning or proceeding differently or at a different rate

2 :  being, relating to, or involving a differential or differentiation

3 a :  relating to quantitative differences b :  producing effects by reason of quantitative differences

(Thanks to Kath for getting me to question this - I chewed over this term for months!)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

socializar: do outreach, public education, spread the word, promote

I am heartbroken about the peace vote in Colombia. I am particularly disturbed by how it was shaped by an active campaign of misinformation about the feminist aspects of the accords, including anti-feminist and homophobic fear mongering. Up to 1/3 of people voting no said they believed that the accords were an attack on 'family values'.

While the no vote was spreading lies, fear, and hate - the yes side did not do a great job of public education and outreach. They could have done a much better job of explaining what exactly was in the complicated accord, in particular to counteract the lies spread by the other side. In Colombian Spanish at least, doing this sort of work is often referred to as 'socializar' - whether it be a peace accord, or the results of your research, or a campaign for hand washing. The term generally conveys images of holding meetings in rural areas where the issue is explained and then discussed. I think our closest cultural equivalent in English, certainly in social justice contexts, is doing outreach.

In discussions of the vote, I keep hearing people misuse the false cognate socialize - even Arlene Tickner, whose analyses are worth keeping an eye out for, does so in this video below of an interesting discussion on Al Jazeera's inside story about why the vote for peace failed in Colombia. The meaning of socialize in English is very different (think either cocktail parties or making someone behave according to the rules of the group), and this misuse can easily lead to some serious misunderstanding.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

balígrafo: bullet pen

This is the pen that was used to sign the Colombian peace accords on Monday. It reads: Las balas escribieron lluestro pasada. 'Las balas escribieron nuestro pasado, la educación escribirá nuestro futuro. Unfortunately I can't think of any way to match the great bala - bolígrafo play on words here in English - can you?

At any rate, here's hoping for a yes vote for peace on October 2nd. It's absolutely an imperfect agreement, but it's a great first step. Below is a short video arguing that this peace agreement is actually feminist!

Monday, September 12, 2016

social justice interp training in US

If you are bilingual, and want to get in to interpreting for social movements (and are on the East coast or in the South of the US), there is a great training opportunity coming up Sept 30 - Oct. 2nd at Wayside. It's put on by fabulous compas and I recommend it highly.
If you don't fit this profile - please spread the word and help build a strong core of movement interps - because more and better interpretation makes for stronger movements!

Friday, August 19, 2016

ablism: capacitismo

Years ago (2007) I blogged ablism as capacitadismo, at the time my own invention. Well it hasn't caught on, but capacitismo now has some decent googlage and a wikipedia entry:

El capacitismo es una forma de discriminación o prejuicio social contra las personas con discapacidades, también conocidas como personas con diversidad funcional. También puede conocerse como discriminación de la discapacidad, capacitocentrismo, fisicalismo u opresión de la discapacidad.


La visión de la sociedad capacitista es que las personas «capacitadas» son la norma en la sociedad y las personas con discapacidad o con diversidad funcional deben adaptarse a la norma o excluirse del sistema social capacitista. Los capacitistas sostienen que la discapacidad es un «error» y no una consecuencia más de la diversidad humana como la raza, la etnia, la orientación sexual o el género.

and on that note, my friend Andrea Parra writes:

Desde hace dos años nos hemos reunido mes a mes preparando el informe que llevamos a la ONU. Necesitamos financiar dos activistas más para que vayan a hablar sobre los derechos de las personas con discapacidad en el primer examen a Colombia ante el Comité sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad. Ha sido un proceso verdaderamente democrático, nos ha obligado pensar y repensar posiciones, discutir y rediscutir textos, a definir estrategias para ser realmente incluyentes en los espacios que creamos y me conmueve profundamente ver que un movimiento dividido gracias a la medicalización forzada, tiende puentes de participación política y solidaridad. Por favor donen hoy aca a la campaña con cualquier monto que puedan.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

lactivist: lactivista

I've posted this one before (years ago), but was recently reminded of it by this lovely video of an action in Bogotá for the right to breast feed in public. I agree - a real peace includes being able to peacefully breastfeed wherever and whenever! (Though it might be a bit tricky to be a lactivist while engaging in kayaktivism.) Oh, and this week is, strangely, world breastfeeding week.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

enfoque diferencial: differentiated approach

enfoque diferencial: differentiated approach

This term is sometimes mistranslated with the odd false cognate of differential, and sometimes even as differential focus, which completely misses the mark. The term is widely used in Colombia but has been particularly in the news of late because the peace negotiators finally added gender to the agreements, and spelled out ways that the war had affected women differently and thus how the peace transition also should.

Treating men and women 'the same' is not actually equality - rather it serves as a way to reinforce structures of inequality. So too with other oppressed groups, and the term enfoque diferencial in Colombia is widely used to refer to a differentiating the delivery of programs and policies not just by gender but also race, ability, class, urban or rural status, etc. (though all too often just one of these at a time). Far too often this is just a 'saludo a la bandera', but these latest agreements are very specific and I feel somewhat hopeful about them.

Ironically though, in adding an approach that is differentiated by gender, they really don't differentiate among women, in even the most basic intersectional way. As Ginny Bouvier argues in her review of the accords (unfortunately falling again into the use of the confusing false cognate):

"there was little reference in the summaries of the eight areas highlighted to the differential needs, experiences, and capacities of women and LGBTI individuals.  Ethnic and territorial rights, which are fundamental rights for indigenous and Afro-descent populations, are not mentioned in these summaries.  There is no reference to special protections (or reparations, which presumably have not yet been fully defined) for widows young girls, or single heads of households.  Ethnicity, age, class, and marital status, among other things, matter in how a person experiences war and peace. Ideally, these will be addressed in future reviews of the accords.

It was also a bit off-putting that in discussing the gender changes to the agreements reached to date, the chief negotiator basically said that if these peace accords stick it will be because women make them work on the ground. It seems like a lot to ask of those who were least involved in the armed fight, but maybe he's right.

A final note on terminology: In the Canadian context rather than the term gender differentiated approach I hear more often that a program or research project is "gender sensitive". I don't love that term though, it seems like a bureaucratic obfuscation.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

caserio: hamlet/ small village

Following up on my last post on the translation of the Colombian term vereda (which means quite different things in other countries, including path in Spain and alley or lane in Venezuela) I noticed that in this recent useful article in NACLA about reactions to the peace process in Putumayo, Winifred Tate seems to be translating vereda as hamlet. I think this is a mistranslation and may be due to a common confusion as to the legal definition of vereda in Colombia. Though vereda sometimes gets used to refer to the rural area where a few homes are grouped together, technically a Colombian vereda is a large sprawling rural area, most of which does not have homes anywhere near each other. Inside a vereda there is generally at least one caserio, or small settlement, ie hamlet - though really, that term always sounds quaint and a bit hobbit like to me so I prefer to translate it as small village.

(photo from the Tate article: Alianza members light candles welcoming peace in Mocoa, the departmental capitol of Putumayo (Photo courtesy of Paula Fernández Seijo))

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

vereda (Col): rural community

In the past I have blogged vereda as township, which I still like - but this rendition works well if you are not being picky about levels of government, and want to use a broader English that could be more easily understood outside of the US (and yes, I realize that is ironic when I used the very US term county in my last post).

I noticed this translation of the term in the video below, put out recently by the great folks at FOR Peace Presence, detailing the resistance of a rural community that they accompany - much of whose space was illegally taken over by a military base and who have refused to leave despite decades of pressure from the military.

Militarization and Peace from forpeacepresence on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

zonas veredales transitorias de normalización: rural township based temporary normalization zones

I am thrilled by the recent break through in the Colombian peace negotiations, and spent several hours last Thursday getting weepy while watching the telesur live feed of the signing of the cease fire. Finally! The end of fighting in the world's longest war!

One of the things that they established was the process by which arms would be handed over. These zones are one of the two sorts of areas where 7,000 to 8,000 FARC guerrillas will spend 6 months demobilizing once the final peace accords are signed. Never in the Americas has a group this large demobilized, nor has it ever been done this quickly. Adding to the challenge, they will be demobilizing while other armed groups are still operating, and looking to move in on the areas that they have controlled (both neo (or post) paramilitaries and the ELN guerrillas). This peace transition is going to be difficult, and it can use all of the support and attention we can give it.

One of the ways we can support this process is by translating the terms involved clearly in ways that are more easily understandable to an English speaking audience. I'm also geeking out on this term because I am a geographer.

I noticed that Adam Isaacson first rendered these as “Temporary Hamlet Zones for Normalization” - but later when he tweeted this map, they had been simplified to simply Temporary Normalization Zones". It's important to clarify that the zones will not take up the entire areas in red here, only some small part of each, since there are many veredas in a municipio. He used the false cognate here municipalities, but as you can see from their size, they are quite large, and I translate the Colombian term municipio as county. You can have townships in a county, but you wouldn't expect to have a hamlet in a municipality. Maybe that's why he dropped the term on the map? You also wouldn't expect a hamlet to be a legal entity, or for there to be thousands of them, as there are veredas in Colombia. I also imagine a hamlet to be quite small, but a vereda can actually cover a fair bit of area, with scattered homes throughout. Often these are not gathered into any kind of village as the term hamlet might make you think. I have in the past posted here my argument for translating the Colombian term vereda as township, but I have since had people tell me that there are both urban and rural townships in English. Since the Colombian vereda is rural, I have added that term here for clarity, but I think it would work without the rural if space or time is an issue.  

Thoughts? Comments?