Translators are stepping up to the plate to help refugees, immigrants, and travelers traveling to or living in the U.S. The impetus for forming the brand-new Translation Outreach Network was the widely-publicized case of Henry Rousso, a prominent Holocaust scholar who was detained for more than ten hours on his way to an academic conference. Rousso is an Egyptian-born French citizen.
“Inspired by the case of a prominent French scholar who was detained by Immigration on his way to a conference in Texas, we are dedicated to making the stories of those who have interactions with US Immigration widely available in English,” Translation Outreach Network explains on its website. “Our mission is to make sure that the stories of people in contact with US customs and immigration officials are available to the widest possible audience of American readers.”
Volunteer translators offer free translations of short narratives, up to 2000 words, of the stories of non-native English speakers who find themselves traveling to or living in the U.S.
“We currently have over 70 volunteers,” said Lesley Curtis, the network’s founder and a postdoctoral fellow at Wellesley College, as well as the co-translator of “Stella: A Novel of the Haitian Revolution.” “Between us, we speak 25 languages.”
“Translation Outreach Network began through conversations with several bilingual scholars,” Curtis said. “I founded the network in the hopes that even just the promise to translate someone’s story into the dominant language of most American readers might influence behavior and foster goodwill and peace.
The network is composed of professional translators, bilingual scholars, journalists, activists, and writers located in the US and around the world, according to the website. To help or share a story, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aviya Kushner is The Forward’s language columnist and the author of The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau). Follow her on Twitter at @AviyaKushner