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Success Stories From Our Students

Success Stories from our Student Translators at the University of Kurdistan Hewler.

IBB’s Worldview as a New Hope for the Middle East

When I first heard of IBB (Ideas Beyond Borders)’s translation project, I soon realized that IBB has a new cultural vision for the future of the Middle East, a region that has not seen peace for a long period in history. This program is implemented through the organization’s “House of Wisdom 2.0” program, an effort to make Wikipedia articles accessible in Arabic, Kurdish, and Persian languages.
Moreover, the role of women in the translation project is unusual for the patriarchal communities the project is focused on. Women, who make up 67% of the participants, have a crucial role in making Wikipedia content about gender equality and women’s role in history accessible for their native readers.

Furthermore, it is well known that the Kurdish language is under constant threat throughout history due to the ethnic oppression the nation faced under the rule of their colonizers. Therefore, including the Kurdish language in the project shows the new Arab generation’s openness towards a new chapter in the Middle East to create space for cultural support for the Kurds. Similarly, more projects are needed to give rise to cultural values throughout the Middle East without discrimination.

With its long history of constant war and violence, the region is drowned in everyday threat, instability, and distrust. Therefore, more joined projects will be valuable where different communities can participate. They can have an outlet where their identities are recognized and their stories are heard. I believe it is our task as the new generation to find a different way than those of our ancestors to guide the region into a place where we all speak the same language: peace.

Another aspect that is worth mentioning is the way the project is participant-led, where every participant could promote their own messages by choosing the range of topics they want to translate. Considering that we have minimal Kurdish content about gender, I particularly focused on translating articles covering gender issues. 

Therefore, the project was an opportunity for me to promote awareness on topics that the Kurdish audience has less accurate information about. At the same time, it allowed me to challenge many common myths around these subjects that, until today, remained taboo in our communities.

To conclude, Ideas Beyond Borders with its cultural projects is a good first step for the youth of our time to start presenting their hidden abilities to develop positive changes throughout their communities. The program also enables them to begin their journey of becoming a better world citizen and expand their worldview to reach beyond their neighborhoods, cities, and countries.

Vienna Salam
Translator & Interpreter at SEED Foundation 

Why bother?

Translation is not easy. Not everyone is interested in it, nor good at it. It is completely cognitive work and even sometimes no matter how good you are, in both the original and target language, you find yourself running out of certain vocabulary words or expressions; this is especially true when you translate from English to the Kurdish language. 

Thus, in order to translate a text and make it seem authentic in the target language, one needs to have mastered both languages to some degree. If you do not do this, the translated text will sound awkward and one cannot finish reading it. Then why would one bother with something like that? Why would an organization like Ideas Beyond Borders bother with a program like Bayt Al Hikma 2.0? Well, translating texts to a mother tongue has a number of positive effects:

  1. It has a role in cognitive and intellectual development,
  2. It helps in the learning of an additional language
  3. It helps to build a strong society
  4. It keeps a language alive, and
  5. It improves literary for the future.

First, research has confirmed that the mother tongue of people has a role in cognitive as well as intellectual development. Having various interesting sources in their mother tongue is a key factor to encourage individuals to read in their native language. Despite the fact that reading makes individuals more educated in general, reading in a mother tongue develops one’s cognitive and intellectual abilities.

Second, if one has a strong foundation in their mother tongue, learning an additional language is going to be easier for them. Research has found that one builds up a new language from the understanding of their first language, rather than from scratch. So if you have a strong base, this will help you build your additional language. Furthermore, you are mentally more prepared for the journey of learning an additional language because a mother tongue develops your cognitive and intellectual abilities.

Third, language is critical for any nation. Something as strong as language might create a strong bond among individuals of a society because it is the language that can pass culture from generation to generation. It is culture that makes individuals feel at home and secure, and it is culture that allows individuals to have a community they belong to. Humans are naturally a social species, thus we need a community to share values with, which helps us have social identities and psychological stimulus.

Fourth, reading and writing in any language will prevent the language from becoming obsolete. It is the literacy skills that decide on the importance of any language and whether this language deserves to live or die. When a language loses its importance, it is no longer used for communication, it is no longer a skill that people have, and in the end, the language disappears gradually. That is the reason behind the UN’s recommendation for schools to use a mother tongue as the medium of instruction.

Finally, reading in a mother tongue helps individuals become literary writers in the future. If one wants to be a writer, they need to read a lot. And if the world does not have numerous and interesting sources in a mother tongue, how does one expect to develop the authors of tomorrow? To me, any society without literature is like a body without a soul. Again, literature can also build the culture that individuals are in need of.

Translation can serve both individuals and societies. To bring people together and have them work in a translation program is a good way to leverage this sector. It helps progress the art form one step forward because it is like having a military of translators to enable a mother-tongue-protection revolution.

Nian Saeed Allaf
Assistant Lecturer at Lebanese French University 

About The University Translator Program

Our University Translator Program offer students a full semester of extracurricular webinars that provide in-depth experience in translating and editing articles, thinking critically about good sources, and learning to lead volunteer communities committed to sharing knowledge. The best students win prizes and the opportunity to advance to leadership positions in the Wikipedia Arabic community.

Ideas Beyond Borders translates and promotes ideas that foster critical thinking, civil rights and science. They ultimately want to bring to life a modern, pluralistic Middle East, led by the people of the region.

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