Our New Swahili Translators

kenya nairobi

In this issue we introduce two of our translator trainees from our new Healthcare Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. Our hard-working team in Kenya, led by Paul Warambo and Simon Andriesen, is translating vital health information and subtitling videos while also learning how to become professional translators. This is an important step in building a professional translation network in Swahili and beyond.

Matthias K. Kathuke

My name is Matthias K. Kathuke. I am 27. I was born and raised in Mananja village, Machakos County in Eastern province of Kenya, about 100km northeast of the capital Nairobi. I was also educated in the local primary and secondary schools and sadly, not much was expected of my education since the schools were low profile. For instance, my secondary school had never sent a student to university in over 40 years of its existence. Paradoxically, I was expected, especially by my father, to make it through with first-class performance. As destiny would have it, I did not disappoint, as I set a record by becoming the first ever to enter university from a village covering about 1000sq. km.

My family is naturally a huge credit for the victories I have achieved so far. My mother is an elementary school teacher, my father an ex-marine. This combination of parentage ‘resource’ has propelled me towards intellectual excellence and operative discipline from my mother and father respectively. Being the firstborn (of 4 sisters and 1 brother), I have had a lot of modeling to do because my siblings look up to me for emulation and inspiration. This has in turn compelled me to become a natural leader.

My family is almost dependent on my mother’s earnings (and now mine) since my father no longer has a formal income. Our eldest sister is volunteering in our local secondary school while the rest are still pursuing their education. Just for the record, we are a very warm team, so I always miss them when I am away (well, almost everyone with a loving family does!).

As implied earlier, I was educated at Mananja Primary and Secondary Schools (both public schools). I look back to those days and feel grateful for coming this far. The experience was scrappy as learning resources (including teachers) were insufficient, and the learning a little harsh for conducive learning. How did I make through? A combination of fortune and determination. So, I qualified for government sponsorship to the University of Nairobi where I pursued a degree in Education: Linguistics major and Literature minor. I graduated with Second Class Honors in 2009 and have been teaching since then until August 2012, when I committed my entire working time to TWB.

Before committing all my working hours to translation, I consulted with Simon Andriesen and Paul Warambo. The implication of my choice was made clear from the onset so that I would make an informed decision. Eventually, I did commit all my time to translation. Well, so far so good, though there is still much ground to cover.

I am motivated by 3 things on my journey to becoming a translator: my love of linguistics (my childhood dream), desire to serve humanity and (frankly) the need to make a living out of my efforts!

The second reason is more significant, which is inspired by two touching examples from Simon Andriesen and Sue Pearson (of Summer Institute of Linguistics). Sue narrates about a French-speaking mother in Chad who administers to her child a drug meant to induce production of breast milk on her dry breasts; while Simon tells of a mother who stops giving her sick child water since it would immediately come out through the other end. Sadly in both cases, the children end up dying, not because of lack of doctors or treatment, but lack of (correct) medical information. Paul Warambo’s story almost sends me to tears when he narrates how his kid sister was to undergo an unsafe abortion – an exercise that would have denied Paul an opportunity to have a brilliant nephew (Levis Otieno). I came to interact with these moving stories during our translation training that was facilitated by Simon and Paul (these two gentlemen, truth be told, make up a perfect team for TWB).

I am in total agreement with the philosophy of Translators without Borders: that never again should people die of lack of information whilst there is something we could do to avert the situation. I therefore would love to become a professional translator in order to help avail information to the average, less privileged population, which cannot access important medical information because it is encoded in a foreign language (quite literally).

The process of becoming a translator is very demanding – I have found it more mentally exhausting than teaching, especially at the initial stages.

Besides, translation is a new profession in Africa, which is both a merit and a demerit in that we reserve exclusive skills, but also the market does not recognize the need for translators as professionals. Companies may not easily embrace the idea of hiring a professional translator whilst a lay person would take up the job. (And did I just overhear Simon say that translation doesn’t make millionaires?)

I hope to run a non-profit translation agency to serve my village with information on the key aspects of society namely health, education, law and agriculture. I would like to translate the available information from English to Swahili and vernacular. I would also link with other like-minded individuals to run a network of similar agencies so as to avail the same information in diverse vernaculars in Kenya and hopefully East Africa.

I am a soccer fan, specifically FC Barcelona much more because of their philosophy than the football. They train their players from a young age to become humble, respectful and able to function more as a team despite their individual talent. I also love music: I play the guitar, participate and watch live concerts and dash to the studio occasionally to record.

Appreciation:
It would be an almost unforgivable sin not to express my sincere gratitude to Translators without Borders for the opportunity to become a health translator. I thank the TWB board members for coming up with this great idea. I whole heartedly thank Simon Andriesen for his insightful lectures during our training. I must also thank Paul Warambo for giving us instructions with his Swahili knowledge – Paul is always with us, guiding us and helping us with Swahili terminologies and grammar. Indeed we don’t know what we would do without Paul and Simon in this training. Thanks a million!

Anne Njeri Mwangi

My name is Anne Njeri Mwangi, aged 38 years, born and brought up in Kenya in a town called Nyeri and working in the capital city, Nairobi.

I am the fourth born in a family of seven siblings: five girls and two boys. All my siblings are adults with families; my parents are alive and well. I am married to Simon, and we have a lovely son, Victor, who is 11 years old.

I received my primary and secondary education from the nearby schools in the village. After secondary school, I joined medical training college in Mombasa where I pursued a diploma in community health nursing for 3½ years (1993-1997). Later, I pursued a course in reproductive health for six months in 2007. In 2011/2012, I went back to Kenya Medical Training College in Nairobi and pursued a Higher National Diploma in Health Education and Promotion, which I completed in July this year.

After qualifying in 1997, I was employed by the government of Kenya and have worked as a Nursing Officer in various hospitals. In the course of that time, I have practiced offering curative services and came to realize that many of the patients I was attending to were suffering due to lack of information. I consequently felt the need to promote health by educating and giving the correct information to people, thus deciding to take a course in health education and promotion to get the relevant skills. Translators without Borders came in handy at a time when I had just completed my training and ripe for health promotion, and as a Health Promoter, I felt it would be quite prudent to give information in a language that is well understood by the majority in my country. Therefore when I got the chance to be part of the translators at the Translators without Borders Healthcare Translators’ Training Center, I totally embraced it because it is a positive engagement that would enable me to promote health through a language that the majority would understand.

In all these I wish to thank Simon Andriesen – the director of the Healthcare Translators’ Training Center for being available to give me the much needed translation skills. I would also like to thank Paul Warambo who has been our course instructor during the course; his incredible brilliance in Swahili language and translation skills has made us see the light in the field of translation. I also extend my gratitude to the translation team for their spirit of unity.

Being a translator will enable me to ensure that society receives information in a language that people understand best. I am glad to have become a translator, especially of healthcare materials, because I will be promoting health when people receive and understand information. Health promotion is my passion.
Becoming a translator requires a lot of dedication, determination and commitment. It’s hard to be a translator if one does not have these qualities.

Once I gain experience in translation which is currently from English to Swahili, I would like to move my translation skills into another level of translating the healthcare materials to my native language (Kikuyu) so that those who understand neither English nor Swahili may also get access to information.

My interests are traveling, walking and traversing social media.


If you would like to help support the effort to increase language capacity into Swahili and other critical languages, please consider sponsoring a translator this holiday season through our Fund-a-Translator program. Details by emailing [email protected]

 

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