Thursday 23 July 2020

Amplifying indigenous voices through translation

Sol Tovar

Translation builds bridges among people and lets other voices be heard. And, when those voices have been long silenced, amplifying them is vital.

Ever since I started translation and subtitling projects, I have always found a lot more of enjoyment in the job when I knew that the content I was working on would make a positive impact in someone's life. Either the people involved in the creation of the content, or the people who consume it.

Embera women wearing traditional clothes
Embera women wearing traditional clothes - Source: Wikimedia

When I had the chance to work with Amy Cardillo, subtitling two videos about the daily life of the Embera people, I was delighted! Now more people, all around the world, will get to know a little bit about this rural indigenous community who lives in the Panamanian rainforest. Me included! Until that moment, I knew nothing about them.

Amy has a website called Stories Woven, where you can buy baskets, pillows, animal masks, and other decorative objects created by members of the Embera and the Kuna community in Panama. Amy pays the Embera and Kuna artisans fairly, taking into account the hours of labour that these pieces take and their deep expertise. As a response to the deep crisis that hit the Embera people due to the current COVID-19 situation, Stories Woven is donating 50% of their proceedings to a relief fund for them.

I was deeply moved by Amy's love for the Embera people and the respect shown towards the members of the community, their culture and their work. She is really passionate about her projects involving these indigenous groups. If you are interested in her project, and would like to keep in contact with Amy, you can also follow Stories Woven on Instagram!

This experience also made me reflect on how our education system has been shaped, and on the role that widely spoken languages, such as English and Spanish have. I find it sad, really, that we learn so little in school about indigenous communities. For many people, they are part of past history and it is hard for them to wrap their head around the fact that there are many groups all around the world that have kept their traditions alive, against all odds, surviving colonization, forced conversion to Catholicism, plundering of their resources, and much more.

One of the things I like the most about translation and subtitling is the fact that once my work is done, even more people will have access to the content I have translated.  Video transcriptions and translations broaden your audience, and help you connect with new people.

On top of that, content creators get great benefits, since it has been proven that video captions help attract and engage more users. As a result, having both CC (closed captions) and subtitles will boost your video, and, if you are monetizing it in platforms such as YouTube, your ad-revenue will also increase.

If you are working on a project that you believe is going to help others, and you need your voice or the voices of others to be heard, feel free to contact me!

Sol Tovar / Author & Editor

Freelance EN-ES Translator, EFL Teacher, Profesora de ELE.