Gained in translation

Posted: 1 April 2017 in Business Systems, Haiti
In Translation.JPG

What on earth has Bill written here?

Lost in translation.  So much is.  The geographic and cultural distance is just so so great.  From my English-English into their schooled Haitian-French to mother tongue Creole thinking.

  • From their cash bookkeeping that is authorisation and fraud-control focussed
  • into my patterns of management accounting and forecasts. (Quite frankly my financial projections based on their figures must seem to them as just so much fiction. Leaps of Bill’s imagination.)

Just Talk Talk
Here am I in Hôpital Convention Baptiste d’Haiti, in Cap-Haïtien. Working with some of their management team (Youdenie, Administrator Chief Immacula, Dodard, and Yousvel).  I am introducing new reports and processes based on existing (good) practice.  I wrote detailed procedures while in UK.  Now, here, I am doing the training.  They sit and I do an example for them.  Then I sit and they do another example. Everyone happy.  I go away and tweak the procedure to be clearer.  And Yousvel begins the translation. Fin.

Hammering Out The Words
End? I thought it was.  Yousvel brings in the translation, and the team want “just a brief look over it”.  See the pic –do they look chilled?  Have they detected a profanity or smuggled into the text on record reconciliation and CSV formats?  I was taken aback – they went though it – word for word.  For folk who live and work in Creole, using written French can be an opportunity to show off their education.  And then?  It had to be in French-accountantese, not literary French.  However, what was valuable for the work we were all here to do was more than that.  It was the painstaking seeking to understandReally understand.  In this process, I was being asked again and again, things I had already explained and demonstrated.  But now they needed to really clarify.

Like Martin Luther translating the Bible from the original Greek, thereby informing and refashioning his own understanding of its original purpose.  The team were crafting their own words to refashion their own understanding of my original purposes.  In words they will understand when I am far away and the internet is down (yet again).

This is what I had not anticipated.  The act of checking and correcting the translation had become a major embedding of learning.  Much was gained in translation.


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