February 3, 2017

Trump, you’ve pissed off the translators


Among the heroes of the airport protests that broke out so beautifully last weekend were translators. Alongside immigration lawyers, organizers, and concerned humans of many talents and beliefs, translators between English and many languages—but especially Arabic and Farsi—leaped to help, offering up their services to ensure that detainees, law enforcement officials, and lawyers would all be able to communicate with one another. Earlier this week, a coalition of workers from the world of literary translation came together to release a statement addressing the role of translators in the struggle against Donald Trump’s immigration ban. Signed by the American Literary Translators Association, the Center for the Art of Translation, the PEN America Translation Committee, the PEN America Subcommittee on Freedom of Expression, Red T, the blog Translationista, and Words Without Borders, it read:

We the undersigned wish to affirm that freedom of expression and unfettered exchange of ideas are among the core tenets of our society as much as they are indispensable means of cross-cultural understanding and peaceful coexistence. Writers, translators and interpreters would be vulnerable to the far-reaching consequences of the travel ban; these professionals are crucial to the advancement of cross-cultural cooperation, and their efforts would be harmed by the corrosive effects of distrust and exclusion. If national security is our priority, we should recognize that we are safer with the knowledge translators provide about the culture, values, and humanity of other countries. At a time in history when people feel so divided, we believe that our stories—and the people who make it possible to hear them told—are critical to sustaining our coexistence. We voice our support for the refugees fleeing wars — for whom the U.S. has always been a place of refuge, and whose spirit of creativity and innovation has made our cultural and artistic life all the richer and infinitely more diverse. Turning away today’s refugees may amount to turning down immeasurable human potential. We therefore urge the President to rescind the travel ban immediately.