In the News

This page provides a sampling of news articles, commentaries, podcasts and other resources that are pertinent to the Language, Culture and Justice Hub.

2020-21

January 7, 2021

Conveying updated information to everyone in the time of Covid is a matter of life or death, as the Trump administration learned recently after losing a groundbreaking federal lawsuit to the National Association for the Deaf, which ensured that a sign language interpreter must be present in COVID briefings and visible on the live feed from the White House. The Trump White House did not include its first sign language interpreter on a COVID briefing until Nov. 11, a full nine months after the pandemic reached America.

December 30, 2020

[A]bout 17,000 Afghan translators and others who helped U.S. forces or diplomats ... are seeking special visas to resettle in the United States. With immediate family members who would come too, those applications represent an estimated 70,000 Afghans. The number for Iraqis is estimated at about 100,000. Many claim harassment or death threats, and the danger may increase as Trump plans to withdraw additional U.S. forces from war zones where Americans have been deployed for nearly 20 years.

November 2, 2020

The choice of language significantly determines the way in which international law is made, interpreted and applied, what knowledge is produced by scholars, and the participants of the conversation.

October 29, 2020

In the European Union, multilingualism is increasingly giving way to English language dominance — despite Britain leaving the Union. Even so, English language proficiency continues to be a source of anxiety for continental European politicians. At the same time, they are finding it increasingly difficult to trust the traditional owners of the English language.

October 1, 2020

The Trump administration said it would cut its already rock-bottom refugee admissions still deeper into record territory for the upcoming year, as President Donald Trump returned to his anti-immigrant themes in the closing month of his reelection campaign.

September 17, 2020

Despite the fact that crime is declining in France, politicians are using rhetoric that warns of a country "turning savage" — the "ensauvagement" of France — as they vow to get tough on crime and combat the "separatism" of radical Muslims.

September 7, 2020

University of Chicago Professor Katherine Kinzler is interviewed about her new book on language. "... language is really seen as something that can mark and unite and divide social groups beginning really early in life. [Children's] minds are processing the social world and starting to divide people into categories. And then that's a space where it's really easy for society to layer prejudice and stereotypes on top of what kids are learning."

September 3, 2020

Elsewhere in the Americas, European colonial languages are pushing native languages towards extinction, but Paraguayan Guaraní — a language descended from several indigenous tongues — remains one of the main languages of 70% of the country's population.

July 27, 2020

"We carry the border on our skin, in our language, through our religion. Anyone on the other side of that border — whose skin is Black or Brown; who speaks to their loved ones in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese or Farsi; whose house of worship is a mosque or a temple — is readily dehumanized as a national security threat."

July 21, 2020

This is a review of Katherine D. Kinzler's new book, "Why You Talk the Way You Do — And What It Says About You." She makes the following observation: "Linguistic bias is part of our basic cultural fabric. It is so ubiquitous that we don't even think about it. It's sanctioned by the law, it's allowed by culture and it's practiced so frequently that people do not even realize when it is happening. Linguistic discrimination is seen as normal and typical, and because of this, it flies beneath the radar."

July 14, 2020

Indian immigrants from Dalit backgrounds are rising up against caste discrimination at their workplaces in the United States. For more on caste discrimination, see the March 2020 Spotlight commentary by Hub member Rajesh Sampath.

July 8, 2020

A recent NSW Supreme Court judgment "provides a rare insight into Australian judicial thinking about freedom of expression, racial and linguistic discrimination and what it means, legally, for English to be determined to be our 'de facto' national language."

July 7, 2020

More than two dozen nonprofits and immigrant advocates say Hawaii's unemployment office is violating state and federal law by not providing much-needed interpreter services to help laid-off workers who can't speak English access unemployment benefits.

2019-20

June 16, 2020

The government of New South Wales has been accused of fabricating social media activity as new research shows problems in how Australia is communicating vital COVID-19 information to culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

June 9, 2020

Gregory Haimovich and Herlinda Márquez Mora report on an ongoing project that aims to provide bilingual services in Nahuatl and Spanish in rural Mexico during the COVID-19 crisis.

June 2, 2020

This is the opening address by Yuliya Komska for the April 2020 conference entitled "Antifascist Language in Multilingual Societies: Debating Ways Forward."

May 7, 2020

In this blog post and video, conference interpreter Maha El-Metwally highlights the special challenges associated with remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI), which is taking center stage during the coronavirus pandemic. She notes that RSI is more fatiguing than in-person simultaneous interpreting, and the added responsibility of dealing with interpretation technology from home only adds to the stress. Educating clients about the role they can play in optimizing the experience is a must with RSI.

April 26, 2020

Official guidance for the judiciary in the U.K. is to avoid a phrase in use in British courts for over 200 years to ensure that jurors understand the standard of proof.

April 16, 2020

Polamma carefully descends the 250 steps from the hilltop slum where she lives in southern India to walk one kilometer to the nearest grocery store. She is nine months pregnant and has four children to feed, but at the bottom of the steps community leaders of a dominant caste force her to go back empty-handed. Since India went into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus on March 25, 57 families who live in Polamma's hilltop village in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, have been barred from going down the hill, even to purchase essentials such as food and medicine.

April 15, 2020

A growing number of Argentines, including President Alberto Fernández, support "a movement challenging the longstanding rules of language and working to make the Spanish used in Argentina more inclusive."

April 11, 2020

Two special educators have created a video using sign language and animation that explains the coronavirus, named "Coco le Virus," and the measures necessary to slow its spread, for children with hearing impairment and other kinds of disabilities.

April 9, 2020

Hijacking the language of conflict in stemming a pandemic may, in the long run, affect the dictates of the public conscience in peacetime as well as wartime and, ultimately, our capacity to serve our mission to protect human dignity.

April 7, 2020

It's difficult enough during normal times not to speak the dominant language. But some observers say that during a deadly outbreak, it could be a matter of life and death. This news item describes current challenges in Massachusetts, where 1 in 13 residents struggles to some degree with a language barrier.

October 29, 2020

In an effort to make the business of government more accessible, the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly is beefing up its interpretation services.

March 31, 2020

Even in normal times, those who don't speak English have worse health outcomes for a range of routine procedures and can struggle to gain access to interpreters. ... Those gaps are magnified in times of crisis.

March 21, 2020

The Sublime Porte and Western diplomatic missions in the Ottoman Empire needed individuals fluent in both Western and Oriental languages who also mastered the cultural differences and codes of behavior of both Ottomans and Westerners. In Europe, such individuals were known as dragomans. This fascinating article about "the founding fathers of diplomatic translation and interpretation" has become the object of its own translation campaign, the #DragomanChallenge. The text is now available in 15 languages, with the most recently added version in Italian.

March 4, 2020

Commentator Li Jia describes the growing range of languages used to communicate inmportant information about the coronavirus in China. She notes "the increasing visibility and audibility of linguistic diversity in China, both online and offline," particularly in reference to minority languages. She has also observed the growing recognition that English cannot be the only foreign language used to communicate important information to non-Chinese residents. Indeed, "many foreigners are actually struggling to understand either English or Mandarin."

March 4, 2020

Commentator Ellen Policinski describes how dehumanizing language is often used in relation to "terrorists," despite the lack of legal clarity around what actually constitutes an act of terrorism. Such rhetoric may create a sense of exceptionalism, meaning that counter-terrorism efforts could justify the use of tactics otherwise deemed unacceptable, including war crimes and torture.

March 2, 2020

The U.K.'s only independent, voluntary regulator of professional interpreters working in the public sector is concerned that law firms are employing unregulated interpreters to provide translation services. It is unclear whether the latter are security-vetted and have agreed to abide by a code of professional conduct.

February 27, 2020

[I]t's all well and good to issue an official warning and advice in a country in its principal language, but if not everyone understands the language, it exposes everyone to possible dangers due to lack of information, lack of awareness or pure misinformation through social media. This can exacerbate a health crisis, lead to unnecessary stress and make tensions between linguistic minorities and the majority worse."

February 27, 2020

Contributor Gegentuul Baioud reports that traditional Mongolian fiddle stories focusing on the prevention of and the fight against the coronavirus outbreak are being posted widely online, demonstrating their adaptability and flexibility.

February 21, 2020

The Cameroonian government, led by Paul Biya, who has served as president since 1982, has signed numerous U.N. conventions promising to uphold human rights; yet, it repeatedly violates them without repercussions. Cameroonians are left to feel that impunity will triumph so long as the U.N. lacks the power or will to enforce its high-minded conventions.

February 18, 2020

As social media platforms move to crack down on deepfakes and misinformation in the U.S. elections, an Indian politician has used artificial intelligence techniques to make it look like he spoke English and a dialect of Hindi to appeal to different voter groups ahead of the Delhi assembly election.

February 17, 2020

Contributor Yu Lha summarizes and discusses the health information that has been made available in four rGyalrongic languages spoken by Tibetans in his region of China. "Since the identification of the virus, there has been a lot of health information circulated in both written Chinese and literary Tibetan. And although many people can access this information, barriers to understanding still exist within communities that speak minoritized languages."

February 7, 2020

An interpreter recounts the professional experience of Hub member Ahmed El Khamloussy, who works as an interpreter at the International Criminal Court.

February 4, 2020

Sri Lanka's new government declined to sing the national anthem in Tamil, the country's second national language, during the island's Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday, a departure from the previous government which sang the anthem in the country's two primary languages to promote ethnic harmony in the aftermath of a decades-long civil war.

February 1, 2020

"I am particularly interested in critically interrogating how children who engage with written texts across two or more languages on a daily basis are framed as illiterate because of their supposed lack of a 'strong foundation' in 'academic literacy' in any language."

January 28, 2020

The quality of interpretation and the professionalism of the court interpreter are of the utmost importance in immigration proceedings, especially in asylum or extradition cases, where the stakes are high. Serious concerns about the interpreter's professional behavior can even cause the court decision to be set aside, as happened in a recent asylum case in the U.K.

January 25, 2020

According to research, it takes us less than 30 seconds to profile someone based on their language, making decisions on their socioeconomic class, background and ethnicity. And when a speaker's accent differs from our own, we are more likely to unconsciously attribute undesirable characteristics to those that speak with that accent. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission outlaws, however, this kind of discrimination in the workplace.

January 24, 2020

What it means for educational equity when teachers are required to teach in a language they don't master and that children don't understand: English.

January 17, 2020

Watch a video or read an interview with researcher Rachel Nolan, who has reported on the inadequacy of language services provided to Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S., and Odilia Romero, Zapotec interpreter and indigenous leader with the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations.

January 14, 2020

The IACHR presents a report on forced migration by Nicaraguans (pdf, in Spanish) that notes the rights of migrants to be informed of the process by which their claims will be evaluated in a language they understand, to access an interpreter, and to receive legal advice (see paragraph 163).

January 13, 2020

Hundreds of interpreters strike against Dutch government plans to cut costs by allowing less qualified competitors to work in judicial, police and immigration services, arguing that this would affect the legal right of persons to follow proceedings in a language they understand.