Nunavut’s translators gather to talk standards, terminology
"These people play an extremely important role in Nunavut"
Edna Elias, former Nunavut Commissioner and now a freelance translator, worries that the interpreter-translator students sitting across the table from her won’t have the support they need to be successful when they graduate.
Elias, along with dozens of other interpreters and translators from around Nunavut, is attending an interpreter-translator conference in Iqaluit this week, where there’s a lot to talk about.
Among the concerns: Inconsistent Inuktut terminologies and no available co-op work experience programs catch many new graduates flat-footed when they enter the workforce, Elias, who operates a translation business and teaches courses at Nunavut Arctic College in Kugluktuk, told Nunatsiaq News Feb. 8.
“They do practicums, but they don’t do this stuff,” she said, nodding towards the translator booth tucked away in the corner of the Frobisher Inn’s conference hall.
“They don’t practice in that booth, doing simultaneous translation in a public meeting, or the transliteration of something. It’s a totally different skill set once you become the mouthpiece.”
Nunavut’s army of interpreters, who keep the territory’s political system functioning on a daily basis, gathered this week at the invitation of the territory’s language authority, Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit.
The goal, over the course of the conference, which continues until Feb. 12, will be to draft a series of recommendations for the future of the profession.
Dubbed Apqutauvugut, or “we the path,” the conference will gather input from the translation community on the feasibility of a unified writing system for Inuktut.
According to the agenda, delegates also intend to review the specific needs of interpreter-translators, such as the possibility of codified terminology, training, ethics and centralized governance.
“Translators are extremely important. The means to communicate from one language to another — these people play an extremely important role in Nunavut,” said IUT executive director and Apqutauvugut emcee Jeela Palluq-Cloutier.
Palluq-Cloutier took over as IUT director last November when the language authority’s well-documented failed mandate brought about an internal shakeup and scrutiny from Nunavut’s legislative assembly.
“We thought it was high-time to get these people together to talk about their issues, what they deal with, we’ve tried to make sure that through the week, we deal with each of these issues,” she continued.
Apqutauvugut is the first interpreter-translator conference of its kind since the formation of Nunavut — the last one was held in 1998.
“It’s hard to [translate] social issues, because you don’t want to make any mistakes when describing them,” one interpreter said when the floor was opened to the audience for comments.
“Sometimes we make a lot of mistakes for terms. Sometimes we’re under so much pressure we don’t realize we made mistakes. The key words need to be added [in the terminology].”
The former Nunavut MLA for Amittuq, Louis Tapardjuk, delivered the first day’s keynote speech, recognizing the challenges many interpreters face in their duties to deliver precise language.
“[It’s supposed to be] Inuit only by 2020, the GN will be able to communicate and use Inuktitut by 2020, so we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
“They [Qallunaat] wanted to operate our territory, our government, and you run into problems because of that.”
Along with participating in workshops and lectures dealing with the conference’s mandate, Apqutauvugut attendees will also hear from several Inuktitut language leaders in the course of the conference.
Nunavut’s language commissioner, Sandra Inutiq, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. vice president James Eetoolook are scheduled to speak at the conference later this week.
Nunavut’s Minister of Languages George Kuksuk is also set to address the conference Feb. 9.
At the end of the week, organizers will collect participants’ input and then draft a series of recommendations sponsored by the IUT.