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Germany’s refugees: shaping the future of translation

– Posted in: Translators
Refugees in Germany

Last year, Germany accepted the highest number of refugees in Europe with over a million Syrian civilians entering the country. Even with its open door policy, which stands in stark contrast to the barbed wire that has sprung up virtually everywhere else, Germany is facing a number of cultural hurdles.

Whilst the influx of migrants could eventually have a positive impact on the country’s economy, businesses and public services will first have to meet the rising demand for translation services if it has any hope of honouring their chancellor’s confident assertion: “Wir schaffen es – we can do it”.

Over 8,500 teachers have been recruited to teach refugee children the German language

One of the country’s most severely affected areas is the education sector. Reports show that a quarter of the approximate 1.5 million people seeking asylum in Germany are under the age of 18.

Education facilities at all levels have increased their demand for staff to teach refugee children, especially those who have learnt German as a second language. Those that can, offer Translation Classes, an intensive introduction to German for students in primary and secondary schooling. However, this scheme is severely understaffed.

Education officials believe it will take up to 20,000 more teachers to fully integrate these children into Germany, a number that schools are currently struggling to obtain.

This is due to the high demand for translation services across the country. Counselling programs, official document translation and many jobs inside the refugee shelters also need interpreters and translators – especially women, as many female refugees feel unable to express themselves with men present.

Digital Translation Services join forces with German volunteers

To help distribute the workload, volunteers are being asked to step forward and offer services wherever they can. Often, there is no one immediately available to refugees entering the country. As a result, online translation services that can be accessed from smart-phones are being used more and more; Google has seen a “fivefold increase in Arabic-language translations stemming from within Germany” in the past year.

In order to make their service as reliable and accurate as possible, the search engine has made a formal request for German to Arabic translation contributions from local German citizens. These additions to Google Translate are invaluable to vulnerable immigrants trying to communicate needs and understand their surrounding.

Duolingo is another major translation service that is taking an active role in assisting Germany through the crisis. This year it launched a free app which aims to teach German  to Arabic speaking refugees. Duolingo’s main concern is to reduce the time between immigrant arrival and training their training towards employment and being able to contribute towards the German economy.

Language alone can’t bridge the cultural gap: Finding Multaqa – The Meeting Point

In the southeastern state Bavaria, the Minister for Justice, Winfried Bausback, has spoken out about the importance of cultural integration among refugee children. Many of whom, she argues, are arriving from places ruled by dictatorships, with different laws and beliefs.

Integration Classes have been set up to teach children about freedom of speech, gender equality and other key parts of German, western culture.

Meanwhile, there has been an increased number of local volunteer schemes set up to try and help older asylum seekers integrate into the native culture. These group support systems are a crucial way of curbing issues of isolation and right-wing tension throughout the country.

One particularly interesting scheme, set up the German culture ministry, revolves around Berlin’s Museum for Islamic Art. The Multaqa Project sees groups of refugees attend free tours of the museum, led by fellow asylum seekers who have been trained to give the tours in the native arab language.

So far the tours have proved to be not only popular, but massively successful in bridging the gulf between these two cultures. Germany’s ability to adapt this integration strategy to meet with the cultural needs of the refugees is an excellent example of the importance of localisation. As a result of these tours, attending refugees have shown increased interest in embracing and adopting the German language and culture.

As the refugee crisis continues to shape the future of countries and cultures across the world, it’s important for the world of translation to keep up and adapt. Localisation is becoming increasing important and while technology will continue to be part of translation, the quality and interpersonal value that comes from a human translator are still invaluable for localisation and cultural integration.

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