Forword Translations Blog
All things language and translation
More Than One Home
Most people set short term and long term goals for themselves. Depending on how determined they are to accomplish their goals they work to their greatest ability, without necessarily thinking that these goals may not realize themselves. Often time we forget that things change and life can take very unexpected turns.
My parents are originally from Liberia, West Africa. After having lived in the US for about 6 years for their educational pursuit, they moved back to Liberia in the 70s to start the rest of their lives together. In 1989, my mother came to New Jersey, US to give birth to me and after a few months, moved back to Liberia. Like many West African nations, Liberia suffered from political instability which transitioned into a Coup d’état and ultimately into a civil war.
In the early months of 1990, my family and I fled to New Jersey in sought of refuge. My father eventually joined us and after about 3 years, we relocated to the Ivory Coast, West Africa. Prior to all of the chaos, heartache loses and travels, life was decent and I don’t believe that my parents ever thought that their lives could take such a drastic turn. However, I am a sole believer that “everything happens for a reason”. I’ve lived a life enriched with different languages, cuisines, music, cultures, religions and political dynamics. I have become a highly culturally diverse person. My family and I lived in the Ivory Coast for about 11 years; every childhood memory of mine is from the Ivory Coast. I remember being the family interpreter and translator for all of our 11 years there. Seeing that we moved there when I was about 3 years old, it was much easier for me to learn the language and adapt to the culture than it was for my parents. That is when I was first introduced to the idea of language barriers and bilingualism. It took me a few more years to realize the real importance of communication and the hindrance that language barriers can have on trying to move from one point to another.
In 2001, the Ivory Coast began to experience its own governmental turmoil’s and within a few months, my family had to separate and move again. My father along with his co-workers and the organization that they worked for moved to Tunisia, North Africa. My mother and I moved back to New Jersey, where we’ve always had extended family until my father was settled and could accommodate us. In 2004, we moved to Tunisia where I eventually graduated from High School. Tunisians speak Classical Arabic mixed with a Tunisian dialect, but the national language is French. Thankfully that enabled me to communicate and move around easily, I picked up bits and pieces of Arabic and Tunisian dialect, but never became fluent. Living in Tunisia was one of the best experiences of my life. It was more difficult for my mother to fall in love with it, because she was restricted when it came to the languages.
In 2007, I moved to Chester, PA for undergrad where I studied International Relations with a minor in French. Having lived most of my life in the developing world, it was evident to me from a very young age that I needed to be a part of change. I grew up intrigued by the inequalities that existed in the very communities where I lived. It never made sense why there could be 3 shacks constructed next to a mansion; why international organizations offered bags of rice to families in remote villages, but never taught them how to farm. Naturally, French became my minor, because I knew what an important role it played in myself not only for myself, but for my family. A lot of times we take things for granted, especially when it’s been a part of us for a long time and we don’t remember life before it. It wasn’t until recently that I obtained the highest level of respect for the art of translation and interpretation and the field of languages.
I recently worked as a case manager in a non-profit organization called the International Institute of New Jersey (IINJ) through AmeriCorps which is the domestic version of the Peace Corps. At IINJ, I worked with mostly francophone survivors of torture and international domestic violence. The individuals with whom I worked come to the United States in search of political asylum. I had 14 clients who range between the ages of 22 to 65 years. It occurred to me that while residing in the Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Liberia, although I was aware of the many development and security issues that existed, at that age I did not fully understand the personal violations of human rights that took place. I recall what I witnessed at large as well as what was publicized in the media; however I never fully listened to any individual’s life experience. It takes having a personal or professional relationship with a victim of torture to understand the misfortunes of some African regimes in its entirety as well as the dire need for reform. Something else that I did not fully appreciate is my fluency in English and French. Working with these individuals truly shed light on the necessity and importance of translation and interpretation services. I assisted my clients with everything from social, medical to legal needs, all of which made up their lives. Coming to a foreign country, not understanding the system or the language is very difficult. Enhancing language services and taking them more seriously will definitely help more people in this country and allow businesses and organizations to touch more communities.