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Sociolinguistic Vulnerability: Disaster Linguicism and Crisis Translation

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There will be a tea and coffee reception from 4pm.

Communication underpins all phases of disaster risk reduction (Sellnow & Seeger, 2013). It is at the heart of risk mitigation, by increasing resilience and preparedness, and by interacting with affected communities in the response phase, and throughout the reconstruction and recovery after a disaster. Furthermore, large-scale disasters are likely to involve personnel from the humanitarian sector from both local and international offices. Communication in most large-scale events has progressively become multilingual (Federici, 2019). Socioeconomic factors increase the exposure of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to risk. Ethnic minorities and multilingual language groups risks becoming vulnerable groups (Cannon, 2008) when there has been little or no planning, or no awareness of the impact of limited access to trustworthy information when a disaster strikes. The impact of socioeconomic factors on access to information for crisis-affected communities in a language they understand has been described as disaster linguicism (Uekusa, 2019). Social integration and language planning might increase access to information if (or when) translation solutions become part of emergency plans (O’Brien & Federici, 2020).

Drawing on contrasting examples from the UK and New Zealand, this paper critically illustrates how simple and cost-effective crisis translation solutions would better support linguistic diversity and enable crisis and disaster managers to enhance communication efficiency in multilingual settings.

Biographical note

Federico M. Federici is an Assistant Professor in Translation Studies at the Centre for Translation Studies, University College London, UK. Previously, he founded and directed the EMT MA in Translation Studies at Durham University, UK (2008-2014), where he also founded and directed the Centre for Intercultural Mediation. He served as member of the Board of the European Master’s in Translation Network (2011-2014). He is a member of the H2020 -funded research network INTERACT (The International Network in Crisis Translation, 2017-2020). Together with journal articles, he authored Translation as Stylistic Evolution (2009), edited Mediating Emergencies and Conflicts (2016), Translating Dialects and Languages of Minorities (2011). He co-edited with Sharon O’Brien Translation in Cascading Crises (2020), with Callum Walker, Eye Tracking and Multidisciplinary Studies on Translation (2018), and with Dario Tessicini, Translators, Interpreters and Cultural Mediators (2014). His current research focuses on the relationship between language and risk perception, on translators and interpreters as intercultural mediators, and on empirical methods to assess reception of translated texts.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society series.

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