Examining Translation and Interpreting as Inclusion: Language Use in Hong Kong’s Development Aid to Africa

  • ******, Marija (PI)
  • Marais, Kobus (External CoI)
  • Ruiz Rosendo, Lucia (External CoI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research project is concerned with Hong Kong humanitarian organizations active internationally, specifically in Africa, where there is a growing demand for Hong Kong development aid. The study aims to move forward the theoretical debate on the role of translation in development studies, defining development practice as semiotic adaptation to a changing environment which as such entails a translational dimension. More specifically, the study examines the linguistic inclusion of Malawian communities in Hong Kong development aid through the use of translation and interpreting.

Providing development aid in international settings requires adaptation to diverse environments. This adaptation is enabled through the provision of translation of knowledge between local communities and aid organizations. Research on international organizations has shown that the way in which translation affects the inclusion of local communities does not tend to be given prominent attention in the aid sector. The translation and interpreting needs of local communities are often neglected when delivering emergency and development aid (Federici et al., 2019; Todorova 2019). Development aid organizations rely on aid workers who are often not trained in language work (Footitt, Crack and Tesseur, 2020). At the same time, donors do not tend to ask implementing organizations to include translation in their projects (Crack, 2018).

In order to examine language use and translation within the aid sector in Hong Kong, this project will directly engage with the emergency disaster relief section of the Hong Kong Red Cross, a beneficiary of the Disaster Relief Fund of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR and local communities recipients of disaster relief in Malawi. The study will be based on ethnographic research aimed at investigating the critical role of translation and interpreting in establishing an equal, two-way dialogue between Hong Kong development aid organizations and the communities they serve within Malawi. The ethnographic fieldwork, consisting of participant observations supplemented with surveys and interviews, will be conducted at two locations: 1) the PI will spend three
months working closely with the Hong Kong Red Cross, while at the same time 2) a local RA in Malawi will spend three months observing the local humanitarian staff in their communication with beneficiaries, including interviews with beneficiaries on their communication preferences.

As a result, a specialised translation and interpreting training program will be developed, as well as policy recommendations on translation and interpreting use for all participants in the Hong Kong relief and humanitarian sector.
Effective start/end date1/01/2431/12/25


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