Issue No. 13Wednesday 5 August 1998
The Official Newspaper of the
Lambeth Conference

Web highlights provided by Anglicans Online from the official edition.

Front page of this issue

Man of many tongues
by Carol Barnwell

One and a half hours of spontaneous interpretation leaves the Rev Daniel Mwailu exhausted. ``You have to translate not only the words but the expression of the words and anticipate what is coming next,'' Mr Mwailu says. Forty-one interpreters are working in Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Swahili and English, says Donata Coleman, who spent two-and-a-half years gathering the group.

During an impromptu conversation at breakfast, Mr Mwailu shared his experiences as one of the Swahili translators. Translating into Swahili presents unique problems because it is not ``a technical language,'' he said. ``It does not have a word for something like `intercollegiate' but focuses more on daily life.'' Sometimes it takes five words to explain one. Additionally, time is perceived very differently. Six o'clock in the morning actually translates to one o'clock because it is the first hour of the day, after the sun comes up. Especially challenging are presenters who speak rapidly. ``Different ones are like rabbits,'' he said;``you have to chase this way and that.'' He believes slow speakers are better communicators, especially with those for whom English is not a first language. ``When you go fast, you are speaking to yourself.'' Originally from Kenya, Mr Mwailu has lived in York since the late 1970s and serves as assistant priest to three congregations.

Kenya has 43 tribal languages, and Swahili overlies them all. English is taught in school so students necessarily speak three languages, ``usually picking up several more.'' As a classics scholar Mr Mwailu also speaks Greek and Latin. ``I live in a world of languages,'' he offers simply.

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