Global Voices’ translator: Jean Saint-Dizier

At Global Voices in French, volunteer translators choose to translate because they love news, because they are interested in the world at large, because they enjoy translating. They take this opportunity  to “visit” as many different countries as they can by translating posts into French. But one volunteer among our francophone community hoards jealously any and every post about Brazil (a single exception: Iraq!): meet  Jean, aka “Juan”, who translates out of love for Brazil.

A traditional question: how did you discover Global Voices in French and decide to become a volunteer?

Jean Saint-Dizier: It's probably something to do with the way I was brought up, somehow hippie and a little utopian.  I'm still convinced that everyone is beautiful and kind. So, in this light, the Web is an extraordinary tool to connect people. This way, they get to know each other and may become a little better? I love people. That's all. That's why, when I found Global Voices in French while surfing the Web, I immediately thought: “There. I've found my home”.

Why Brazil? Why this passion for translations from Portuguese to French?

JSD: I discovered this country by pure chance, on Christmas Day, in 1984. What a shock! In France, I was a totally disoriented young adult, I had no goal in life, zero…And here I was, discovering a country where people were like me:  human relationships first, gregarious, multicultural. Happiness, whatever the odds, comes first…Of course, I've moderated this first impression later on, but at the time, I immediately thought: “I'm not going anywhere else”. You also have to know that this is where I met a person who saved my life, in all senses, my brother, my soul mate, with the beauty of knowing that someone like him existed on earth (even if he was fundamentally different from me) and that he was Brazilian has certainly helped me survive during a very rough patch of my life. So I went ahead, burnt all my bridges, and became Brazilian. My greatest regret in life will always be not to have applied for Brazilian citizenship at the time.

What did you do in Brazil?

JSD: I spent two years in  Fortaleza, in Céarà,  where I taught French at the Alliance Française, then I moved to Itaparica, Salvador de Bahia, where I made an attempt at being an entrepreneur and opened a pousada (a small hotel-restaurant on an island) but I was hopeless!

Three years later, I came back to Fortaleza, my town, my country, where the sun never dies. Ten years went by, I came back in France. In the meantime, I had met my guardian angel, who is French – so you see, you never chose! – and had two gorgeous children. 

But Brazil is a chance for the world and I want to spread awareness of that. It's a real-life lab, it must be taken seriously, and I am extremely happy to see that it's on its way to being taken seriously. Thanks to President Lula, sure, but not only him, thanks to all the others, all the Brazilians that make their country “The Possibility of an Island” for me, a safe-haven in case of personal or collective disaster.

Did you discover something about Brazil while translating for Global Voices that you did not know?

JSD: Yes, I discovered something I had no clue of (and it is something that I blamed Brazilians for a little): the vitality of the grass root movements which picked up so much momentum on the Net during the 2010 elections campaign. For instance, the initiative launched by Diego Casaes, Paula Goes and their gang, the elections and candidates monitoring site Eleitor2010.

In your second French life, what do you do?

JSD: I've merged my passion for linguistics and languages with my passion for people and I am a teacher of French as a foreign language for foreigners. I currently work as a trainer in the South of France, with migrants who have to justify a minimum command of French to be able to apply for residence in France. I do all I can to train them well for their exam, so that they are left in peace on this matter at least. And to think that the concept of borders is for me totally virtual…

Is there one place in Brazil that is particularly dear to you?

JSD: The Mucuripe beach, in Fortaleza, because that's where everything started for me. Under a favella, stuck between the yacht club and bourgeois buildings, the fish market and the estaleiros, who build and maintain saveiros (boats) and jangadas. I still get goose bumps just thinking about it.

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