Project Lingua's Global Voices in Malagasy, which is the official language of Madagascar, is one of the most active Global Voices translation teams. Created in 2007, the project has produced more than 6,500 translations so far. All GV Malagasy translators and editors reside in Madagascar.
In this interview conducted by Global Voices Lebanese author Thalia Rhame, Global Voices in Malagasy editors Mamy and Zo talk about themselves and their efforts to bring world news to the so-called Red Island in the Indian Ocean.
Global Voices (GV): Please introduce yourselves.
Mamy (MA): My real name is Maminirina Radifera Ranaivoson, but everyone knows me as Avylavitra online. I’m an employee of a large company in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. I am a father of three daughters. The two eldest (Candy and Miora) are already members of the GV Lingua Malagasy team, while my youngest (13 years old) is practicing by translating what she can and helping her sisters.
Zo (ZO): My name is Andriamifidisoa Zo, my pseudonym online is Jentilisa [in English, this means “gentile.” In Hebrew, “Goyim.”] – in Malagasy, it can also mean “gentle”. As I've written in my bio on Global Voices in Malagasy, I'm a blogger since early 2006 and I write only in academic Malagasy (with no French or English words). I was born and live here in Madagascar. In my personal blog (VETO=Vaovao Eto an-TOerana – Local News), I strive to inform all Malagasies and anyone who knows or is studying the Malagasy language about what is going on in the country. My blog was awarded with a BOMB (Best of Malagasy Blog) Award in 2007 in the category of Malagasy language. Here at Global Voices, I try to translate international stories into Malagasy. But I'm not a journalist! I'm doing it to promote the Malagasy language even though I don't always share the same point of view expressed in some of these stories.
GV: How did you come across Global Voices ?
MA: I love writing since I was a young student. But it was only in October 30, 2007 at 07:58 that I got Internet access at home and created my first blog on Skyrock (http://avylavitra.skyrock.
com/). At that time, it was just a photo blog. Later, I chose to write and report with pictures as much as possible, instead of just telling stories. I created three other blogs on WordPress, but the one which is the most read is Gazetyavylavitra. It won the Best of Malagasy Blogs award in 2009. I believe what my friends noticed the most is the quality of Malagasy language I use and the content of my writing, so they decided to ask me to work with GV. Mialy Andriamananjara and Lova Rakotomalala contacted me to become a translator first. Jentilisa (Zo) also convinced me to do it.
ZO: In early 2007, Global Voices author Mialy Andriamananjara invited me to join GVO French, but I gently refused arguing that I would accept if the task was to translate from English into Malagasy. Before that, I knew nothing about Global Voices. Months after that first exchange, Mialy invited me again, but this time to join GV in Malagasy and I accepted. I was among the first to join GV in Malagasy since its beginning. That is one of reasons I accepted to join to Global Voices Community.
GV: Can you tell us a bit about GV in Malagasy?
Ma: My first translation for GV dates back to March 10, 2008. Now I have translated 1,208 posts. I haven't counted the number of posts I have also edited. Over these years with GV Malagasy, I feel that Jentilisa and I are doing our best to make it work: translating from English to Malagasy so that Malagasy people can have access to international news. News about culture, way of life, development, politics, economics, etc. One needs to make new discoveries in order to compare and improve.
GV in Malagasy is currently one of the most active GV Lingua projects. The reason for the dynamic there is simple: we seek to provide a high quality translation so we check every single detail in order to ensure that the translation remains true to the original post. Because of this attention to detail, the frequency of publication is a bit up and down for everyone: it depends on the text length, the correction to be applied and of course, Internet access.
ZO: We are a dozen of translators in the community and there are more women than men. As I said before, we started on September 12, 2007. We always pick long posts to translate and just a few “quick reads”. We try to finish our translation as soon as possible to keep up with the news cycle and be the first to have the news in Malagasy language. There are times translators are very fast and editors can't keep pace. I believe we come in third when it comes to number of posts published daily (2.89 posts per day).
But even though we try to keep up with the pace of news in producing translated texts, we still need to make sure that the quality of work is top notch (the right word at the right place). We, as editors, know that translators have the ability to understand what the text is saying but they tend to translate literally. However, the Malagasy language should not follow the grammatical rules of the original text. Whenever we follow Westerners’ manner in structuring a sentence, the Malagasy translation becomes very difficult to read or understand for Malagasy readers. Sometimes, we need to reconstruct the sentence to facilitate the reading of text.
GV: Is GV well known among netizens in Madagascar? Who reads GV in Malagasy?
MA: We can say GV is fairly well known, both among citizens and netizens. Our Facebook page helps us promote the website. We also have a Twitter account. GV in Malagasy also takes part in various activities, like the blogging training for journalists at Malagasy Press Center / WWF Antsakaviro, where I worked with Candy, Lalah Ariniaina and the American embassy. I also was a guest speaker last month at the IT meet up about social networks. It is an event organised by the co-working hub HabakaMG every two weeks. Regarding the readers, they mostly come from towns where there is Internet access, and the majority lives in Antananarivo. But they are also many readers from Europe, and a few from Canada and the US.
GV: How do the Madagascan netizens interact with what's happening all over the globe? For example, the Arab Spring or the protests in Brazil.
MA: We noticed that netizens start talking and comparing international news to what happens here in Madagascar, especially when it comes to political issues. However, they still mince their words carefully when it comes to expressing themselves publicly, most of them preferring to speak through social networks. In fact, most people are afraid of government censorship, they fear that they could be subject to threats or arrested if one dares to report things about those who are currently in power.
ZO: You know, Madagascar is still recovering from a major political and social crisis. In general, Malagasy netizens don't discuss and don't put their comment directly but they take these news as examples of what Malagasy citizens should do or not when arguing with each other and when there is similarity with the contemporary history of Madagascar.
GV: What are the challenges you face when translating hyper-localized articles into Malagasy? What is the article that has been most read?
MA: The most faced challenges are the translation of technical, economical, scientific and legal terms. Well, the terms that we don’t use daily. As we know, Madagascar was a French colony in the past, and the reader always refer to the French word when there is a difficult Malagasy word they can’t understand.
Among articles that have been most read were those which dealt with political issues, and I think this is one of them: Madagasikara: Hisy ve ny fanapahan-kevitra hialàna amin'ny olana? (Madagascar: A Resolution to the Political Crisis?)
GV: Would you please list the top five Malagasy netizens (bloggers, Twitter users or others) that you would recommend to GV readers?
alain rajaonarivony: http://alainrajaonarivony.
ZO: Let me list six Malagasy bloggers who are not GV contributors so that they can be better known by the public. Most of them are newcomers in the blogosphere and I think they deserve to be promoted.
– Anosibe [fr] (the title of the blog is the name of a dangerous district in the capital city of Madagascar.)
- tonnsligagasurun [fr]
- Lay Andriamialy [fr]
- En campagne profonde [fr]
- Life Audit [fr-mg]
- Mandimby Maharo [mg-en-fr]