ALMA’s translation clinic benefits those in Guatemala

Photo by Kim Bongard

The Association of Latinos Moving Ahead (ALMA) held a translation clinic on Monday to help the non-profit group, Grupo Cajola, translate documents that contain educational information to send back to Cajola, Guatemala. 

More than 20 students and faculty members volunteered to translate documents from English to Spanish and vice versa during two sessions in the Alumni Lounges. The documents contain resources for teachers and families to help improve quality and access to education in Cajola, Guatemala. 

“One translation can honestly help a whole community,” said Melanie Cardoso-Lozano, freshman and ALMA events coordinator. 

Grupo Cajola in Morristown, New Jersey, is predominantly made up of Guatemalans who have had to migrate to the United States to earn money for food, medical care, school and housing for their families. Grupo Cajola returns to Cajola to develop new opportunities for a better life. Caryn Maxim, the North American Coordinator of Grupo Cajola, will gather the translated documents and bring them back to Cajola. 

Many of the documents contain information about how parents can take care of their kids and how teachers can educate young children. Other documents explain Grupo Cajola’s mission and the different jobs within their organization, such as how they help people obtain affordable internet access, help children attend school and help women start businesses.

Students and faculty translated 12 documents, completing most of them during the first session from 1 to 2 p.m. During the second session from 5 to 7 p.m., students and faculty finished translating the documents and began editing them.

This is the first translation clinic ALMA hosted and it will serve as their community service project. Cardoso-Lozano said that if ALMA were to host another clinic, they would seek a greater number of documents since they translated most of the documents during the first session. 

“Next time we know to expect more people and more documents so that it’s more effective for Grupo Cajola, so we can help them out even more,” she said. 

Even though students possessed different levels of fluency, working alongside bilingual professors made the clinic a learning experience, Cardoso-Lozano said. 

“We have some students that are more fluent than others and working as a group together and having everyone revise it and edit it, it solves itself. Everyone can help each other,” Cardoso-Lozano said. 

Freshman Sofia Lara volunteered during the second session because she has had personal experience translating documents for her grandmother. 

“My grandmother has been in that position where it’s a challenge understanding the documents, so you always want to lend a helping hand,” Lara said. 

She said the main challenge she encountered while translating is that some English words do not have Spanish equivalents, such as the phrases “full-time job” or “part-time job.”

Associate professor Paula Straile-Costa said a similar challenge that arises when translating two languages is finding words that have the same context. The translation process involves looking up individual words and finding the right ones that make grammatical sense.

She said translating between the two languages becomes even more difficult in literary writing and poetry.

“It’s not easy to translate from one language to the other,” Straile-Costa said. “It’s interesting people think that it’s an easy thing to do, but it’s really quite involved.”