ICVolunteers in action in Barcelona

Photo © V. Krebs
Photo © V. Krebs
V. Krebs, English and Spanish translator, Isabelle Guinebault
01 April 2008

In October 2006, ICVoluntari(o)s-Barcelona was founded in the capital of Catalunya. Since then, the organisation has seen considerable growth with activities related to every sector in which ICVolunteers works.

"Projects developed much quicker than we thought they would at first", explains Maria Vila, who is the ICVoluntari(o)s-Barcelona Coordinator. "Indeed, we began based on a local idea, linked to the linguistic needs of newcomers to Barcelona. We thought we could offer linguistic support to immigrants and foreign refugees who do not understand the local language. Since then, other ICV offices have got involved in the project we have created, adapting it to different realities worldwide (so far in particular Switzerland, France and South Africa)." As a result, the original small-scale initiative, Parla mi, parla aqui, has become an international project with multiple aspects and a variety of working tools linked to the different contexts. "This project is very important for immigrants who have specific linguistic needs, but it also works as a bridge for institutions that often consider language as an obstacle. Different from this perception, linguistic and cultural diversity can be considered as a plus. Since the beginning of September 2007 we have received many requests for linguistic services", adds Maria Vila. "Aspects to be taken into account and integrated are all related to administration and the little things part of daily life."

Youmé, a young French volunteer engaged in the Parla mi, parla aqui project.

A student in Applied Foreign Languages, Youmé Diallo, arrived in Barcelona from Paris through the European Voluntary Service Youth Programme. "I wanted to improve language skills. For a year and a half I had been thinking about changing to a career in Project Management." Youmé had the opportunity to do an internship within an NGO in France that works in Education. She then sought possibilities to go abroad and discovered ICVolunteers and its position in Barcelona. "I was really interested in this project from the very beginning. I thought the idea was original and useful," she says. Today, she takes care of document translations and also participates in the elaboration and development of the language and migration project more generally speaking.

We asked Youmé what she thought of Barcelona. For her, the city has multiple faces. "I can never discover them all. I like small things. The ICV office is located in a popular neighbourhood. In Paris, I was also living in a popular neighbourhood. There are large communities, Chinese, North-Africans, Africans and Indians. There are also a lot of French. It really is a nice city and Catalan is a lively language. It is the main language, the official one, in addition to Spanish."

Naqash Javed from Pakistan: community interpreter

Originally from Pakistan, Naqash Javed spent the past two years in Barcelona and has been working for ICVolunteers as a community interpreter. "I have studied at the university in Pakistan and now I follow a correspondence course from Barcelona. I am also learning Catalan and just finished the Elemental 1 level. I really like Barcelona."

When Maria told him about the language and migration project, he registered as a volunteer to offer interpretation services from Urdu to Catalan. "For now, I mainly do written translation and will follow interpreter-training courses in a hospital environment."

He explains that it is necessary to use two dictionaries: one Urdu-English and one English-Catalan, because there is no Urdu-Catalan dictionary. Naqash will have to use tools, such as guides, glossaries and a technical vocabulary specific to medicine. Maria has also explained to him that one of the major challenges will be that the patient will not always easily say what he or she feels, which is a central element to understand in this type of community interpretation. These are sensitive matters and understanding, decency and respect are essential.

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