Misplaced metaphors and other things that can wreck health translations

Alanna Shaikh has spent about ten years working in international development. Originally from Syracuse, New York, she works on global health, aid programs and policy, most currently for an international aid project in Tajikistan.

Shaikh blogs for AidWatch, End the Neglect, UN Dispatch, and her fascinating and candid personal blog, Blood and Milk. She speaks French and Uzbek and, to a lesser extent, Russian, Arabic and Urdu.

Translator Booth by dweeklyBut even Shaikh sometimes struggles with translations and translators. In an October post on her blog, she explained some of the pitfalls of translation. Jokes often cause confusion, for example. “They’re just too cultural and based on language and tone nuance,” she wrote. Colloquialisms, such as “hard” and “soft” for estimations, or “drop” or “fall” for decreases, also don’t translate well.

PBS NewsHour’s Storify on Egypt’s Revolution

I’m testing out a new social media storytelling tool called Storify with today’s top news, one that has been told quite movingly through social media.  This Storify was created by NewsHour and it’s a really interesting way to scroll through today’s events. What do you think? Do you like this kind of storytelling?

Temptations of Power

Reading about Wikileaks’ release of American diplomatic cables makes me think about our vocabulary around foreign policy. How do we talk about foreign policy and who exactly should have access to information that U.S. representatives abroad collect? This summer, Peter Beinart, autho told me that the public rarely drives foreign policy. In his book, he called for Americans to push back against ideologies pushed to the extremes. He recently wrote in The Daily Beast that Wikileaks’ actions are little more than voyeuristic fodder and add little to public debate, but my conversation with him makes me wonder if the Wikileaks project could, at least, be a springboard for greater conversation about American foreign policy.

I wrote a review of The Icarus Syndrome and short Q&A with Beinart for the Abu Dhabi-based Afaq Al Mustaqbal Magazine, which translated the piece into Arabic and edited for length. It ran in Issue No. 7, Sept/Oct 2010 (PDF with Arabic text). Below is the text as I submitted it.

Temptations of Power

The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris
By Peter Beinart

By Angilee Shah

If the power of Fox News is a conundrum to Americans on the political left now, what Peter Beinart chronicles in the history of American politics shows that it is not a new dilemma. The tendency of the political elite to push ideologies to its extremes is cyclical and disastrous, or so goes the lessons of The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris.

Beinart’s last book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals–and Only Liberals–Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, chronicled the history of liberals’ foreign policies and called for liberals in 2006 to take a strong position in the war on terror while remembering that power is not always a force for good. The Icarus Syndrome takes a broader view on the same theme. Writing across political parties, Beinart retells stories of political power at the outsets of World War I, Vietnam and Iraq, and sections them into ideological cycles, to remind us that power and success should not make us disregard the limits of our ideologies.

Deeper Reading: Recent Titles on Islam around the World

If you are reading and watching American news in the last few weeks, you are probably simultaneously seeing a lot and very little about Islam in America today. The conversation surrounding Park51, the Islamic community center slated to be built in Lower Manhatten, is often very shallow, with little explication of terms and nuance. Words are being thrown around — Muslims, freedom, the Muslim Brotherhood, jihad  — as though they are self-explanatory and monolithic. Here are a few titles I have reviewed recently that might give a deeper understanding of the issues behind this politicized debate: