|International SOS ebola poster in Bambara|
In the case of this poster, it is immediately apparent that the standard Bambara orthography is not used. This is important since the standard orthography is used in adult literacy, some primary education, and various publications including on ebola and other health related topics. In a previous posting on this blog - "More on standard orthographies of African languages"- I discussed in more detail the reasons to respect and make use of the alphabets and rules of spelling adopted in many African countries for writing their languages. In the case of critically important health information on a deadly virus, adherence to standard ways of writing, as well as to as much standard terminology as there may be, would seem obligatory.
The resolution of the poster available at this time (from an image accompanying a tweet embedded below, which also includes a French version) is not sufficient to review the content in detail, but is is possible to provide some tentative revisions to the headings (see below the embedded tweet).
Comment se proteger d'#Ebola? Voici des conseils en Francais et Bambara pic.twitter.com/pgMJu4bElr
— Andrew Young (@AYoungDiplomat) October 29, 2014
Here are the original headings from the poster followed by tentative revisions. In this I have relied on my rusty knowledge of Bambara with reference to the online dictionary at Bambara.org. Any corrections or better renditions are invited:
- EBOLA BAANA
- EBOLA BANA
(NB- Doubled vowels are pronounced differently than single ones. "Baana" by itself may mean "rich person," although the context here would tell one that what is meant is "bana"=disease.)
- EBOLA YE MOUBANAYE, ABE DJENSE TIOGODI?
- EBOLA YE MUN BANA YE, A BƐ JƐNSƐN COGO DI?
(NB- Clear influence of French orthography - further comment below)
- ABANA BE DON TIOGODI?
- A BANA BƐ DƆN COGO DI?
(NB- Bambara has a 7 vowel system; "ɛ" and "ɔ" are different from "e" and "o")
- KA EBOLA KOUNBEN ANI I BEN MUKE NI IBANA NA?
- KA EBOLA KUNBƐN ANI I BƐ MUN KƐ NI I BANANA? [or ... N'I BANANA?]
Bambara in French orthography?
It is possible to write Bambara (or any language for that matter) in French orthography. The New York Times, for instance, used the French spelling of the Bambara and Manding term "jatigiya" (basically meaning hospitality) - "diatiguiya" - in two recent stories on ebola in Mali (on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12). And it is true that Bambara speakers schooled only in French (which for long has been the general rule in Mali) may resort to orthographic rules of the latter when transcribing their first language - although it should be pointed out that this often results in different spellings based on the user's hearing and rendering of sounds. This juxtaposition of a language (Bambara) with a historically recent standardized written form, and a large number of the literate population taught only in a second language (French), raises legitimate questions about how best to render Bambara in print for ebola messaging.
However the fact that Mali has chosen a particular orthography (much like that used for similar Manding languages in neighboring countries in the region), and that people taught to read the language have been taught in this orthography, would support using this system rather than one based on French phonetics. Keep in mind that people taught to read Bambara in adult literacy classes or in mother tongue based bilingual schools would likely be in villages where they could read the material - aloud i necessary for any community members who cannot read it.
As an example of use of the Bambara orthography, note the translation of an ebola factsheet done by the Dokotoro Project and the Mali Health Organizing Project, which was highlighted in an earlier posting on this blog.
|International SOS ebola poster in Yoruba|
Better localization also means pants
Translation also needs to be accompanied by attention to cultural appropriateness of the material and also, where images are involved, the visual literacy of the audience. Together, these considerations are part of full "localization" of material. It is worth noting in this context that when Translators Without Borders produced localizations of the same International SOS ebola posters in Nigerian languages, they added pants to the figures (which although abstract, appear in the original to be dressed only in t-shirts). A revised Bambara version should probably follow suit.
(For a discussion of technical aspects of producing text documents in Bambara, see the next posting: "Writing Bambara right." For two other translations of the same poster, which use standard Bambara, see: "Two more ebola posters in Bambara." For a similar issue with a poster translated into the related Malinke language, see: "Does spelling matter in Malinke ebola materials?")