Trapped and terrified: Afghan interpreters risk their lives for their work - Multilingual Connections

Trapped and terrified: Afghan interpreters risk their lives for their work

Afghan interpreters risk their lives for their work
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Topic: Blog

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These last weeks it has been impossible not to feel the pain and panic – along with untold other emotions – emanating from Afghanistan. As humans and global citizens, we at Multilingual Connections have been deeply affected by what is happening. And as a language service provider, it is also hitting us on another level. 

We have an incredible network of linguists working with us on translation, transcription, and subtitling projects in dozens of countries around the world. We are very grateful that our partners are not in imminent danger, but we are distraught and devastated thinking about the many interpreters and other linguists who have not been able to make it out of Afghanistan – and who now fear for their lives and their families’ lives as a result of their work supporting American forces and their allies.  

The language services we provide are typically designed to be invisible – it is often said that the more effective the translation or interpretation, the more seamless that experience is for its audience. But behind the scenes there are real people with tremendous skill doing real work. We of course believe this work is always important. From transcreating film titles to helping brands reach new markets, capturing and conveying meaning is our passion at Multilingual Connections. Beyond this cultural resonance, we are proud that the translation, transcription and other services we provide to our clients have a real impact out in the world – on social, legal, economic, and other meaningful levels. 

The reach of our own services is just one small piece of the picture. The work of translators and interpreters is critical to life-saving initiatives around the globe: from healthcare and disaster relief to human rights and peacekeeping. Nothing happens without communication. And in many international contexts, communication does not happen without translation and interpretation. Language may not be our first thought when we think of a war zone or a rescue mission, but it is there. Beyond the unique linguistic challenges of interpreting in these contexts, this work can put the linguists in direct physical danger – especially in conflict zones.  

Wartime interpretation is always a high risk job, and over 300 interpreters and their family members have been killed as a direct consequence of their language work with American forces. Now in Afghanistan, however, the stakes are more apparent and more dire than ever. Interpreters who assisted Americans and their allies are trapped and terrified for their lives and the lives of their families. Our hearts are with the people of Afghanistan and the linguists who have served as professionals and sacrificed as individuals.

To help support efforts to make good on our country’s promise to bring Afghan interpreters to safety, we are making a donation to No One Left Behind to support applicants for Special Immigrant Visas in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we’re also donating to the International Rescue Committee to support children and families staying behind in Afghanistan.

Looking to learn more about this situation? Consider this podcast from The Daily or one of these pieces from NPR or the NYT. For other suggestions on how to help, check out this blog from our friends at K International.


Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!