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Q&A with Language Warriors PH, a translators’ network in the Philippines

Language Warriors PH, information is our weapon.

Language Warriors PH logo, designed by Elsie Marie Or. Used with permission

Following last year's successful social media campaign celebrating linguistic diversity online throughout Asia, the collaborative project is continuing in 2020. Every week, a different language activist and advocate will be taking turns managing the @AsiaLangsOnline Twitter account to share their experiences, best practices, and lessons learned from their revitalization work promoting the use of their native languages, with a special focus on the role of the internet. This campaign is a collaboration between Rising Voices, the Digital Empowerment Foundation, and the O Foundation.

Each week, the upcoming host will answer several questions about their background and give a brief overview of their language. This Q&A is with Kristina Gallegos (@mksgallego), a representative of the translators’ network Language Warriors PH, providing a sneak preview of what the group plans to discuss during their week as host.

Rising Voices (RV): Please tell us about Language Warriors PH.

Language Warriors PH (LWP): Language Warriors PH is an online initiative of the Department of Linguistics, University of the Philippines Diliman, which aims to connect community translators and language activists and enthusiasts across the Philippines who are currently working on the translation of materials relating to the COVID-19 pandemic into various Philippine languages.

RV: What is the current status of the language(s) you work with, both online and offline?

LWP: The members of Language Warriors PH come from different linguistic backgrounds. The Philippine languages used by the members of Language Warriors PH have varying vitality ratings. Following EGIDS (Ethnologue), the vitality ratings range from National (Filipino), Wider Communication (Bikol Central, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Masbatenyo, Pangasinan, Tausug, Waray), Educational (Akeanon, Chavacano, Kinaray-A, Surigaonon), Developing (Cuyonon, Inonhan, Maguindanaon), Vigorous (Capiznon, Ivatan), and Threatened (Ibatan). Many of the languages represented in the group have online communities which connect language users and serve as platforms to disseminate information such as public health materials on COVID-19.

RV: What topics do you plan to focus on?

LWP: First, we will talk about the linguistic landscape of the Philippines, particularly the vitality of its 180+ languages. We will then talk about the outputs of Language Warriors PH, focusing on the repository for COVID-19 materials produced by the local communities in the Philippines, which covers the initial months of the community quarantine implemented in the Philippines (March to May 2020). We will be presenting the trends in the translation work during the said period, particularly the kinds of information translated (physical health, mental health, socio-economic support, etc.), in what languages (those mentioned above), by whom (volunteer translators, professional translators, government), and finally, the ways in which the translated materials are disseminated, accessed, and used by language users. We also plan to feature particular translation groups and initiatives, the future plans and prospects for Language Warriors PH, and finally, introduce some of the projects and initiatives by the UP Department of Linguistics.

RV: What are the main motivations behind Language Warriors PH's digital activism? What are your hopes and dreams for the language(s) your group promotes?

LWP: Language Warriors PH started because of the need to relay important public health information relating to COVID-19 in the languages the people use and understand. Many of the materials produced by the local and national government are only in English and Filipino, and the information are not made readily accessible for people who do not use these languages.

To address this issue, a number of volunteer community translators started translating these materials in their languages, particularly during the initial month of the community quarantine. Language Warriors PH then serves as a space for which the translators can communicate to each other, share outputs and resources, ask other translators to help in the production of materials, and be kept updated with the overall trends in the materials produced.

Ultimately, the findings and outputs of Language Warriors PH will be the basis for crafting policy recommendations to help refine state guidelines on the dissemination of important information in the languages Filipinos use and understand. It is also hoped that even after the COVID-19 pandemic, Language Warriors PH maintains its function as a platform for collaborative projects, with and among local communities, in promoting and revitalizing the indigenous languages of the Philippines.

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