Karuna Trust: What’s Lost in Translation in Conversations About Youth Dreams

Karuna Trust: What’s Lost in Translation in Conversations About Youth Dreams

Karuna Trust is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. Recently, they shared these insights with us.

As part of our work with partners in India and Nepal, Karuna Trust collected stories from the beneficiaries of the projects we’re supporting. It helps demonstrate the tangible change that the projects can bring to young people and their families. So we were excited to receive funding from GlobalGiving to try their storytelling method with two of our education projects – the Amaravati Hostel and Green Tara Trust. After discussing with our partners and GlobalGiving, we agreed to focus on exploring the hopes and dreams of young people. We wanted to find out what their ambitions were for their future, what they imagined their lives to be like, and what challenges they were facing. We hoped to create a picture where we could see form the results what extra support the young people might be requiring and this would help us to refine our work further.

What did we hear?

The 22 stories we collected about Green Tara Foundation revealed dreams about work, family support, and also a lot of people who wanted to be police officers.

“My father tells me whatever I want to become, I can become after completing education but I want to become a police officer.”

One difficulty is that one youth would overhear something and talk about the same thing, like becoming a police officer.


The Challenge: Language

We found data collection to be a challenge as there was a language barrier. The forms were all in English and yet our constituents did not speak English! So, we arranged to have translators to complete forms with us and the constituents.

Working with translations made it hard to record authentic stories:

  • Sometimes the translator would shorten the young person’s response to a few words when they had spoken at length. So we had to go back and ask the translator to provide a full answer to the young person’s response.
  • I noticed that sometimes the young person felt influenced by the person who was translating – in our case, sometimes this was the project worker who the young person was accessing services from.
  • Young people were also very influenced by who else was in the room. If they had heard their friend speak before, particularly in terms of what job they would like to do in the future, they would often use the same answers, but if we spoke to them separately afterwards they would say something different. (GlobalGiving has observed this with other storytelling projects too).
  • Sometimes the translator would ask leading questions prompting the young person to answer in a particular way – this was only picked up by other project workers who could understand  both English and Marathi.

I would have preferred it if GlobalGiving could support storytelling in local languages as we had to translate it ourselves. This would remove the need to speak through a third party and would have given the young people the opportunity to interview each other and would enable the storytelling project to be embedded in a sustainable way by our local project partners who could use the forms and upload them regularly.

Since 2010, GlobalGiving has used story-centered learning to collect over 65,000 community stories worldwide. You can search for them at storylearning.org.

Karuna Trust is an example of a GlobalGiving organization that Listens, Acts, and Learns.

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