Berlin’s Multilingual Occupy

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Occupy Berlin, an Occupy that’s been growing since October 15. Among other things, I learned that the Berliners have made it a priority to provide simultaneous interpretation at their General Assemblies (which they have dubbed Asambleas in tribute to the Spanish protesters who inspired many of the new European Occupy movements). At yesterday’s Asamblea, a young Frenchman (to judge by the accent) got up and asked for all the translators present to come see him right away, and three minutes later he had set up areas of the assembly where people could sit to enjoy simultaneous translation into Spanish, French or English. Now, most of the translators who reported for duty said they had no experience with interpreting, so I think they were no doubt faced with quite a challenge (interpreting with the human mike blaring all around); but nonetheless I think the Berlin Occupy is right to make simultaneous interpretation a priority, since so many of the people in attendance were clearly not speakers of German. In fact, I heard a lot of English around me, including at the “Occupy Snack Bar” (where at least one American was serving lunch) and earlier at the “meditation flash mob” run by an American yogini.
At Occupy Wall Street in New York, Spanish-language assemblies are now regularly held, and it is worth returning to the question of whether we should be doing more to accommodate foreign-language visitors to OWS than just – as is currently planned for some time in the near future – making available written materials in multiple languages. The idea is to create an on-site printing station where foreign-language versions of e.g. the Declaration of the Occupation and the Occupied Wall Street Journal can be printed on demand, though I assume it’ll be some weeks before this plan becomes a reality.
Meanwhile, if you’re curious about what’s been happening at Occupy Berlin, you can read my report on it here.

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