Translating the future

David Macgregor

THE fine art of accurate language translation has evolved into a booming little business for two Rhodes University Xhosa experts. With several academic and legal institutions located in Grahamstown, there is no shortage of work for honours graduates Ntombenkosi Dyosop, 23, and Pumeza Zaza Mbusela, 22.

Since they started ZaNto Translations last month, the enterprising pair have already had work for English and Xhosa texts from the Rhodes University community engagement office, students, an NGO and even a legal document from the South African Library for the Blind.

Describing themselves as “dynamic, vibrant and accurate translators”, the pair have stuck posters up all over the City of Saints and even in Port Elizabeth, offering their unique services to businesses willing to pay between 65 cents to R2 a word, depending on the difficulty of the text.

Working on laptops, Dyosop has based herself at her family home in Uitenhage to try to expand the business in Port Elizabeth while KwaZulu-Natal born Mbusela operates from Grahamstown.

Dyosop said studying at multicultural Rhodes University had inspired them to start their business in an effort to try to elevate the status of African languages.

“Having studied in a diverse and multilingual tertiary institution, I observed how young black people prefer and appreciate English more than they do their own languages and try very hard to speak and be like their English-speaking peers.”

Although born and bred in Zulu-speaking KwaZulu-Natal, Mbusela – a Xhosa expert – says she was fortunate to grow up in an area where both Nguni languages were spoken.

Her Xhosa grandmother would recite mother-tongue poems and phrases to her while she was growing up, resulting in Mbusela excelling in her Xhosa school homework.

According to Dyosop, indigenous languages have yet to function properly as languages of education, technology and economics in South Africa.

Mbusela added: “We cannot run away from the fact that a lot is lost in translation; we live in a country where not much is done about African languages, in terms of promoting and developing them.”

Finding proper definitions for words – especially technological terms – can prove a nightmare, as there are limited options when it comes to African language texts.

Rhodes Journalism and Media Studies radio expert Jeanne du Toit described the new business as important and exciting.

“The existence of a professional translation unit signals the importance of respecting other people’s languages, and calls people to account on issues of accuracy,” she said.

Leave a Reply