“Being a translator is much more than simply being bilingual. It is about being able to interpret the message correctly, taking into account not only language aspects but also social and cultural factors.”
Anush Petrosyan, Translator and Projects/Data Officer, HALO in Nagorno Karabakh
The Armenian language is complex to navigate for a non-native speaker. Firstly, there are three distinct varieties: Old Armenian (Grabar), Middle Armenian (Mijin hayeren), and Modern Armenian (Ashkharhabar). Modern Armenian embraces two written varieties – Eastern and Western and there are also many dialects spoken. The Karabakh dialect has its own unique phonetics and is influenced by the many languages spoken in the Caucasus.
Combined with its original alphabet, for the uninitiated it can be hard to know where to start. Luckily, in Nargorno Karabakh we have our skilled translator, Anush Petrosyan, to help navigate these complexities. With her ability to speak English, French, Russian as well as her mother tongue, Armenian, she is an invaluable part of the team. To mark International Mother Language Day we asked her to tell us more about her role.
My name is Anush Petrosyan and I am 24 years old. I am Armenian and come from Shushi, Nagorno Karabakh. I graduated from Artsakh State University, Faculty of Foreign Languages, with a Master’s Degree in 2016 (English and French.) In my spare time I like to read books, listen to music and improve my language skills through songs, books, and films. I am also really interested in Armenian dance! I enjoy spending my spare time with my friends, meeting new people and exploring the beautiful places of Karabakh.
I joined HALO in September 2016 and worked as a volunteer for a month. I had a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the humanitarian work that HALO conducts throughout our country. Instead of a recommendation letter that volunteers are given, I was lucky to get a job in the position of Data Assistant in HALO Nagorno Karabakh. Now my position also entails the role of Projects Officer with the responsibilities of doing both written and oral translations, helping our Programme Officer to conduct case studies in the villages, helping to manage our database, giving briefs to HALO Nagorno Karabakh visitors or accompanying guests and journalists in the minefields.
Having my first job experience in an international organisation allows me to improve my language skills and apply them to practical situations. I get to meet new people from different countries with quite different mentalities but with one and the same mission: removing landmines and remnants of war, creating safe and secure environments in the countries that suffered from wars. I have a wonderful chance to travel throughout our country and see our deminers working in the heavily mine-impacted minefields, then go and meet the beneficiaries and villagers who will use the same land after they are declared mine-free and handed over to the local communities.
Seeing the tangible results of our work and the happy smiles of our beneficiaries is one of the best things for me. I realise how important it is when people can enter their land without fear of stepping on a mine or any other dangerous item of ammunition.
Interpreting and translating for HALO is an interesting challenge. Being a translator is much more than simply being bilingual. It is about being able to interpret the message correctly, taking into account not only language aspects but also social and cultural factors. While interpreting, you need to deal with different people, speaking different dialects and having different viewpoints in life. You need to overcome not only language barriers but to obtain a somewhat psychological way of thinking, to have an individual approach to every single person you communicate with. I strongly believe that the skills and experience I get through this job are invaluable and will be with me for my whole life.