Translation Services with Non-Standardised Languages: What Happens at the Point of Language Contact When Social Pressures Conflict with Professional Ethics?

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Translation services with non-standardised languages: what happens at the point of language contact when social pressures conflict with professional ethics?

The linguistic situation of Sierra Leone poses an interesting challenge to a hybrid tribunal such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Sierra Leone is one of the smaller countries in West Africa; its population is now estimated to be around 6 million. Over 20 languages are in use of which Mende, Themne, Limba, and Kono are the most important indigenous ones, but they exist besides the official ex-colonial language English and its Creole descendant, called Krio.

Krio is used as a native language with ethnic reference mainly in the capital Freetown and in the Western Area. It is also used as a lingua franca throughout the country where Mende and Themne also serve as linguae francae, but these are mainly concentrated in the south and in the north respectively. However, Krio is also used as a first language without ethnic reference in most urban areas in Sierra Leone. It has become the dominant first language of the young urban people and it often used as one of two first languages. The language preference of young Sierra Leoneans is very important, since more than half of the population is under 19 years of age.

During the war the importance and relevance of Krio grew enormously while that of English diminished. In the early 90s, not only the upcoming RUF (Revolutionary United Front) under the leadership of Foday Sankoh, but also the Sierra Leonean Army decided to increase the size of the their forces by enlisting in some cases children but in any event mainly young, unemployed people. The “youth of the diamond fields neglected by the state” (Richards 1996:10) came from all, mostly rural, areas in Sierra Leone in an attempt to make some money. Most of them had never gone to school or only for a few…...

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