One of my favorite quotes is one by Margaret Mead that goes “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
And this is why I love my internship. I work (work here meaning unpaid volunteering of course) for a small argentine NGO called Responde (response) that aims to fight rural depopulation due to urban migration through community development in Argentina’s small rural villages. My favorite part about the organization is that it’s completely run by Argentines working for their fellow Argentines, not a trait common to international NGOs these days. The office is a small space right in the heart of downtown with at most 10 people working on a given day, and yet they’ve managed to reach over 600 rural towns in the 7ish years they’ve been working. Projects range from school curriculums to community centers to agricultural workshops to tourism ventures, it all depends on what the communities who come to them want to do. And that’s my other favorite part about Responde, the communities come to them for help…yet another trait not so common in the world of international development where the prefered method of “intervention” involves descending upon an unsuspecting village deemed in need of developmnt by the grand, well-funded saviors.
So anyway, what do I do at Responde? Well, besides write blog posts…No but really, I actually do have a purpose that does not involve getting coffee for people or filing their papers. My work varies between doing Spanish to English translations of grant proposals, informational texts, and stuff for the english website, as well as research for different projects in the pueblos or for fundraising. Since no one in the office really speaks much English, I’m often asked to search the English-language resource databases on google or what have you and then give them a summary in spanish.
And I actually really enjoy the translation work. It’s surprising how difficult it can get but it’s also a strangely fulfilling task. I find the hardest part is knowing where to draw the line between translator and editor, as in where do you try to keep as much of the original wording and structure versus scrapping whole paragraphs and just re-writing it with the same intent and feeling, but in a way that’s clearer in the new language. And the value for me in doing the translations has been really getting to see and interact with the differences between the Spanish and English languages in terms of the conventions of form and structure.
In terms of my personal spanish abilities, I feel like I’ve substantially improved in recent weeks. My conversational fluency is really starting to click to the point where I am actually having a conversation in Spanish, both in my words and thoughts, to the point where the Spanish comes more naturally and it actually takes me a minute to switch back to English. And in terms of my comprehension, I’m at the point where watching a film in spanish with english subtitles is more of a chore than without them because I’ll be reading the subtitles but also understanding all that’s said and then get caught up on the fact that they’re not always the same or even remotely in sync. But of course the best moments of my language learning experience have been noting the surprise from locals when they learn I’m not argentine or when they tell me “hablas muy bien, tenès un buen accento.” (that being the vos form for those who care)
Entonces, hasta luego amigos.