10 June 2020
As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
In times where changes are fast moving, NUS has seen a group of students step forward to show how they are choosing to go far as a community.
During the month of May, 40 students – mainly international students – and two staff have volunteered as translators to support medical practitioners and community partners to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Students are in telegram groups categorised by languages, where they receive requests for text, audio or real-time translations.
We connected with two student-volunteers, Noe Noe Su Aung (Nouline), Year 1 Business student and Srikar Venkataraman Srinivas, Engineering, PhD Year 1 student to find out more about their experience so far.
OSA: How did you get to know about this opportunity?
Nouline (N): I live in Residential College 4 (RC4) and one day my professor posted on our community telegram chat that they were looking for translators for ASEAN languages. As a Chinese Burmese, I can do basic translation for Burmese and having lived in Singapore for close to 10 years, I am also fluent in Mandarin.
Srikar Venkataraman Srinivas (S): I first read about the NUS graduate who built a translation portal for medical teams treating migrant workers on Channel News Asia (CNA) and got to know that one of my friends, Gokul, was involved in doing Tamil translations. Afterwhich, I was contacted by Ms Dawn from NUS Office of Student Affairs, and I joined as a volunteer too.
OSA: Why did you choose to volunteer for this project?
N: I really wanted to volunteer. Previously, I volunteered with Willing Hearts but have not been able to since the start of Circuit Breaker. I was looking for other platforms and since NUS has this platform, why not?
S: I felt like I needed to do my part. It’s my first time outside of India, first time away from home. And I felt welcomed here. But I know a lot of people here struggle with language. For the migrant workers especially, they always feel more at home when you converse in the language they know so I thought it would be helpful for me to do my little bit, in helping with translating.
OSA: What are some of the translation works you have been involved with?
N: I have translated three videos, one audio and one indemnity form (in Mandarin) so far.
S: I have translated some scripts and instructions.
OSA: How has the experience been so far?
N: I’m used to translating English-Mandarin because of my internship where I have to translate powerpoint slides for clients. So in general, it’s okay but translating some medical terms can be challenging. To overcome this, I will usually look up various sources to ensure the translation is accurate.
S: I feel very satisfied. Helping a person actually also helps my own way of understanding a language even better.
OSA: What is your best takeaway from this experience?
N: It doesn’t take up much of my time. By doing such a small act, I can impact a pool of people. I think it’s very fruitful and meaningful. By devoting an hour translating the language, I believe it will give them (migrant workers) a certain amount of comfort, especially during this crisis.
S: If I could use one word to describe this experience, it would be - AMAZING. There are not many initiatives like this. Helping workers in difficult times gives us translators a sense of satisfaction. Whatever we do, whatever effort we take, helps someone in need, even if it’s just one person.
OSA: What is one phrase you would leave for the migrant workers?
N: You’ll never be alone.
S: The good times will come, we are all united.
Photo: A WhatsApp message translated into different languages being sent to migrant workers who are staying at Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR) which has been temporarily converted to a Community Recovery Facility (CRF). These migrant workers who are no longer infectious, and recuperating before going back to work.
Photo: Financial literacy videos have been produced for the migrant workers and voiced-over in seven different languages – English Language, Bengali, Burmese, Hindi, Mandarin, Tamil and Telegu.
The 42 translators are:
- Hindi: Abhas Tripathi, Pranav Seth, Shrenik Kuwad, Bhavya Gupta and Behety Arjavi
- Bengali: MD Kamruzzaman, Mayuri Verma, Pooja Jain, Aditya Banerjee, Anandita Sen, Farhana Haque Anisha, Priyam Sinha, Arnab Dutta, Sonali Das
- Tamil: Swetha Ananthalakshmi Krishnamurthy, Archa Rajeevi, Gowtham Daas, Gokul Madathupalyam Chinnappan, Yuvaraj Mutharasi*, Hari Krishna V, Wilson Amairaj Arokiasami, Ramanathan Vijay Ganesh, Hari Hara Sudhan Muthu Kumar, Vinayak, Senthan Amuthan Ramanathan, Srikar Venkataraman Srinivas and Prabu Devaraj
- Telugu: Yuvaraj Mutharasi*, Srikar Namburu, Aishwarya, and Jaya Shruthi Reddy
- Burmese: Aung Myint Oo, Htet Htet Aung, Phyo Thi Han, Hnin Azali, Noe Noe Su Aung* and Myat Thu Kyaw
- Mandarin: Ng Kai Lin, Noe Noe Su Aung*, Yang Yuze, Kenneth Koh
- Thai: Pimpatsohn Sae-zhan, Pakorn Ueareeworakul, and Kawkeeree Nawat
* Volunteer translated multiple languages