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Translating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into Chichewa: A Quick Efficacy Assessment

Evans Lwara, Deborah Ndalama
Published 31 May 2020

Abstract

This paper purposed to analyse the efficacy of the Chichewa version of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the government of Malawi, through the Department of Information, recently produced. Language barrier remains one of the main reasons for the SDGs’ unpopularity among the majority of Africans. This leaves most Africans unengaged in the goals’ implementation process. Mindful of this, many African countries have embarked on projects to translate the SDGs into indigenous African languages. In Malawi, the SDGs were translated into the local languages in 2018. This study sought to conduct a quick review of the entire project to ascertain its effectiveness against the background that previous translations of various policy and other public documents are replete with substantial communicative flaws. How then was the project to translate the SDGs into Chichewa uniquely designed to ensure positive outcomes? What strategies did the translators use to ensure effective localisation of the SDG document given its international nature? To answer these and other key questions, the researchers collected data through Key Informant interviews and document analysis. The data was analysed within the framework of Farrahi Avval’s taxonomy of communication strategies. The study found that both linguistic and non-linguistic communication strategies were used in the translation. Both of these strategies were marred by serious shortcomings that have the potential to prevent effective communication from taking place. The study, thus, concludes that the information in the Chichewa version of the United Nations’ SDGs remains largely inaccessible to the illiterate and semiliterate Malawians.

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