Free translations for media: high school students offer translation help during occupy central movement

By Tammy Kwan

A group of high school students has been offering free translations to international news organizations during the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.

The group has taken its presence onto social media sites including a Facebook page with over 1,600 likes and a Twitter page with more than 100 followers since it was assembled on October 1.

The group’s objective is to coordinate “volunteer translators and foreign media outlets on the ground for greater international coverage of the current situation in Hong Kong…and to provide impartial assistance to journalists,” as stated on its Facebook page.

The students who started the translation group are from Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong, and many are under the age of 17. A few of them were seen walking along Connaught Road in Central holding their signature cardboard sign that read “Free Translations for Media.”

“We have a senior classmate who started this movement in hopes of helping international media outlets by offering free translations of the ‘Umbrella Movement’s’ signs, pictures, and phrases,” said 16-year-old Karson Yu, a student at the international high school.

His classmate, 17-year-old Eugene Chan, said that the students from his school come from many different countries so they are able to translate to many languages: “Our school consists of students from 86 different countries and today, many come from Germany and Spain so they are able to help smaller media outlets with translations because they don’t have their own translator.”

Other than helping a plethora of media outlets translate breaking press conferences and announcements, the student translators also want to help translate the smaller events taking place in the movement.

“They probably want to know what demonstrators are yelling from time to time, or what opinions the Occupy Central demonstrators have,” said Chan.

When asked how many different languages the group can translate to, Chan enthusiastically answered: “Hindi, Spanish, French, German, Cantonese, Bengali, Japanese, and many other students are helping to translate to other languages through our Facebook page.”

A list of media outlets that the group has offered its translation assistance to includes The New York Times, TIME, Al Jazeera, ABC Australia, The Sunday Times, CNN Latin America, Canada CTV and many more.

Although the group did not assemble as a form of direct support to the Occupy Central movement, the students who are offering their translation assistance have their own opinions about the movement.

“I personally do support the Occupy Central movement,” said Chris Choi, 16, another volunteer translator.

“There are certain methods that this movement has undertaken that I don’t necessarily agree with,” said Yu, “but I do support their main beliefs.”

Update: As of October 4, the group announced on its Facebook page that it would not be providing translations of news articles/statements or live updates from the ground because of limited staffing except on request.