Speaking Worlds

Mariana's blog about
interpretation and translation

On World's AIDS day

One of the most meaningful assignments of my life as an interpreter was a three-weeks training in San Salvador, working for ActionAid. I thought I knew so much about AIDS, it turned out I knew very little.

The workshop was about a trainer methodology called Stepping Stones. It was directed to people coming from San Salvador as well as from the rural areas, educated people as well as people with little formal schooling; healthy people, as well as persons living with AIDS.


On the first day of the training, we were divided in two groups, one for women and one for men. As the days progressed, Linnea Renton, who was leading the women's group taught us about different methods useful to bring people together, break the ice so difficult topics can be addressed, and how to break the ice within ourselves, so we could see clearly who we are, where we hurt and how to heal. I speak in the first person plural because although I was only there in my interpreter capacity, I took part in all of the activities, and was made as much part of the group as possible. I assume the intention was to break divisions in the group and make it as homogenous as possible, so that trust could be found and given between us all.

In truth, this event changed my life. I learned about the true face of AIDS, meeting real people living with the virus. I learned how they had gotten infected, sadly so many of them from their own partners; how some had in turn infected their babies, and how they lived with this. I learned what the virus really was, where it came from, how it can be transmitted and how to prevent this from happening. I learned how much discrimination can break information and block education. I learned how much strength a human being can have.

Not every one of the women living with AIDS were upfront about it. Some were matter of fact about their health situation; others took their time before talking openly about it. However when the three weeks came to an end, we were no longer strangers to each other. Bonds had been built, and I will never forget these women.

Some of them I met again in other HIV-AIDS conferences or events, others I never saw again. One of them actually called me once, just to chat for a few minutes. All of them touched my life deeply.

As we celebrate World's AIDS day, I wish to remember them all, and honor their lives and their struggle. May more and more awareness be raised and more and more knowledge achieved, that we can prevent further infections and especially stop all sort of discrimination.

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Mariana Hernandez, English, French and Spanish interpreter and translator My name is Mariana Hernandez; I am a freelance conference interpreter and translator working in English, French and Spanish. I was born and I grew up in Paris, France. Later in life I moved with my family to Latin America, where I eventually started my career, working with international NGOs, United Nations agencies, and private and public sector stakeholders in developing countries. This blog speaks of my work, and the many humanist topics which are close to my heart.



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