Translating for the migrant worker, and why it’s wrong to presume his answers
Qatar resident Habiba Radcliffe recently provided translation services for an interview with a newly arrived migrant worker living in a corrugated iron shack in Shahaniya.
The actual experience itself – sitting with the man (an aspiring chef) and his roommates, sharing their humble meal of curry and roti – was uncomfortable at first.
But the most disquieting part of the encounter, Radcliffe blogs, involved the questions she was asked to relay:
It felt rude to ask Joynal questions that I felt would ordinarily be too invasive to ask in any other circumstance, such as, “Are you happy with your life?” Joynal would often give a brief, chirpy answer, so the interviewer would have me probe further on a point of interest, with questions such as, “ Do you think you are lucky or unlucky in your life?” or “Do you think you have a good life?
As she reflected on this line of questioning, Radcliffe wondered what type of damage it could do on the psyche of her interviewee:
…I wondered, had we opened up the possibility in his mind that his circumstances were unfortunate? It felt like we were projecting an image of the poor migrant worker onto him, based on our own First World preconceptions. I didn’t feel good about it…
Who are we to question a person’s satisfaction with their life, or worse, to alter their perception of their destiny, just because we wouldn’t like to have their luck?
Fair question, no?
Thoughts on this?
Credit: Photo by Habiba Radcliffe