|Community Assessment of Natural Food Sources of Vitamin A, Guidelines for an Ethnographic Protocol (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1997, 141 pages)|
Here are some main points to follow in training your data-gathering team about translation from the local dialect or language to the national and international language.
i. Preserve vocabulary of key words and phrases in the original form, as used by the local people. This applies to the names of crops, foods, meals, dishes (types of prepared foods), attributes of foods, and other key words that emerge in interviews, as well as terms related to vitamin A deficiency.
For example, if local people have special words, or nicknames, for food items, these can be presented as used, rather than substituting the national language equivalent.
ii. Do not assume that words that sound like equivalents in the national language have the same range of meaning. For example, the word sopa in Mexican food culture sounds as if it refers to the same kind of food as soup in English. However, when we learn that a platter of noodles is also sopa we realize that the word cannot be freely translated, without further explanation.
The word tomati in Hausa almost always refers to tomato paste in arid regions of Niger, rather than a fresh tomato. In speaking of fresh tomatoes the adjective generally is added for clarification.
In many parts of the world foods are categorized in words that refer to hot or heaty. In some contexts the word may actually refer to the temperature of the food, while in other contexts the word hot (and the opposite, cold) refers to an abstract quality or attribute of food in relation to maintenance of a complex balance of hot and cold qualities in the body.
Thus the label hot or heaty concerning food may require considerable explanation, instead of simply literal translation into the equivalent word in the national language.
iii. Complex local vocabulary items should be presented first in the indigenous language, followed by the literal translation, followed by further clarifying explanation.
Example: In Hausa some people say: "/Shine/ /mini/ /koshi/." Literally: "/That food//makes me/ /full/."
The statement can refer to filling one's stomach, but in Niger where this manual was tested, the statement also referred to building up bodily reserves for a future time of food shortages. Thus statements in the field notes should always use the Hausa word, cowshi, rather than the French language equivalent, plein.
For important attributes or qualities such as cowshi it is useful to ask informants to use the word in different contexts. Interviewers can also try using the word themselves, asking the informants if this example is a correct use of the word.
iv. Investigators must watch for topics in which local assistants might not have full command of the national language, even though they have moderately fluent use of both languages in most areas of conversation.
Conversely, educated research supervisors and team leaders may believe themselves fluent in the local dialect, yet they may be lacking in local nuances. For example, in rural Haiti the term opresion, is considered by the local health professionals to be synonymous with asthma. There is, indeed, an overlap between the meanings of these two words, but in rural localities it turns out that opresion can refer to a wider range of sicknesses, including forms of bronchitis and pneumonia.
v. When passages of fieldnotes are translated into the national language, the key terms in the local language should remain imbedded in the text. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, India the language spoken in rural communities is Telugu, in which the abstract concept of hot/treaty is vedi. Since for research purposes the national language is often English, a sentence concerning this attribute should be written like this:
Fruits such as papaya and mango are rated high in vedi (hot/treaty).
vi. Team leaders can review the fieldnotes and reporting forms of the research assistants to see that local terminologies are carefully preserved and explained.
vii. Important features of local vocabulary are not only to be found in food names and their attributes. In some cases the local dialect will have special expressions or special slang for behaviors dealing with foods and eating. Also, there may be slang expressions or special words for types of persons corresponding to ideas such as picky eater, omnivore, etc.