Volunteer translator group lend a hand to outbreak in Iran

By Zhang Lulu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 26, 2020
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The volunteer group's logo on Twitter.

The minute Zhao Xingyu saw the message that Chen Binbin posted on WeChat calling for volunteers, she answered the call. 

The message, posted on Feb. 24, was meant for setting up a group of people to translate China's knowledge and experience in combating the novel coronavirus into the Persian language for Iranians. 

"During this special moment, let's do something that citizen of the earth can do." Zhao was moved by the message. To her, this was something within her power which could help the fight against the disease, which would soon become a pandemic ravaging the world. 

Zhao is a fourth year doctoral student majoring in philosophy at Peking University, where the group founder Chen is also studying. Once the message was out, a group of some 280 people was quickly formed. It was made up of around 60% Chinese, 40% Iranians, and two Afghans. "Our members ranged from students in various schools, to scholars studying Iran, to housewives, of all walks of life," Zhao said. 

One of the Iranian members, Marzieh Behradfar, studies at Zhengzhou University in central China. She said joining the group has helped to ease her anxiety about the outbreak in her country, and let her contribute to her home while being so far away. 

Iran discovered its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 19, and soon became one of the worst hit countries across the world. 

The volunteer group decided to translate short videos from Chinese to Persian, as videos are popular and easily disseminated via social media. 

The group was divided into several sub-groups tasked with different jobs, including information collection, translation, video production, etc. Under the handle @anticorona_ir, the videos were uploaded to popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram as well as Aparat, a video sharing platform widely used in Iran.

There were numerous challenges for such a newly established group with no prior experience. Zhao, who works in the information collection sub-group, said that they did not have a concrete idea on what to translate at first when faced with a sea of materials, but they managed to figure it out in the process. 

One of the videos uploaded by the volunteer group to Twitter.

Her team first collected information aimed at raising awareness. Then, as they published more videos and more people joined -- especially Iranians who know what was most needed -- they turned to working on more targeted information, such as instructions for homemade protective gears and how to care for family members who fall ill. 

As more and more videos were translated, a new sub-group was established to collect and translate medical information, which required more professional background. Zhao said: "Many fellow members of the group have the proper background, some are medical students, and some speak Persian. I am not one of them, but keeping in mind Chen's saying that we are all earth beings, I stuck on.”

Behradfar also carried on. Despite having a lot of classes and homework in the first year of her postgraduate study, she has been devoting all her spare time to the group. "Though I am very busy, I am extremely happy because I have a sense of accomplishment doing this."

Dedication and solidarity among fellow volunteers also give Behradfar strength. As the leader of the translation sub-group, she is responsible for assigning the translation work among the 30-member team. As most of the translators have study or work to do, she did not set a time limit for them to turn in the work, but Behradfar said everyone has been translating as fast as they could.

The group has so far translated and published more than 50 videos, plus pictures and texts, all turned out to be quite useful, Behradfar said. At the start, she had to ask her friends and family back in Iran to check out the videos that they made, but she soon began hearing friends telling her that they turn to their videos once they had questions about epidemic control. 

For Zhao, the group has helped her to deal with regret. “When we see the severity of the epidemic in Wuhan, many of us wished the clock could turn back so that we could warn everyone. Of course it is impossible. But when this group was established, it was the early days of the epidemic in Iran, so I wanted to do something that was already beyond possible here.”

"I hope our work can reach cross nationality, race, and religion," Zhao said. 

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