Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Gems of Iraqi English

One of my core responsibilities with this position is improving the writing of local staff. Iraqis working in the field write about their work and the activities of our partner organizations, and I edit it. These tasks are not technically demanding. The key skill - the only skill, perhaps - is a basic knowledge of the English language. However, its sometimes next to impossible to make anything coherent with the writing I'm given.

The staff on this project speak English very well. I can have conversations with all of them and I don't need to change my word choice to help them understand. But their writing is very poor. I have several theories as to why this is the case.

We're dealing with democracy and governance issues. Our projects involve work on "capacity building" and "skills development." These are not easy issues to discuss succinctly. Its much simpler to write about projects that increase wheat yields or repair schools.

Another possible explanation is that this project demands more writing. Unlike other projects, a weekly report is required by USAID. We sometimes ask our local staff to write for the sake of fulfilling this requirement, not because they have something important to communicate. I think this contributes to writing that is, at times, completely meaningless.

Whatever the cause may be, sometimes I receive writing like this.
Project Title: Constitution Awareness. The Location was Diwaniya and the period was two months. Total Amount: $8998. Three of participants had to swim to get in to the workshop site in al-Saniya District because they were late 15 minutes . This project explained that most of people in Iraq have no real awareness in constitution because the x-regime (for 35 years) was dictatorship, this awareness lectures would educate and aware these people, also improve their ideas about the role of constitution and the people role in writing the constitution.

I wonder if the 9K that were spent on the project were misallocated from FEMA's Hurricane relief monies.

Far be it from me to criticize though. I wonder what a kick the Iraqis would get if I ever attempted to write something like this in Arabic.


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