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Peace on the Hill: Speaking the language of peace

Language learning plays an important role on the global scale for interpreters and conflict negotiators. As Zehr highlights in this article, knowledge of language, of conflict, and of “true reconciliation” are key to peace processes.

PeaceSigns

czehr_photoBy Charissa Zehr

As a bilingual person aspiring to be trilingual, living with a bilingual spouse, I spend a lot of time thinking about language construction and the flawed way we interpret one language into another. Words fail to describe certain feelings; idiomatic expressions refuse to be confined by Google Translate and the sentiment falls apart.

Conflict negotiations are often a study in successful interpretation. Each party brings their side of the story and they have trouble understanding the frustrations or perceived injustices of the other side. They may be speaking the same language or dialect, but they are not communicating constructively and they won’t find any help from Google Translate.

The government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) offer a clear example. The conflict between them has spanned more than five decades, and there have been multiple attempts to work at a peace agreement. The…

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About clwoelk

Cheryl Woelk is coordinator of Language for Peace and specializes in language and peace education in multicultural contexts. She holds an MA in Education and a graduate certificate in Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA. Cheryl currently lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with her spouse and son.

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Contributing Author

Cheryl Woelk is coordinator of Language for Peace and specializes in language and peace education in multicultural contexts. She holds an MA in Education and a graduate certificate in Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA. Cheryl currently lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with her spouse and son.

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