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 Home > Event-related > European SF > FSE-ESF 2006

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Text presenting Babels

Text included in the ESF 2006 programme
(Date: 23 May 2006)

Babels is a network of volunteer interpreters and translators that will cover the interpretation and translation needs of the 4th European Social Forum. Babels has over 9.000 volunteers throughout the world, and its main aim is to ensure every participant’s right to express their thoughts and ideas in the language of their choice.

Babels principles

Babels interpreters are activists and their participation is based on Babels’ principles and militancy. Babels is not a cheap service provider, and its interpreters and translators are not a mere linguistic decoration. They are committed political actresses and actors who take part in the Social Forum process, and who seek to open the Social Forum to new thoughts and proposals originating from countries whose languages have rarely been represented in past Forums.

Languages are not only about transmitting ideas, but are also the cradle for new ideas. This is why we push for the presence of a much larger number of languages in Social Forums, allowing more and different people to express themselves and participate in the debates. Since the creation of Babels, the Social Forums have increased the number of languages with interpretation from 4 to over 20 different languages. This, in turn, has allowed more people to participate, and not only the fortunate intellectuals and activists who have been trained to speak and to understand neo-colonial languages.

Babels has also fought to increase the number of spaces in which international communication can take place. Interpretation must be provided wherever it is needed, from large conference rooms to areas where small groups of people meet to exchange ideas, to articulate movements, and to propose concrete actions.

Involving volunteers in Social Forums is therefore for Babels to get involved and to participate at all levels. The joint work of the volunteers and trained experts (whether professionals, retired professionals or non-professionals) and skilled people (whether translation students, bilingual activists, and so on…) is a conscious choice. The quality of interpreting and translating in social forums is also linked to the commitment of the volunteers through collaboration and cooperation inside and outside Babels, especially from Organizing Committees and participant organizations.

It must be made clear that Babels does not promote sub-standard work and does not wish to damage the reputation of freelance translators and interpreters. On the contrary, our commitment to the Social Forum goes hand in hand with our demand for respect for the work of translators and interpreters.

The 4th European Social Forum

In the 4th European Social Forum in Athens, there are no official languages. The Organizing Committee of the European Social Forum ( has tried to mobilize people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Babels has also made an effort to mobilize interpreters from this region. This is why it will be possible to listen to interpretation into Hungarian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Turkish and Arabic, for instance. Babels-el, the group of Babels members in Greece, has also called on immigrants living in Greece to participate in the process. Interpreters were chosen based on linguistic criteria, their experience, but also their geographical location: we have tried to bring some volunteers from all over the world, so that the social forum process can continue in other countries.

How better to begin making another world possible than by really understanding each other?

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