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Vietnamese Fishermen Face Language Barrier from BP Oil Spill Aid

Posted on May 16, 2010 by bp complaints

Vietnamese Fishermen Face Language Barrier from BP Oil Spill Aid

BP is now racing to contain the oil leak due to the explosion of the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig on 20th April 2010. BP officials have said that the Gulf of Mexican oil spill could potentially grow at a rate more than ten times of the current estimates. The current rate of oil leak is about 5,000 barrels per day. In the worst case scenario, the figure could go up to 60,000 barrels per day (equivalent to 2.5 million gallons). When BP announced the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many local marine industries that are affected started to claim for compensation.

However, a group of Vietnamese fishers are now facing not one, but two challenges – The loss of fishing income and also the language barrier. It is preventing the fishers from understanding BP’s message on the temporary relief program. 200 Vietnamese fishermen from Texas to Florida gathered last Friday in New Orleans East to voice their complaints to BP and federal officials. According to the local fishermen, the contractor which is hired by BP to accept compensation applications from fishers does not have any representative who can speak Vietnamese. So, the Vietnamese fishermen are now prevented from earning a living and getting temporary relief. Their livelihood is in a limbo.

BP is also running another program named the “Vessels of Opportunity” which aims to create a line of floating barriers against the floating oil along America’s richest fishing grounds. Therefore, BP is asking for the Vietnamese fishermen to participate in the program so to help to ferry supplies and installing equipment on their vessels to collect the floating oil. However, only five Vietnamese signed up for the program because the majority of them do not understand the English worded application form.

A fishing ban was also put in place by the government since the 2nd of May for at least 10 days, and this has a huge impact on fishers because the fishing season runs from May through December. Consequently, participating in this cleaning-up program can also provide some immediate income to the fishermen during this down time.

Some American citizens are of the opinion that these fishermen should at least be able to speak simple English as they have been living in America for 20 to 30 years. Vietnamese communities are said to be very hard working but isolate themselves from other communities. This seems to be especially true for the older Vietnamese generation who escaped communist Vietnam during the bloody Vietnam War. Many of them settled down in America and remained as fishers. They continue to live their way of life without much interaction with the local Americans. However, it is also good to know that their younger generation is now going into American schools and universities.

At the gathering, a BP spokesman told the Vietnamese fishers to be patient as they will make necessary arrangements for future messages to also be communicated in Vietnamese. They will first start by translating all relief program application forms into the Vietnamese language. BP also promised to hold the next oil spill response training for Vietnamese fishermen with a professional Vietnamese interpreter on site.

All in all, this incident shows how crucial it is to take into account of the language used for communication especially when your audience is a multi-racial one.

Steve Greenwood writes for Prime Languages Translation Agency based in London. If you are looking for Language Translation, contact Prime Languages and discuss your requirements we use.

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