Saturday 23 October 2010

Development speak in many tongues - look it up here

Yesterday in Bujumbura, friends described to me how they had managed to reduce the incidence of particularly violent forms of forced marriage involving abduction and gang rape in their home region, up in the High Plateaux of Southern South Kivu (DRC). It was extremely enlightening, but also sort of surreal because of their generous use of development jargon. Terms such as "baseline assessment", "participatory survey", "target groups", "sensitisation" and "awareness-raising" punctuated every sentence, hiding to some extent what really happened.

I am not fond of jargon. But in some situations, e.g. when applying for donor funds, you need to throw in a few appropriate pieces of jargon, and if it's just to convey an impression of competency. In an attempt to set standards for the use of such terms, the OECD Development assistance committee published a Glossary of Key Terms in Evaluation and Results-Based Management in 2002. You can find its original English, French and Spanish version here. Unfortunately, the glossary is still little known, even though handy Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Japanese, Kiswahili, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Turkish versions are available.

I would encourage you to try out these links and spread them widely. These glossaries do help to foster understanding through a more accurate use of terms.

The glossaries are so well hidden that it has taken me more than an hour to find an OECD-DAC evaluation page that lists its translations. On the way there, I stumbled across an amazing array of compilations of multilingual glossaries in all kinds of disciplines, for example 100 search engines, which recommends a glossary on aeronautics, among many others. It felt like looking up something in an encyclopaedia and getting lost for the rest of the afternoon.

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