Blog de traducción
Blog di traduzione
Blog de traduction
Blog de tradução
Vertaal Blog
Блог на тему перевода
مدونة الترجمة
번역 블로그


Indigenous Translators: Between Language and Politics

America (here including North and South America) is the second largest continent in the world after Asia. It includes no less than 35 sovereign nation-states, 1 Commonwealth and at least 24 dependencies and colonies (yes, in the 21st century, believe it). Over 500 languages are spoken throughout these territories, of which only 8 are official: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Guarani, Creole, Dutch and Greenlandic (in Greenland). The rest are mostly, excluding the  alien (i.e. those that evolved outside of that territory and were brought by conquest and migration), indigenous languages ​​of the native peoples.

Mapudungun, Guarani, Qom, Aymara, Ticuna, Yucatec, Cheyenne, Tzeltal, and Navajo are just some of the indigenous languages ​​spoken to throughout the Americas. Some of the only have written records and still finding a translator or interpreter for any of these languages ​​is far more difficult than the official languages, which is curious since all these indigenous languages ​​are spoken in countries with an official language, which, surely, members of indigenous communities must learn to communicate, study, work, etc. It’s not often that an Argentine Mapuche, for example, speaks only Mapudungun and not Spanish. However, after many centuries of struggle and demands for territory as compensation for state policies toward indigenous peoples, it is logical that the indigenous people would want to work translating their language to and from Spanish.

The reality is that there are very few countries where the local Translators Association include indigenous language professionals. This is because most countries do not offer organized study of an indigenous language. Of course everything is linked to state policies and the importance that traditionally has been given (or not) to cultural diversity.

Today there are increasing efforts to integrate indigenous languages ​​into organized and official study programs but there is still a long way to go. For now, when you come to translate an unknown term in a context related to the Amazon, note that what appears to be at first glance a simple regionalism can in reality be a term from Ticuna.

(Versión en español: