The Hmong Languages

The Pahawh Hmong alphabet was invented by Shong Lue Yang in 1959.
The mystical aspect of this alphabet is that its creator announced that it was the result of divine revelation, in northern Laos near the border with Vietnam.

Shong Lue Yang worked hard to get this script and in turn, to restore the Hmong people. This fervent struggle cost him his life, as he was murdered in 1971.

The Hmong language is spoken in China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Thailand and the United States.

In each of the nations, Hmong is written in the alphabet of the region where it is spoken. For example, in China, Hmong is known as Miao and is written in Chinese characters. In contrast, in Thailand, it is written with the Thai alphabet.

This also reveals the importance of knowing the target country for texts to translate into Hmong, in order to know in which alphabet it should be written.

In turn, between the 1980 and 1990, other alphabets were invented to writeH mong: Ntawv Paj Ntaub, based on Thai and Chinese characters, and Ai Ao Lo.

Today, most Hmong people write their language with the romanized popular alphabet (RPA), as happens with Chinese. It is a version of the Latin alphabet, which makes it more accessible for those not as familiar with Asian languages.

How culture is reflected in the language

* The Hmong culture, like many other cultures in Indochina, places special emphasis on the linkages between members of a family or clan. You can say that they are collectivist cultures in which group welfare takes precedence over the welfare of the individual.

* Within the same worldview lies a deep respect for elders and unquestioning obedience to them.

* In line with this thinking, polygamy is not a crime, although the practice is somewhat limited. The household is composed of several generations, including married children and their nuclear families. On the death of the parents, the family dissolves, and new family units are then created and the cycle starts anew.

This is important for the world of translation because we have seen how language reflects the culture of a people, and often, when a concept does not exist in a given culture it is very difficult to find an equivalent term in another culture to which the material is directed.

The Hmong in the United States

While most of the Hmong population is in Southeast Asia, a high percentage of the population in also located in the United States. The older Hmong who live there were born in Laos and were recruited by the Western country to fight in the Vietnam War. That’s why many Hmong people came to America as war refugees. Most of the population is concentrated in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California.
This is also interesting because they are two very different cultures coexisting in the same space. The Hmong people tries to preserve their traditions and this cultural protection includes the language.

With a language with somewhat mystical origins and a very strong culture, despite the geographical distances that threaten to separate its people, the Hmong population remains steadfast and ready to pour in many more generations to come.

Any questions regarding Indochinese language translations, please consult our Translation Services.

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