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Reaching Ontario’s Indigenous Population via Translations

According to the latest census in 2016 by Statistics Canada, Ontario has the largest Indigenous population in Canada with about 374,395 people, which represents 2.8% of Ontario’s population. Also Ontario has the highest First Nations population in Canada. There are 3,860 Inuit in Ontario, representing 1 per cent of the total Indigenous population in Ontario.

Often information related to health and well being of Ontarians are translated into First Nations/Indigenous languages to allow for better access to government services and benefits. Clients sometimes ask us for recommendations on what languages to translate into to cover as much of the population as possible. From our experience of working with governments and associations that have been translating for a while, the most frequently translated languages for Ontario are:

  • Inuktitut
  • Western Ojibwe (Ojibwe may be spelled as Ojibwa or Ojibway; western Ojibe is also known as Saulteaux or Nakawemowin and in the US, as Chippewa) and frequently Eastern Ojibwe (also known as Anishinaabemowin)
  • Oji-Cree (also known as Severn Ojibwe, or the native speakers sometimes refer to the language as Ojibwe-Cree )
  • Mohawk
  • Swampy Cree/Moose Cree (also known as N dialect for Swampy Cree and L dialect for Moose Cree)
  • Algonquin

With such list of languages, there is quite a lot of complexity with dialect variance, script choice (Roman alphabet or syllabics, or both), and fonts (for example, one of our clients says Swampy Cree looks like Greek – turns out he did not have the right Swampy Cree font installed).

Some of the factors to take into consider are:

  • Sometimes we may know a language by a different name than how the native speakers refer to it themselves (think Ojibwe/ Anishinaabemowin)
  • Some languages have evolving national standards such as the Roman Alphabet Inuktitut spelling system Qaliujaaqpait, but most clients still produce a syllabics version to accompany the Qaliujaaqpait.
  • Most languages have regional variances. It is best to ask what the variances are and what variant suits your target area the best.
  • When not certain, we always send along a PDF with the Word for other format translation.

We rely heavily on the language keepers and elders to help us advise our clients so the language and dialect choice reflect the demographics and where our clients want to target. Such precious knowledge then gets documented into our Indigenous language library so we can help our clients make informed choices. For your next translation project, please give us a call for a consultation!

Huiping Zhang

Huiping Zhang is the founder and president of wintranslation. She founded the company in June 1998 as a home-based, one-woman operation and built it into a thriving, award-winning business that works with multi-national companies, governments, and not-for-profit organizations worldwide. She is a Certified Localization Professional and Terminology Manager. Huiping is a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and serves as a board member for the Ottawa chapter.

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