Preserving Indigenous languages through translation is a crucial step in safeguarding cultural heritage and promoting linguistic diversity. Many Indigenous languages in Canada and around the World are endangered, and without concerted efforts to document, revitalize, and promote them, they may be lost forever.
UNESCO has defined 4 levels of language endangerment from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable. Languages with a few thousand speakers left like Algonquin, Dene, Mi’kmaq, Oji-Cree, and Plains Cree are considered Vulnerable. Critically Endangered languages are those with only a few hundred or fewer speakers, like Cayuga, Dakota, Lakota, Halkomelem, Han, Michif, Oneida, and so on.
Here are some ways translation can contribute to this preservation:
- Documentation of Knowledge and Culture: Through translation, oral traditions, stories, and cultural practices of endangered languages can be recorded and preserved in written form. This documentation serves as a valuable resource for future generations to understand the heritage and wisdom embedded in these languages.
- Revitalization Efforts: Translating materials into an endangered language can contribute to revitalization efforts. This includes translating educational materials, books, and digital content, which can be used to teach and promote the use of the language within the community.
- Cultural Identity and Pride: When people see their language represented in written form, it reinforces their sense of cultural identity and pride. It sends a powerful message that their language is valued and worthy of preservation.
- Linguistic Analysis and Documentation: Translators often work closely with linguists to analyze the structure, grammar, and nuances of endangered languages. This linguistic documentation is crucial for understanding the unique features of these languages and for academic study.
- Cultural Exchange and Understanding: Language is a window to another culture, so translation and language analysis fosters a sense of cultural exchange and mutual understanding. It allows people from different backgrounds to appreciate and learn from one another’s perspectives and the wisdom encapsulated in the language.
- Preservation in Digital Archives: Digital platforms provide a means to store and disseminate translated materials, ensuring they can be accessed and shared widely, even in regions where the language is no longer widely spoken.
- Empowering Communities: Through translation, communities gain the information, tools, and resources to continue using and transmitting their language. This empowers them to take an active role in the preservation process and build the capacity to take revitalization efforts in their community to a new level.
- Exploring New Ways of Communication and Language Use: Creating apps and content in Indigenous languages can have a significant impact on communities, engaging young people, fostering regular language practice, and facilitating communication with family and friends.
At wintranslation, we work with Indigenous language keepers and Elders, and we are committed to preserving and promoting Indigenous languages in Canada. Language is not just a means of communication; it’s a vital part of cultural heritage.
We invite you to join us in this meaningful journey to ensure these languages thrive for generations to come. Ask us about our Indigenous translation services.