Monday, December 25, 2006

Peace - Different Words, Common Goal

At this time of year, when so many people throughout the world celebrate many different holidays, and all of us hope for peace among nations and among individuals, I searched the web for translations of the word, "peace". The number of online translators is amazing (although I could not find a translator for Malinke, a language I learned to speak at a very basic level while visiting residents of Mali). A few of the translations that I discovered appear below. Searching for these, and for others which I did not find, taught me something not only about linguistics, but about different cultural worldviews.

Paix (French)
Paz (Spanish)
Frieden (German)
ειρήνη (Greek)
和平 (Chinese)
Vrede (Dutch)
Vrede (Afrikaans)
Pace (Italian)
平和 (Japanese)
평화 (Korean)
Paz (Portuguese)
мир (Russian)
أمان (طمأنينة) (Arabic)
Mir (Croatian)
ukuthula (Zulu)
àlàáfíà (Yoruba)
kev sib haum xeeb (Hmong)

I had hoped to find a Somali translation; but the online translator that I consulted did not enable me to find the Somali word for peace.

An Ojibwe translator increased my understanding of the importance of context. It would not translate individual words; it only translated sentences. It emphasized that words derive meaning with reference to relationships and the larger setting in which they are spoken.

In looking for an English to Hmong translator, the directory of online translators directed me to a web page developed by the Saint Paul Schools - with dictionaries for translating back and forth between the two languages. That web site also includes special educational resources. Congratulations to the Saint Paul School District!

If you have the opportunity to surf the web and explore different languages and cultures, I hope you find it enjoyable and rewarding. Although the existence of multiple languages might seem to create barriers among people, our efforts to understand one another's languages can bring us closer together.

So, as the year comes to a conclusion, I wish you "peace"!


Anonymous said...

In Malinke, the word for peace is "here," pronounced "HAIR-ray". We often used the term to say "here doron" ("peace only"; in the context of someone who asks how you are doing and you respond "I am filled with only peace" meaning that "I am doing well").

Paul Mattessich said...

I noticed that some computers do not show characters for some of the non-Latin alphabets (e.g., Chinese, Japanese). All you might see is something like: 和平 . Sorry about that.
- Paul

Anonymous said...

How do you say or call someone "my love"?