Thursday, December 25, 2008

Peace - Translations/Connections

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.

For example, the number of online translators for Somali-Italian languages surprised me at first, but makes sense. The Somali-Italian translations reflect the imperialism/colonialism of the past few centuries. A portion of Somalia became Italy’s first colonial conquest in the late 1880s, as Italy attempted to assert itself as a unified state.

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.

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)
nabad (Somali)

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 surf the web and explore different languages and cultures, I hope you find it enjoyable and rewarding. Although the existence of multiple languages does create some barriers to communication, our efforts to understand one another's languages can bring us closer together. In our increasingly globalized world, we need more than ever to make connections across nationalities – both within our own country and with people from different nations. So, beyond just surfing and learning, let’s make a commitment to make the connections that increase the chances that all of us will experience peace with one another.

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

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