Translation and Indigenous Languages
The United Nations (UN) has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL) and has also designated every September 30th as International Translation Day (ITD).
The International Federation of Translators (commonly known as FIT) sees a strong connection between these two UN actions and has thus chosen "Translation and Indigenous Languages" as its theme for ITD 2019. This briefing explains that connection and encourages collaboration between the UN and FIT in achieving the objectives of IYIL.
The IYIL website identifies two main objectives for UNESCO, as the lead UN agency:
(1) "to benefit the people who speak [indigenous] languages"; and
(2) "for others to appreciate the important contribution [indigenous languages] make to our world's rich cultural diversity".
The FIT byline mentions three groups of professionals under the broad heading of Translation: translators proper, terminologists, and interpreters. Each of these groups makes an important contribution to these objectives:
Interpreters benefit speakers of indigenous languages by providing access to health care, justice, and other social services when a minority indigenous community is embedded in a majority language environment and some speakers of the indigenous language have limited proficiency in the majority language. This access is explicitly mentioned in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIPS), which is central to the action plan for IYIL.
Translators allow speakers of majority languages to access the cultures of indigenous peoples whose languages they do not speak. No one speaks more than a tiny fraction of the more than two thousand indigenous languages spread across more than ninety countries, encoding an amazing variety of "unique systems of knowledge and understanding of the world". By seeing the world from the perspective of indigenous peoples, we might even become better at appreciating the value of alternative perspectives within our own primary language and culture. At a minimum, we will better see the importance of respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
Terminologists support the work of both translators and interpreters by linking the terms and concepts in domains of knowledge that are shared across languages.
In summary, the language professionals represented by FIT are needed in very practical ways to achieve UNESCO's objectives regarding indigenous languages, working along with those who are supporting indigenous communities in their efforts to preserve their language as the vehicle for communication in everyday life. The UN and FIT can collaborate to make sure that interpreters are available to minority indigenous communities and to encourage more awareness of the richness of indigenous culture through translation into majority languages.
Websites: IYIL (iyil2019.org); FIT (www.fit-ift.org); Indigenous Languages (www.wikitongues.org)
UN declarations: International Translation Day (Resolution 71/288); Year of Indigenous Languages (Resolution 71/188); Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIPS – Resolution 61/295)
联合国此前宣布2019年为“国际土著语言年”（International Year of Indigenous Languages），并将每年的9月30日确定为国际翻译日。