METM22 presentation

Working with minority languages and uncommon language pairs: insights from a hyperpolyglot

Siru Laine, Barcelona, Spain

As the world becomes more connected every day thanks to the Internet and modern technology, people are increasingly aware of the importance of minority languages and there is a growing need for translations from and into them. However, the effort that goes into translating a text when resources are limited is often overlooked – what if there is no standardized spelling, like in Ligurian? Do all Udmurt translators have regular access to the Internet? How can a linguist check the correct translation of “cerebrospinal fluid” in Greenlandic? These are just a few examples of issues that a linguist might come across, especially if both source and target are in less widely spoken languages.

However, a minority language is not necessarily one spoken by only a few thousand people; Sundanese, for example, is spoken by 42 million people in Indonesia. And vice versa, some official languages have fewer speakers – like Icelandic, spoken by around 314,000 people. Both extremes bring their own difficulties when it comes to translation, but luckily there are solutions, too.

This presentation will clarify what it is like to work with minority languages and take a closer look at some pitfalls that both translators and clients might encounter. We will also explore some examples of challenges that arise in minority languages and uncommon language pairs in medical translations and reveal some of the benefits worth considering of working with minority languages. Attendees need not be familiar with any minority or less common language or the medical field to follow this presentation on a fascinating and often neglected topic.
[Read a member’s review of the presentation.]

About the presenter

Siru Laine is a Finnish medical translator based in Barcelona. She holds a BA in Icelandic as a second language and an MA in translation studies, both from the University of Iceland. Siru works with several source languages and has studied a number of minority languages including Basque, Sardinian and Nahuatl.