Love Your Indigenous Linguist!

Love Your Indigenous Linguist!

Originally posted on gala-global.org by Manuela Noske.

“30 September is UN International Translation Day which celebrates language professionals worldwide who enable knowledge sharing, make commerce and trade possible, and facilitate dialogue between nations and communities.

This year International Translation Day recognizes the importance of indigenous languages, not just to the people who speak them, but to the rest of the world.  With language loss accelerating and the majority of the world’s languages at risk of disappearing by the end of this century, the UN is dedicating International Translation Day 2019 to “Translation and Indigenous Languages”.

To highlight the role of translators, interpreters, and terminologists, GALA has identified four members of our community who are dedicating their professional lives to making sure speakers of all languages have a chance to participate in the cultural and political life of society and have equal access to health care, education, and information. Read their stories here and help us celebrate all indigenous linguists today.

#LoveYourLinguist in 2019 means #LoveYourIndigenousLinguist.

Luyanda Mbali – Language Custodian

Luyanda grew up in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa speaking isiXhosa as his first language. From a traditional family, he is capable of conversing in a respectful manner with the elders, but can also hold his own in the more casual registers that are common among city dwellers.  He became aware of language as an object of study when his religious community began the process of translating sacred texts into isiXhosa.  Luyanda intuitively grasped that word-by-word translation wasn’t going to do the texts justice and his curiosity about translation was piqued.

After graduating from college, Luyanda decided to join the language industry and has worked as the lead translator and terminologist for ST Communications for the last 8 years.  But his true vocation is larger than being a for-hire translator: he sees himself as a custodian of the language and its advocate, not only towards outsiders, but also towards those who speak the language natively like him. As a successful urban South African, he has often observed how the faces of those less educated than him light up when he speaks in isiXhosa.  “Being educated and successful does not mean you have to speak English”, says Luyanda; on the contrary, he sees his use of isiXhosa in everyday contexts as an important contribution to making sure his language increases in status and will survive into the next century.”

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