Saipan: 'Inconsistencies' in native language translations uncovered

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Feb 4 13:36:44 UTC 2009

'Inconsistencies' in native language translations uncovered-Macaranas

By Moneth Deposa

Inconsistencies in the translation of the native language have
prompted the Language Policy Commission to establish a committee that
would certify official translators for the Chamorro and Carolinian
languages. Board chair Bill Macaranas said the board is committed to
addressing the issue by formulating a unified procedure in translating
the vernaculars to English. Macaranas, who was also former executive
director of the Language Policy Commission, said it has been over 20
years that "inconsistencies and misperceptions" were noted in the
translation of the native dialects. However, the concerns were not
addressed due to the changes in the statute that created the language

He said the board is drafting the proposed amendments to the law,
which will create a certification committee for translators. "We're
working on the rules and regulations that will be the guiding path for
the committee that will certify the language translators," Macaranas
told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
The board chairman believes the translation of the indigenous
languages helps create a wider understanding of the culture but
inconsistencies in translations have resulted in the proliferation of
"misconception and misunderstanding" of Chamorro and Carolinian words.

At present, the language commission employs only two translators: one
each for Chamorro and Carolinian. The "demands and requests" for
translation of official documents from various government agencies
continue to hamper the other duties of the commission. Macaranas said
the commission will incorporate the proposal to authorize these
translators to conduct trainings for government agencies. "We don't
want the language commission to be the translating agency for all
government departments. The idea is to conduct training to their
personnel so in case there are some translation works such as official
documentations, they can do it at their level," Macaranas said, adding
that the commission wants to fulfill all its mandates for the
improvement and preservation of the native languages.

"Translation is just part of our multiple functions.and we want to
fulfill all the mandates for the commission, including activities that
would help in the preservation of our native languages," he said.
Although he believes that modernization and federalization will bring
a lot of changes to the indigenous dialects, "I am confident that ours
will survive," citing the two languages' history since the U.N. Trust
Territory era. A survey released in 2003 has shown that only 15
percent of students speak the local dialects on island. Macaranas
believes that parents are "partly" to blame as they didn't utilize and
practice these languages at home.

"We need the parents' cooperation because it's in our home where we
start everything," he said. 'Funding remains major problem'
The lack of financial support to carry out promotional activities for
the languages remains the top factor why the commission failed in some
of its activities. Macaranas cited that the planned annual language
symposium is also being hampered by a shortage of funding. "We want to
hold our next symposium on Tinian.but it will still depend on the
funding available," he said, adding that majority of their activities
rely on donations and sponsorship.

He believes that the economic hardship will affect this undertaking.
The language commission is also working on the revision of the
Chamorro-English dictionary to incorporate important "updates" on the
native languages. However, completion of the project relies on the
funding commitment of an off-island university. For the
Carolinian-English dictionary, federal funding was sourced out for the
yet-to-be completed project spearheaded by the Carolinian Affairs

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