Mobile menu

Off topic: Prime example of cultural adjustment: Navaho code talking glossary
Thread poster: humbird
Mar 2, 2004

Many of you may agree that compliation of military codes is a work of translation per excellence (grain of salt given and taken, I would say).
Some time ago in this forum, there was a posting (by Mr. Pesch if I remember correctly) discussing what is the most difficult language in the world. If I am to answer that question, my answer is the "Navajo", without hesitation (part of it is probably due to my ignorance to other languages). The Navajo tribe is one of so-called Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the American Continents. Some of their languages were utilized during two World Wars for military informations transmissions in deciphered forms, as they were so little known to outside. Then among numerous tribal languages that exist within the territory of the United States and used to the service of war efforts, most famous one is the Navajo Code Talkers (some of you might have seen Nicolas Cage's movie "The Code Talkers", a Hollywood version about these unsung hero).
OK, now down to the point. For those Navajos, most military jargons are far from what cultural settings they lived. Thus in their language there were no tanks, amphibians, bombers, and fighter planes, no five star generals and Marines. Yet their mission was to translate (to encode) those words into their own, and transmit to the end of the line, then the receiver of the code (the Navajo tribal members, that is) decoded it and translated into English for their English-speaking superiors amidst deafening clamour of the battlefield where a second of hesitation meant death of many. This alone is quite a feat, as it was for those Code Talkers Japanese code deciphering efforts miserablly failed. Rest is history.
What amazes me most as a translator in this process is, the way they transferred the new concept of English language into their own -- for instance "dive bomber"="chicken hawk", "fighter plane"="hummingbird", and "battleship"="whale". I would call it a prime example of cultural adjustment.
For your entertainment, please visit following site:
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq61-4.htm

Cheers,


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:48
Dutch to English
+ ...
The mind boggles! Mar 2, 2004

Thank you Susan for sharing. Very interesting. I never knew this!

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:48
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Very interesting Susan Mar 2, 2004

Thank you so much Susan, this is so interesting. Thank you for sharing it. A very interesting site too!
Monika




[Edited at 2004-03-02 01:36]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Myriam Garcia Bernabe  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:48
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
Additional bit of history Mar 2, 2004

Unfortunately, these linguistic heroes were guarded by US marines that were under strict orders of killing them if there was any risk of them falling into the hands of the Japanese. I guess those who survived were sent back to their reservations...ho hum.

Myriam


Direct link Reply with quote
 

humbird
TOPIC STARTER
U.S.Marine and Code Talkers Mar 2, 2004

Thank you Myriam for bringing that flip side of the history, as I could not cover due to space limit. Afterall, that was the gist of the movie ("The Code Talkers" by Nicholas Cage). Also, after the war their heroic deeds and superior linguistic talents were never been brought to the attention and spotlight of the mainstream socieity for nearly fourty years. Some alludes this as racism. That maybe the one aspect, but US Government information restriction played major role. Some of these extraordinary people still survive to this day on the Reservation as respected elders.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
Did the Navahos actually have a word for "whales"? Mar 2, 2004

Susan Koyama wrote:

Many of you may agree that compliation of military codes is a work of translation per excellence (grain of salt given and taken, I would say).
Some time ago in this forum, there was a posting (by Mr. Pesch if I remember correctly) discussing what is the most difficult language in the world. If I am to answer that question, my answer is the "Navajo", without hesitation (part of it is probably due to my ignorance to other languages). The Navajo tribe is one of so-called Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the American Continents. Some of their languages were utilized during two World Wars for military informations transmissions in deciphered forms, as they were so little known to outside. Then among numerous tribal languages that exist within the territory of the United States and used to the service of war efforts, most famous one is the Navajo Code Talkers (some of you might have seen Nicolas Cage's movie "The Code Talkers", a Hollywood version about these unsung hero).
OK, now down to the point. For those Navajos, most military jargons are far from what cultural settings they lived. Thus in their language there were no tanks, amphibians, bombers, and fighter planes, no five star generals and Marines. Yet their mission was to translate (to encode) those words into their own, and transmit to the end of the line, then the receiver of the code (the Navajo tribal members, that is) decoded it and translated into English for their English-speaking superiors amidst deafening clamour of the battlefield where a second of hesitation meant death of many. This alone is quite a feat, as it was for those Code Talkers Japanese code deciphering efforts miserablly failed. Rest is history.
What amazes me most as a translator in this process is, the way they transferred the new concept of English language into their own -- for instance "dive bomber"="chicken hawk", "fighter plane"="hummingbird", and "battleship"="whale". I would call it a prime example of cultural adjustment.
For your entertainment, please visit following site:
http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq61-4.htm

Cheers,


[Edited at 2004-03-02 19:30]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

humbird
TOPIC STARTER
It's also fascinating! Mar 2, 2004

[quote]LInda Bolzern wrote:

Linda, it's also fascinating to me that people lived in land-locked area knows whale. But in their creation myth their Goddess "Changing Woman" travelled to the Sea of the West (Pacific Ocean?), and lived a house of turquoise by the shore. So, the Ocean was known to them, thus whale, I guess.


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Prime example of cultural adjustment: Navaho code talking glossary

Advanced search






TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs