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Global Voices in Aymara: Preserving Indigenous Language Online

This post is part of our special coverage on Languages and the Internet.

One of the newest Global Voices Lingua sites is also its first in an indigenous language, Aymara. This native language is spoken by more than 2 million people across the Andes, especially in Bolivia and Peru, where it is among the official languages. There are also people who speak Aymara in parts of Chile and Argentina, as well as in the Aymara diaspora.

The first translation of Global Voices in Aymara was published in September 2009 and continued with intermittent publication for the next year. Once Victoria Tinta took the helm as editor, the site began to produce regular translations from Global Voices in Spanish to Aymara. In addition to proofreading and formatting translations, Victoria has been responsible for recruiting and coordinating the team of volunteer translators. In all, there are have been 21 volunteers who have contributed with a translation, and there is a core group of approximately one dozen who have produced regular translations.

Global Voices in Aymara Editor Victoria Tinta at the Brazilian Digital Culture Forum in São Paulo in October 2010.

Global Voices in Aymara Editor Victoria Tinta at the Brazilian Digital Culture Forum in São Paulo in October 2010.

The new site is an initiative of the Jaqi Aru project based in El Alto, Bolivia and aims to contribute to the availability of content in the Aymara language on the internet, as a way to promote and preserve their native tongue. Most of the translators and members of the Jaqi Aru project are students in the Linguistics Department of the Public University of El Alto [es] (UPEA for its initials in Spanish), and hold a passion for conserving the language for future generations. The partnership with Global Voices enables the group to provide valuable content in the Aymara language about current events and cultural issues from around the world.

While all of the translators are bilingual in Aymara and Spanish, and in some cases, multilingual, this translation project is still in its early stages. In many cases, words do not exists in Aymara for the text that appears in Global Voices articles. To help in such cases, there are projects such as Runasimipi that attempt to build consensus for the translation of a particular word, especially words related to technology. But in many cases, these translations are an individual's proposal for how something should be translated. This interpretation may vary from translator to translator, but beginning in this manner leaves room for discussion, thus helping each translator improve upon their work.

Members of the Global Voices in Aymara translation team.

Members of the Global Voices in Aymara translation team.

It may be true that most readers of Global Voices in Aymara have no trouble reading Global Voices in Spanish instead, but the project is part of a larger goal of encouraging Aymara speakers, especially young people, to embrace the language of their ancestors. Making interesting content available on the Internet, is only the first step for the Jaqi Aru project and the Global Voices in Aymara translation team in hopefully setting an example for other indigenous and minority language communities around the world.

This post is part of our special coverage on Languages and the Internet.

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