A compilation and review of Environmental
Contaminants Terminology in Inuktitut
Jamal Shirley
Nunavut Research Institute
Presentation to the Northern Contaminants Program
Results Workshop, Sept. 27, 2005
Presentation Overview
 Rationale
 Objectives
 Project Activities
 Findings
 Lessons
and Next Steps
Why we undertook the project
Interpreter/translators (ITs) are vital communication
enables in Inuit regions
Roles played by ITs in the NCP are poorly understood
ITs have provided hundreds of pages of translation, hours of
interpretation to NCP
Inuktitut is the mother tongue & princpile language used at home
for for 70% of Nunavut residents
14% of Nunavut’s residents do not speak either or Canada’s two
official languages (2001 Census, Stats Can)
ITs omitted from CACAR II list of key communicators
No review of language and translation
Contaminants terms and concepts are extremely difficult to
Lack of equivalencies in Inuktitut
Inconsistencies and Error in existing translations
Project Objectives
Improve our basic understanding of how
contaminants information is
interpreted/translated to Inuktitut,
 Compile and review Inuktitut terminology related
to environmental contaminants to identify
sources of translation error
 Identify potential measures to improve the
accuracy and precision of translation and
interpretation efforts in the context of NCP
Project Activities
Inuktitut terminology was compiled from various sources
(150 terms identified)
Language specialists reviewed accuracy and precision of
three contaminants glossaries
Terms and definitions were back translated to English to identify
A reference glossary with corrected terms and definitions was
Discussions with ITs, NAC members, researchers identified
options for improving the translation process
How does translation
Three distinct methods to interpret/tyranslate contaminants
information to Inuktitut:
 Expand/alter the meaning of existing Inuktitut words
 Sururnaqtuq (standard term used for chemical
 Creation of new Inuktitut words to describe some feature
of items or concepts
 “qupiruijaut” (things meant to kill bugs)
 Inuktitut relies extensively on word building
 English words are borrowed and their pronunciation
(“PISIPI”) - (requires good definitions)
Potential Sources of error in translation and Interpretation
 Understanding of relevant technical vocabulary
Use of incorrect Inuktitut words
Misunderstanding of English word meanings
 Linguistic factors (rules for way words and sentences are constructed)
Word for word translations impossible
Literal interpretations (half life..partly human) cause confusion
 ITs personal perceptions
Radionuclides…. “burning things that move around”
Cadmium… “bad metal that is heavy”
 Computer glitches
Syllabic font conversion creates typos
Definitions/explanations translate more accurately and consistently than terms
(less need for “guess-work”)
Interpretation is not an exact science – choosing and crafting words requires
good judgment, subjectivity on part of ITs
Lessons Learned and Advice
Key translations should be reviewed for quality
Use simple, straightforward English with complete sentences
avoid using puns, idiomatic expressions (“throw the baby out with the bathwater” )
Minimize use of metaphors, and acronyms
provide explanatory definitions for technical terms
Avoid converting syllabic fonts of your translated document
Request an interpreter who is locally respected, and familiar with relevant technical
Meet with Interpreters in advance to review the presentation, answer questions, and
to clarify the format for interpretation (simultaneous, or intermittent)
Speak slowly, clearly, and directly in the microphone (pause every couple of
sentences to let the interpreter catch up)
Watch for signals from the Interpreter
Budget for two interpreters for presentations longer than half an hour
Provide written text, copies of presentation slides
Review key messages, explain technical terms
simultaneous interpreters cannot interpret for more than 30min at a time accurately, and its
unfair to expect them to do so
Use ITs with recognized qualifications (e.g. certified by the Nunavut Interpretertranslator society)
Use an IT who speaks the local dialect
Moving forward…
Need to understand the process of interpretation
(how are meanings relayed across languages?)
sources of error, and how they can be improved
 Professional development for Its
Build IT proficiency in technical vocabulary
A forum for collective discussion among Inuktitut
experts and scientists leading to the
development of standardized Inuktitut
contaminants terminology (with appropriate
provision for dialect differences)