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Translation into Creole, But… Which One?

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On many occasions, we receive client requests to translate into creole. It could take some digging to understand that complying with such a request without raising a question can put us in a tight spot.

A perfect example of this difficulty happened a couple of years back, when we provided “French Creole” as a translation, but completely missed the mark even though we did exactly what our customer wanted. How come?

To answer that, we first need to understand what creole is. It is a descendant of a language contact. A typical way how creole language was formed was a colonial power interacting and engaging in commerce with indigenous people around the world. In such cases, French, Portuguese and English needed to find a form of communication with these indigenous people.

As colonizers’ languages were already well standardized and written, it was mostly the indigenous people who adjusted their language to facilitate the communication. The result was called ‘pidgin’, a language that would not be native to the indigenous people but would keep a lot of their native grammar while borrowing words from the colonial language. The tribe would keep using their own language among themselves, while they would adopt pidgin as a second language when interacting with the outside world, namely the colonists.

And when kids start speaking pidgin as their first language? Then it is not a pidgin anymore and becomes a ‘creole’. The native language of the tribe is then slowly moved to the background.

An example of a creole language could be Haitian Creole, which is based on French and West-African languages brought to Haiti with slavery.

Yet there are many more. Each of the colonial powers interacted with populations across multiple continents and such language contact resulted into a wide variety of creoles. The simplest is their division by means of the colonizer’s language, for example French-based creoles (Haitian, Louisiana, Mauritian), Portuguese-based creoles (Papiamentu, Cape Verdean) or English-based creoles (Gullah, Jamaican, Guyanese, Hawaiian). Some creoles could even be influenced by two European languages.

Languages with “creole” in their names can have an origin ranging from Caribbean through Africa up to the Pacific area. Simply from around the whole world. Let us not risk and make sure we know as much as possible. Such as who is the target audience? Where are they based? Where do they come from? Our clients sometimes do not know, and we need to be here to help them out.

Akorbi offers enterprise solutions for all things involving language, interpretation, data translation, and more. Akorbi is the largest women-owned language service provider in the United States. We offer translation and interpretation services 24/7 in over 170 languages worldwide. Whatever you need for your business, Akorbi can deliver. Contact us online to learn more about using our translation services.

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