The translation includes a mixture of English and Inuvialuktun. Roy Goose said this has become common place when speaking the language, but there are actually Inuvialuktun words to describe all of the English words used in the sign. (Submitted by Roy Goose) An Inuvialuktun speaker says a sign along the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway has been poorly translated from English to the Indigenous language, and the mounting complaints have pushed the government to commission a new sign.
Roy Goose from Inuvik said the sign, which details hunting regulations in the area, is "a very simple, uninformed style of Inuvialuktun writing."
"In other words the one who wrote this really had no idea of how to arrange the language and present it for all," he told CBC.
The translation includes a mixture of English and Inuvialuktun. While Goose said this has become common place when speaking the language, there are actually Inuvialuktun words to describe all of the English words used in the sign.
"That’s just the way a language evolves, we become borrowers from the powerful language around us so it is prevalent nowadays, but it still doesn’t sound very good, it doesn’t make any sense to use any English words in our language."
Goose said he believes the issue may have been that the sign was translated word for word rather than into conversational Inuvialuktun. The Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway officially opened in November 2017. (James MacKenzie/GNWT/Canadian Press) He said the reaction from other elders to the sign has been mixed, with some appreciating that an effort was made and others saying more work should have been done before the sign was posted in a public place.
"They’re all kind of saddened … because today we’ve been assimilated so much we speak English all around," he said.
"It’s nice to be able to have our language but we know it’s difficult at this point in time, but we just go along with the flow and try to encourage better usage as much as possible without getting too upset, which is very difficult."
The sign was installed by the N.W.T. Department of Infrastructure in May 2018. Department spokesperson Greg Hanna said it was translated in 2017 by a government-approved private translator and then reviewed by "key stakeholder organizations."
"After the signs were installed, some local residents brought to our attention that the signs had grammatical errors," Hanna said in an email. "We make every effort to ensure all languages are represented accurately."
Goose said he doesn’t think the issue is with the translator, but with quality control.
"It has to be held to the highest standards because our language is very, very efficient and we have a few very good interpreters and translators in our area and there really is no excuse for that."
He said the government should make more of an effort to reach out to people in the communities who he said would be more than happy to help. He also noted that there are two prominent dialects that signs should be translated into.
The department said it is currently working with the Inuvialuit Cultural Centre to revise the translation. Hanna said the department expects a new sign will be installed within the next month.
With files from Marc Winkler.
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