Friday, September 30, 2011

My Blog Goes Polyglot

One of the interesting things about life here is the way conversations can range over several languages, sometimes in the space of a single sentence. English is not often one of those languages, but Tamazight, Arabic, and French definitely are.
I’m at a disadvantage. The languages I speak well, English and German, are not in the mix. I know a little French. My 50-year old high school French enables me to read at a level that actually amazes me. But I don’t speak it well at all, and my listening comprehension is like that of most beginners. French spoken at a normal rate is mainly just a blur of sounds to me. I actually speak Tam better than I speak French, though Tam spoken at a normal rate is often still just a blur of sound to me, too. Admittedly, I can understand some speakers better than others, just as some Tam speakers understand me better than others. And I don't speak Arabic at all.
But I digress…
One of the workarounds I’ve discovered recently is Google Translate. Whenever I’m going to a meeting where I have important information to impart – and I don’t have a good English speaker in attendance – I try to write my important information in advance in English. Then I pop it into Google Translate and produce versions of it in French and Arabic and print them out. It has worked amazingly well.
That success led me to add French and Arabic translations of my posts to this blog. You can see them at the en francais and  باللغة العربية tabs above.
I’ve done this, not because I have a lot of readers in French or Arabic - though I hope I will. My main reason for writing my blog is simply to have an efficient and effective way to communicate what’s happening in my life to my friends back home in the States. The blog also is a means for me to carry out Peace Corps’ Goal 3: To promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of the American people.
But there’s also Peace Corps Goal 2: To promote a better understanding of American culture and people on the part of the peoples served. Now that I’m getting to know more Moroccans, some of whom do have computers and spend some time on the Internet, I thought it would be good to provide access to them to what I’m saying about my Peace Corps experience in Morocco. In that way, maybe my blog can help me address Goal 2 as well.
Unfortunately, there’s no tab for Tamazight. Google Translate does not support Tamazight. And my own Tam is just not strong enough, or fast enough, for me to be able to translate my own blogs. Yanwas incha’allah (someday, God willing).

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