Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us here at GlobaNova!
When setting out on any language-related project, one can count on unexpected discoveries and changing perspectives. Our World Valentine project seemed simple to me at the outset – just map ‘I love you” in 100 or so languages onto a world map. I thought of it pretty simply as a Valentine card for my wife.
However, almost immediately, I was struck by the fact that no two sources seem to agree on the proper rendering of such a simple phrase. I would be pleased to hear from those who can correct errors in our choices or suggest reliable authorities. Next, we had to deal with the choice of whether to use native orthography or Romanize everything. We chose to Romanize, but it felt like a shadow of political outlook was creeping into my original light-hearted impulse.
But the real blow landed in choice of languages. Setting out with no goal beyond rendering a selection of languages geographically, I quickly wandered into a thicket. Where did Mongolian go? And many others? Were we bounded by chance and limited space, or less forgivably prey to political naiveté?
For me the crisis hit as we distributed languages across Central and South America. Suddenly, the map, so crowded in other locales, became very sparse. This was not because of a lack of languages. The literature describes great detail of numerous indigenous languages. However, in trying to extract even so simple a phrase as “I love you” I hit a dead end. I started to feel a profound sadness that I would never give them a voice on our valentine. Did I just miss obvious sources? Would searching Spanish or Portuguese sources have helped? Is the absence of indigenous languages consistent across all geographies? I am left with a persistent feeling that missing indigenous languages are a hole in the heart of our World Valentine. On this day of celebrating emotion, let me know how you feel.