Talking politics in a low-resource language

A five-day workshop at the University of Kashmir culminated in the completion of a nearly 4,000-word glossary of political science terminology translated into the Kashmiri language.

The university claims this is a first-of-its-kind effort to create a glossary of specialized jargon in the Kashmiri language. As MultiLingual has reported over the years, translating jargon and other niche terms into less widely spoken or otherwise low-resource languages, can be tricky — some languages may not have words for concepts that people take for granted in languages like English or Mandarin Chinese. However, compiling a glossary like this one helps to make things a little bit less tricky.

“This important academic exercise will not only benefit the student community to understand the fundamental concepts of the subject in their native language, but is also destined to enrich and preserve Kashmiri language,” said assistant professor of political science Javid Ahmad Dar, who coordinated the workshop, according to a statement the university issued to local news agency Greater Kashmir.

The Indian government’s Commission for Scientific and Technical Terminology will publish the glossary in the form of a three-way Kashmiri-Hindi-English dictionary. When published, it will be available in both online and offline formats, so that as many people as possible can access it. The scholars who put together the glossary believe this effort’s purpose was twofold: to allow Kashmiri students to study political science in their own native tongue without having to learn another language, while also preserving the Kashmiri language.

Similar efforts have taken place in other areas of the world — for example, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, researchers across the African continent collaborated on the WikiAfrica project, devising and recording terminology in local languages like isiZulu where words for certain concepts did not exist before (for example, the researchers at WikiAfrica coined and recorded the first native-language words for “hand sanitizer” and “face mask” in isiZulu). 

Efforts like this make information more widely accessible to speakers of these languages who may otherwise have to learn a new language in order to study and access research in certain fields like political science or life sciences.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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