List translation

List translation is the process, when no relevant wordlist exist in a target language (L2), to pick a relevant existing list from a larger language spoken by that community (L1), to efficiently translate that L1 list into your target L2 language. This process is both highly efficient, yet biased and technical. This page guides a willing lexicographer to properly translate a list for LinguaLibre. This page takes for case study a Portuguese list translated into Amazonia's Surui language. This work lean toward field linguistic and lexicography.

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Almir Surui, 2012, receiving a culture price from the Brazilian government. Almir is the native speaker willing to audio-document his Surui language using LinguaLibre.

In this case study, the community we work with here is the Surui people, located in North-Western Amazonia.
It's a small population of 30 Amazonia forest's villages and 1,600 native speakers.
Suruis speak both their own Surui language and Portuguese language as the national language of Brazil. Levels of bilingual mastery varies.
Westernization is radically changing daily practices, culture and language.

Almir Surui, their elected chief, is our contact and has shown willingness to lead such effort.
Recent effort to preserve and revitalize their language are underway : they recently normalized Surui language's writing, elementary school is in Surui language, with associated new books.

There is no existing wordlist to reuse to record in Lingualibre.

Identify your source list

Given their second language is Portuguese…
Given academic researches recommending word list sorted by frequency…
And given we have such list in Portuguese…
We will work with Surui natives to translate such Portuguese list into Surui :

The L1 source:

Our L1 → L2 working page:

Identifying the translators

Almir has, as requested, identified a translator.

This translator will need to either translate :

  • online via the "EDIT" button (you must create a Wikipedia account)
  • offline, and forward the results by email.

Linguistic biases

Surui language being very different from Portuguese, we can advance in phases :

  • 1st phase (quantitative): bluntly translating from Portuguese to Surui is adapted to a first massive effort, in order to produce 90% of the common vocabulary.
  • 2nd phase (qualitative): it will naturally be appropriate to complete these foreign-inspired lists with lexicons and concepts specific to your language and its environment. This supplement is a work of a different nature.

Qualitatively, this whole will constitute a solid bilingual Surui <=> Portuguese vocabulary, and with Lingualibre, a multimedia dictionary.

Translation rules for lists

The Surui list will ultimately be a single Surui wordlist ready to save. A few rules must be taken into account to properly carry out this effort.

1) The source language is called L1 for « Language 1 » (L1 = Portuguese), we add to it the target language nicknamed L2 for « Language 2 » (L2 = Surui)

2) The format of our vocabulary list is therefor as follows:

  • L1 → L2
  • i.e.: Portuguese → Surui

3) Keep the sign, it's an important separator.

4) To the Portuguese L1 word on the left, we add as the L2 translation on the right its most common synonym. Example for L1 Portuguese → L2 English:

* que → that
* a → a
* o → the
* de → from
* não → no
* é → is
* e → and
* um → one
* para → to
* eu → me
* se → if
* me → me
* no →
* uma → one
* está → is
* por → by
* com → with
* os → the
* do → from
* te → you
* em → in
* ele → he
* como → like

5) If an L1 word there is no L2 translation, go to the next word, because we want to translate as many words as possible. Example, "Arranha-céu" is ignored:

* uma → one
* Arranha-céu →
* como → like

6) If for an L1 word several very common L2 translations exist, duplicate the line and translate:

* como → like
* como → as
* como → similar to
* Monkey → Macaca
* Monkey → Macaco
* Monkeys → Macacas
* Monkeys → Macacos

7) If for an L1 word too many L2 translations exist, by variations, add only the base. Example for verb variations for English L1 and Portuguese L2:

* be → ser
* make → fazer
* move → mover
* build → construir

We only translate the core base, we do not translate variations.

* build → construir O
* build → construo X
* build → constrói X
* build → construiu X
* build → construímos X
* build → constroem X
* build → constroem X
* …

8) If there is no L1 word, and there is a specific L2 word, add a line and a word after the arrow. Example, if Portuguese has no word for "Penguin", then:

* Papagaio → Parrot
* → Penguin
* Monkey → Macaco

9) Secret: the "empty sides" produced in 5) and 8) can be completed later.

List cleaning

A 4 hours training session was organized for Almir with :
1) Strategic consideration for long term collaboration, presentation of existing learning apps
2) Discussion around Surui vocabulary and variability, clarifying the focus on word stems only.
3) Presentation of LinguaLibre and first trial usage with 100 words (work not uploaded to Commons)
4) Pause / Cleaning of the provided list
5) Productive recording session with audios sent to Commons.

A local bilingual teacher started to translate the first list of 2,000 common Portuguese words. There was, naturally in this first work, some formating error to refine :

Initial work by translator Structure Error description Correct formatting Structure
# Monkey → Macaca/Macaco # L1 → L2/L2 Multiple L2 inlined: must be on several lines # Monkey → Macaca
# Monkey → Macaco
# L1 → L2
# L1 → L2
# Parrot → Papagaio # L2 → L1 Inverted position # Papagaio → Parrot # L1 → L2
# Monkey →Macaca # L1 →L2 Broken formating: separator space removed # Monkey → Macaca # L1 → L2

To push further

The source Portuguese list covers 20,000+ common words to got further. The following lists are available for translation into Surui, in order to quickly build a basic Surui vocabulary of 9,000 Surui words (assuming 10% words will be skipped) :

See also

Lingua Libre Help pages
General help pages Help:InterfaceHelp:Your first recordHelp:Choosing a microphoneHelp:Configure your microphoneHelp:TranslateHelp:LangtagsLinguaLibre:Language codes systems used across LinguaLibreLinguaLibre:List of languages
Linguistic help pages Help:Add a new languageHelp:HomographsHelp:List translationHelp:Ethics
Lists help pages Help:Create your own listsHelp:How to create a frequency list?Help:Why wordlists matter?Help:Swadesh listsHelp:ListsHelp:Create a new generator
Events, Outreach Lingualibre:EventsLingualibre:RolesLingualibre:WorkshopsLingualibre:HackathonLingualibre:Interested communitiesLingualibre:MailingLingualibre:JargonLingualibre:AppsLingualibre:CitationsService civique 2022-2023
Strategy 2022 Outreach Campaign (cancelled)2022-2023 Lingualibre wishlist • {{Wikimedia Language Diversity/Projects}} • Speakers map • Voices gender • StatsLingua Libre SignIt/2022 report