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New Language: Sarnámi

 

We are overjoyed to announce that there is now a 77th language on the bilingual_picturebooks.org site. The language “Sarnámi” is spoken in predominantly Suriname and The Netherlands, by the members of the Surinamese (Hindustani) community. It has between 100.000 - 200.000 native speakers and its use is declining very fast due to being supplanted by higher status languages such as Dutch and Hindi and a lingua franca, such as Sranan Tongo.

Up to now there were no children’s books in Sarnámi at all. For this reason, Prem and Deep decided to translate one themselves. Now it is completed, and you can read “The Egg in the Moon” in Sarnámi!

We conducted a short interview with Prem and Deep via Email:

“We are a mom (Prem) and son (Deep) and share a passion for the Sarnámi language. Prem lives in the Netherlands and Deep lives in Switzerland. We have translated and proofread the book virtually. We haven't seen each other much in the past 2 years.  In spite of the distance and pandemic-related restrictions, working on the story together has been a nice activity for us.” 

Do you have a favourite special or untranslatable word or phrase in Sarnámi?

“The word biesál, which roughly means 'unprecedented' or 'unrivaled'. It is used in the same way as 'excellent' or 'awesome'. We like it because it is a word specific to Sarnámi, often used and also quite upbeat.”


While translating, was there a challenging or interesting phrase or word you came upon in the text?

“We really had to think about how to translate modern words like 'spacesuit', without creating an artificial word for it. After much discussion, we used a descriptive term (ásmán pe pahine ke kaprrá, 'clothes that are worn in space'), a shorter form (ásmán ke kaprrá, 'space clothes') and a term in Dutch, which virtually all readers would be familiar with ('ruimtepak'). We thought it would be nice to demonstrate that even with modern or uncommon words, our language could be versatile.”

 

 If you would like to read Sarnámi yourself, you can now download the book here on our site.

For more information on Sarnámi and it's history you can visit: https://sarnami.org/sarnami-a-history/

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