Over one billion people in China and fifty thousand Faroe Islanders can now learn how to speak one another’s language. Sprotin, a Faroese dictionary portal, has published the first edition of a Chinese-Faroese dictionary, available free of charge to users anywhere in the world.
Jóhanna Magnusardóttir and Dávid Fossdalsá, both Faroese, started working on the dictionary two years ago, together with Kimberly Joy Go Elambo, a Chinese living in the Faroe Islands. Jóhanna and Dávid have spent the last few years studying in China and were immediately interested when Sprotin got in touch about producing a dictionary.
“When we started studying the Chinese language, it was through English and not Faroese, which is our mother tongue,” Jóhanna recalls. “We translated from English to Chinese, Chinese to English, and then English to Faroese. We noticed that many words made more sense when translated directly from Faroese to Chinese.”
Jóhanna and Dávid highlight the importance of preserving a small language such as Faroese in a world where small languages die.
“If we as Faroe Islanders don’t take steps to translate our dictionaries into all other languages, it will be our language that dies. Chinese won’t be going anywhere,” says Jóhanna. “We’re young and should try to give back.”
Jóhanna recalls how difficult it was being a student in the Faroes without dictionaries.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have the dictionaries now available on Sprotin,” she says. “I remember studying at school and needing to translate and it was very difficult. It’s much easier today, now that we have access to dictionaries, for free.”
Other editions are in the pipeline.
“The first edition is the start of a dictionary that we hope will be extensive at some point, ”Jóhanna says. “We have chosen to publish the first part now because there are many who never learn more than what the first part entails.”
Words: Levi Hanssen, faroeislands.fo