Sprotin, a Faroese publishing house that also has an online dictionary service, has added a French-Faroese dictionary to its repertoire. The new dictionary, primary the work of high school teacher Rólant í Skorini, contains over 10,000 words. Sprotin’s dictionary service is admission free.
The French-Faroese dictionary is the seventeenth dictionary published by Sprotin. Other languages include Faroese, English, Danish, German, Italian and Russian. The online dictionaries are used by many, and are particularly popular among students and teachers who deem the service an indispensable tool. The website, www.sprotin.fo, has become so popular that students have morphed the name of the company into a verb: sprota. To search Sprotin’s online dictionary is simply called to sprota.
That the Faroese even have a language of their own to translate is a feat in itself. Up until 1938, schools and churches in the Faroe Islands were generally only permitted to use Danish. A decade later, in 1948, the Faroese language became the main language of the Faroe Islands.
A dictionary for the Faroese people
Rólant í Skorini, who has a master’s degree in French and Religion, has spent the last eight years working on the French-Faroese dictionary.
“It all began with creating lists of words in Faroese for all the French stories my high school class had to read,” he says. “Creating new word lists for every new story because we didn’t have a dictionary became quite tiring.”
Jonhard Mikkelsen, founder of Sprotin, encouraged Rólant to work on a French-Faroese dictionary. The Ministry of Culture granted Rólant paid leave from his position as teacher for one year in 2010 to focus solely on the new dictionary. Since then, Rólant has worked on the dictionary in his spare time.
”I was quite cautious and apprehensive to begin with,” says Rólant. “Jonhard encouraged me to create a dictionary for the Faroese people. I wanted the dictionary to make it as easy as possible for students to study French. The perspective of the student became my starting point.”
The French use approximately 2,500 French words in 90 percent of their written and oral communication. It made sense for Rólant to start with these 2,500 most frequently used words.
Rólant says: “My students who study at the highest level need to learn approximately 3,000 to 3,500 French words in order to reach the required level of understanding. I started with 2,500 words and ended up with 10,000, and the plan is to continue to add more words in time.”
The fight for Sprotin
In 2010, the Ministry of Culture funded Sprotin, making it available for all to use for free. Municipalities from many islands subscribed their schools to Sprotin and the online dictionaries became an essential part of every student’s toolbox. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture and the municipalities decided not to renew their subscription, leaving Sprotin with no other option than to charge for their service. Carnage ensued. Students from all across the country protested and some even signed a petition which was handed to the mayor of Tórshavn, demanding that Sprotin be free of charge and available to all. Within weeks, a ground-breaking agreement was struck between the Ministry of Culture, the municipalities and Sprotin, ensuring free access to the online dictionaries for all people from anywhere in the world.
Words: Levi Hanssen (faroeislands.fo)