Exploring ties between Romani culture and the field of translation

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Sacred Texts

Sacred texts have played a key role in societies historically at many times, fulfilling not only religious needs but likewise serving to normalize and standardize language, promote literacy, and sustain authority. The early history of translation in the West is in fact tightly bound to translation of the Christian Bible, with the first known translation of the Septuagint occurring around 2nd BCE. In the late 4th c., Jerome (currently the "patron" of translators) was commissioned to translate the Bible into Latin, with the Vulgate becoming a major reference source for subsequent translations into other languages. The arrival of the printing press in 15th c. Europe led to translation of the Bible into several vernacular languages (German, French, English), and in so doing not only rendered it more accessible to the general population, but also "validated" usage of the vernaculars. The King James version of the Bible in English remains an influential religious and literary reference to this day. Luther`s 16th c. translation is credited with standardizing the German language. During the 19th c., the Bible underwent translation into languages that had had no written tradition, for example into Yoruba and Quechua. Eugene Nida, of the American Bible Society, is well-known for his pioneer work in this area and for its application in modern Western translation theory. The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) continues to support Bible translation into many languages, and maintains Ethnologue, one of the most comprehensive databases of languages in the world. Historical traditions of translated sacred texts in diverse areas of the world currently constitute a dynamic area of research. Translations of Buddhist texts, for example, are estimated to have occurred during the 2nd and 3rd c. into vernacular Indian languages, Sanskrit, and Chinese, when Indian Buddhist scholars traveled to China.

Different Romani communities embrace different religious denominations. Research has shown that elements of early Hinduism from India are present in some practices of worship today, for example in pilgrimages to Sara e Kali in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (France), in linguistic references to the deity Vayu, and to the Ayurvedic concepts of ritual purity and pollution. Romani groups encountered Christianity first in Armenia, but made firmer contact while in Byzantium in Anatolia. Once in Europe, they were sometimes subject to persecution by religious authorities. Nonetheless, most have adopted Christianity, which takes on various forms in Romani communities: Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Evangelicalism and Orthodox Christianity. Another important religion is Islam, which is widespread in Turkey and in the Balkans. It is widely embraced in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and among the population of Šutka, a suburb of Skopje, Macedonia. The earliest translations of religious texts into Romani were most likely Christian prayers, with the first translation of the Bible materializing only in the 20th c. There are currently translations of Bible passages into several different dialects: Kalderaš, Lovari, Usari, Baltic, Sinti, Balkan, Pan Rromani, as well as Erlii. Matéo Maximoff translated the Old Testament into the Kalderaš dialect, and Valdemar Kalinin translated the Bible into Baltic Romani. In contemporary times, many Romani communities have joined Romani churches, and embraced evangelicalism and the Pentecostal Church, which has been growing in importance in some European countries since contact with French evangelist Clément Le Cossec in the mid-20th c. Matéo Maximoff and Stevo Demeter are two well-known converts. Romani ministers use Romani translations and include Romani traditional songs in their evangelical work. Some multilingual online Biblical texts include Romani translations. The most well-known ministry is that of "Gypsy Smith".  Muslim texts have also been translated into Romani, as has the Qur`an by Bosnian singer Muharem Serbezovski. Sara e Kali continues to be venerated as a popular patron saint, and in 1997, Pope John Paul II beatified Spanish Romani Ceferino Jiménez Malla, also known as El Pele, within the Roman Catholic Church.

References:

Hancock, Ian, "Romani ("Gypsy") Religion", RADOC, 2001.

Pasqualino, Caterina (ed), "Religions revisitées", Études tsiganes, No. 20, Paris: Études tsiganes, 2004.

Slavkova, Magdalena, “A Critical View of Contemporary Romology: Employing the Evangelical Sources”, Сохань, П., Н. Зiневич (Ред.) Роми Украïни: iз минулого в майбутнэ. Науковi записки. Т. 15. Киïв: Национаљна Академiя Наук Украïни, Институт украïнськоï Археографiï та джерелознавства iм М.С. Грушевського (2008) 385-394.

Tcherenkov, Lev and Stéphane Laederich (2004), The Rroma (2 vols), Basel: Schwabe AG Verlag.


Translation Romani

Random Romani Word Other Romani Word
Devlesa (Kalderash)
Ačh Devle(s)ha|Dža Devle(s)ha|Sastima(s)ha|Devle(s)a (Gurbeti)
Zha Devlesa!|Zhan Devlesa! (Lovari)
Dja devlesa (Xoraxane)
 Good bye (EN)  Tchau (PT)  Au revoir (FR)  Adiós (ES)  Auf Wiedersehen (DE)  Viszlát (HU)  Arrivederci (IT)  Güle Güle (TR)  Nashledanou (CS)


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