I receive many requests for translations of individual words or phrases from visitors to this site. As there are hundreds of indigenous languages spoken in North America, I cannot possible know enough about all of them to be able to give accurate and reliable translations. Here are my suggestions to those looking for a translation:

  1. What do you want to translate? If it is a name for your goldfish or some such, please visit
  2. If you are looking for a word or two in a language which I have a dictionary handy, I’ll try to give you an answer. Please keep in mind that I am almost certainly not a speaker of the language in question, so my response can not be in any way guaranteed correct. If I don’t have such a dictionary available, I’ll write back telling you that I cannot translate your word(s).
  3. Your local public or university library might have a bilingual dictionary which you could consult. For a general noun like “house” simply looking up the word will probably be sufficient. If you are looking for an abstract or philosophical statement, searching through a dictionary will not be enough. Most Native languages of North America have complex grammars: often with thousands of different verb forms. The dictionary is most likely only going to give you one or two forms of the verb which may not be what your sentence requires.
  4. Anything more complicated than a word or two will necessitate a fluent speaker, and for this I suggest you visit the language community’s national web-site, and see if anyone there can direct you to a translator. It seems fair to me that the translator should be reimbursed for their time, but that is up to you to negotiate.

Sometimes people are just looking for a way to write words or sentences into Syllabics: be it Cree, Ojibwe, Dene, Cherokee, etc. I am more than happy to transliterate (change to a different writing system) for you. However, you will have to go through the translation process first. If you ask me how to write “I love you” in Dene syllabics, you first have to know what the Dene words are. Once you’ve translated your phrase into the Native language, I’d be happy to help you with the transliteration.

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©2002-2009 Chris Harvey/Languagegeek
Last Modified: 08-Apr-2009