Translators are scrambling this week to meet a Friday deadline ordered by a federal judge to provide outreach and poll workers with election materials and voting information that have been translated into Yup’ik or Gwich’in. Gwich’in translators Allan Hayton and Marilyn Savage in Fairbanks are finding the work challenging, KUAC reported. “Some of it is very technical language, legal jargon,” Hayton said. But Hayton and Savage are up to the task, having translated other materials, including Shakespeare, according to Hayton. “Marilyn and I worked last year translating King Lear into Gwich’in, so we’re used to difficult challenges but we’re happy to do this.”
Adding to the complexity of the work, there are no direct Gwich’in translations for some words appearing on the November ballot, such as ‘commerce’ and ‘marijuana.’
University of Alaska Fairbanks linguistics professor Gary Holton said translating election materials is a big undertaking because Gwich’in cannot describe some of the concepts culturally.
“If you were going to design a language that’s as different from English as possible, you would probably come up with Gwich’in,” Holton said.