So Google Translate speaks Samoan now.
How amazing is that?
We make up such a small percentage of the world’s population, and so many of us are raised outside of Samoan-speaking communities, that we’re at risk of losing our basic language skills.
And then Google blesses us with this gift.
No translation app is perfect, not for any language, and not even one that belongs to Google… but we can use all the help we can get to at least preserve our vocabulary.
Well done, Google!
We all should start using it now. Here are a few suggestions for how:
1. Read Your Bible Pray Every Day – and learn to do that in Samoan
If you’re like me, at some point you figured that reading a Samoan Bible would be a good way to learn Samoan.
And you started to read it and it was great, until it got hard.
…and then you found that comparing it to the English language Bible gave you the meaning of the passage, but didn’t help you translate the actual words (cause of how our grammar structures are different).
…and then your parents / aunts / cousins started to scold / mock / roll their eyes at you when kept bothering them for help… and then you had a good enough excuse to give up on that bright idea.
Well now, all you gotta do is punch the words you don’t know into Google Translate, match them up with the passage in the English language Bible and you’re on your way to Samoan language mastery through scripture.
2. Make yourself a Samoan phrase book
While the translate tool is not perfect, especially with complex sentences, it’s pretty great for simple, common phrases.
If you’re getting ready for a trip to Samoa or you’re hoping to impress your boyfriend/girlfriend’s Samoan parents, why not use Google Translate to put together your own little book of Samoan phrases?
You could do that in Evernote or OneNote or write it into an actual notebook, where you can continue to add phrases as you need them.
The translate tool doesn’t have an audio feature yet for Samoan (like it does for bigger languages like French) so you’ll have to get some help with pronouncing the words, but here are a few tips:
- Samoan vowels are the same as Italian and Spanish vowels, i.e. A E I O U = Ahh Ehh Eee (like teeth) Ohh (like orchid – without the “r”) Oooh.
- Our ‘g’ is pronounced ‘ng’ like the ‘ng’ in ‘hanger’ or ‘winger’.
- Our syllables always end in vowels (we use a LOT of vowels!) and we usually emphasize the 2nd-to-last syllable, for example, ‘ena’ena [eh na EH na] or fa’asamoa [fa ‘a sa MO ah]
You can start your collection with phrases like these:
How are you? | Oa mai oe?
How was your day? | Na a mai lou aso?
Are you hungry? | Pe e te fia ai?
What’s your name? | O ai lou igoa?
Where are you from? | O fea e te sau ai?
3. Translate your own Samoan Lyrics
Okay confession time.
Confession number 1: I look up Spanish language lyrics and practice singing my favourite Spanish jams until I can pronounce the words like I know what they mean.
And then I look them up in Google Translate to at least get an idea of what I’m singing.
I was going to say I USED to do all that ages ago when I was a teenager… but why lie?
Confession number 2: The request we get the MOST over at our Samoan Lyrics database is, “What’s the English translation of this song?”
…and I HATE that request!
Mostly because some people aren’t even that nice about it. They’re like, “Well how we gonna know what this means if you don’t translate it?” or, “I need the English words for this NOW!”
Don’t even get me started on the comments I’ve had to just delete. Zzzz…
It’s not that I don’t want to translate these songs for you. I truly love the poetry in Samoan music and I wish everyone in the world could understand and appreciate it, too.
But translating takes time, especially if you check every sentence with the experts (i.e. my mom and older cousins) like I do and make an extra effort to capture the essence of the song, not just the literal meanings of its words.
But now, thanks to Google Translate, we can all understand our favourite Samoan lyrics!
I ran into this problem a lot with my Spanish songs. I understand enough Spanish to know when the translation isn’t quite right, but still. It’s better than nothing, right?
So use Google Translate for Samoan Lyrics!
You may still have to ask someone (me?) for clarification, but when you get it, please make sure you’re clicking the little pencil icon in the corner of the translate tool to suggest improvements.
The more we do the better it will get and someday it just might do a half decent job of sharing our beautiful language with the world.
In the meantime, let’s see those Mo’omo’ga lyrics again: