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Who Can Translate Into Mayan?

I received a call from a prospective client the other day who had some documents she needed translated from Mayan into English. When she asked me if we could complete this task, my immediate response was “Sure! We can translate into any Language!”. Little did I know, this simple response would send me into a week long journey into the discovery of the ancient Mayan Languages.

The original Mayan Language was spoken over 5,000 years ago by tribal members in the Cuchumatanes highlands of central Guatemala. They used hieroglyphics for writing their language, there was no difference in genders (such as him or her), and verbs were used completely different as we know in modern language.

Today there are 29 dialects of Mayan. They obviously have an alphabet now and the language is a little bit more sophisticated, but with that said there are still only around 5 million people in the world who actively speak a form of Mayan, and most of these people live in small isolated tribes throughout Central America and Mexico. From these facts, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that having Mayan translated into English can be a fairly difficult task.

If you ever run into a translation project that requires Mayan, I would like to offer some quick pointers. First, find out if it is Ancient Mayan or Modern Mayan. If it is Ancient Mayan, you are pretty much out of luck, and should probably take your text to the Smithsonian, because it might be worth some money! If it is Modern Mayan, you will need to know which dialect, and from which country is its origin. Even after you know all the associated aspects of the project, I highly suggest you give yourself plenty of time to find a reliable translator. A rush Mayan project is practically impossible.

I love studying languages and working on this project has opened my eyes to one of the most fascinating languages in the world. I would love to go deeper into the history of this language, but I will leave that up to you, the reader!

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