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From Russian to Sami, Arctic Winter Games needs interpreters

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Posted: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 12:15 am | Updated: 1:58 pm, Wed Mar 12, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — Organizers with the 2014 Arctic Winter Games are seeking volunteers who can help interpret to English several Arctic languages.

The Arctic Winter Games, held in Fairbanks from March 15-22, will bring athletes to Interior Alaska from the highest latitudinal region of the world. Though English is the official language of the Arctic Winter Games, and many of the competitors speak English, organizers hope to have interpreters available to cover any possible scenarios.

"These are all backup," said Mimi Chapin, one of the interpreter organizers. "Fairbanks is an hospitable international community that wants to make things easy on the people who come here."

Chapin, an English and Russian speaker, works as an interpreter for Ice Alaska and is working with the winter games to bring in volunteer interpreters for each language spoken by participating contingents. Representatives from Alaska, multiple regions of northern Canada, northern Russia, northern Scandinavia and Greenland will all converge on Fairbanks, bringing with them several languages.

Estimates show some 2,000 athletes speaking varying dialects are set to arrive in Fairbanks for the games.

"We don't know exactly what's going to be needed, but we want to have a good pool of people to call upon," Chapin said.

Many languages, such as Russian and Swedish, have millions of speakers. Others, such as the Sami language -- spoken by the people of the northern Scandinavian region of Sapmi -- have an estimated 20,000 speakers.

Many Sapmi people speak the official languages of their respective Scandinavian country, Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish, and some also speak English, according to Chapin. More than twice as many people speak Greenlandic, the native language of Greenland, as Sami, but Chapin said that is proving to be one of the harder languages to find an interpreter.

Lawrence Kaplan, director of the Alaska Native Language Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks, has been helping Chapin and the winter games organizers to find interpreters for the games. He said he isn't aware of a single Greenlandic speaker in Fairbanks. The closest speakers, he said, are in Anchorage.

Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools


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