Rescribe: Hmong and Meo

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HMONG TRANSLATION NOTES

The Hmong language, also called Meo, is spoken by mountain-dwelling people in southeast Asia, namely in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. There are significant Hmong populations in the United States, particularly in California.

There are two main dialects of Hmong—Hmong Daw and Hmong Njua. Hmong Daw is also known as White Meo and Meo Kao. Hmong Njua is also known as Blue Meo, Tak Meo and Hmong Leng.

The spoken languages are mutually intelligible.

Hmong in California

Many of the Hmong refugees to the US have settled in California, centered on the Fresno region. The two cultures have collided in many ways, since the Hmong culture is about as far from the modern American culture as one can get. American medical, government, educational and legal specialists have been struggling to provide services and the Hmong have been struggling to adapt to a very foreign culture. There is a useful bibliography of research covering the Hmong people and culture in the Hmong Studies Journal and a fairly extensive introduction to the Hmong culture and recent history here.

Problems with written Hmong

The Hmong "Romanized Popular Alphabet" (RPA) script is a written language created by missionaries in 1952. Their intent was to familiarize Hmong speakers with the Roman alphabet and to provide a written language to accompany a long oral tradition. The underlying intention, of course, was to make the Bible accessible. Unfortunately, written Hmong using the RPA is not universally accepted or understood, and is, therefore, not the most effective means of communication. If you translate into RPA you cannot guarantee that every Hmong speaker will understand the results. So, to summarize, there is no universally understood written version of Hmong.

 

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