Birders seem to speak the same language with strange vocabulary or words used in unusual ways (twitching, jizz, vagrants, lifers, listing), an alphabet soup of abbreviations (FOY, KIWA, MALL, GCRF, LBJ), and more Latin and other scientific designations used in their daily lives than most people will use in a lifetime (Turdus migratorius, Aptenodytes forsteri, Selasphorus rufus). But we don’t really all speak the same language after all, which has been brought home to me most forcefully in a very personal and exciting way.
Introducing Migration – In Different Languages
With the publication of Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds, I’ve been privileged and grateful to spread birding and its mysteries to many readers. The book, however, was written and published in English – a widespread language, to be true, but one that is only spoken by approximately 20 percent of the world’s population. If you only consider native English speakers – those for whom English is their first and primary language – it is only 5 percent.
Yet Migration is spreading beyond its own language barriers. Two new editions, one in Finnish and another in Dutch, are slated to be released in the coming months, widening the flock of birders who can discover all the magic, mystery, and mayhem of bird migration.
It’s a trippy thing, seeing one’s own book in a language one cannot read (I have passing familiarity with conversational French, and somewhat less so with conversational German). Yet it’s a learning experience for me as well, as I now know how to say migration in both Finnish and Dutch, though don’t ask me for the Finnish pronunciation, I’m hopeless to figure that out. Dutch I can manage, as it shares similar roots with German.
There are more than 6,500 languages spoken in the world. Yet no matter what we call them, how we speak about them, or how we communicate, we can all enjoy and appreciate birds. That’s what Migration is all about, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to reach out to even more birders, no matter what language it may be in.