These Rohingya language guidelines provide cultural background and linguistic context for humanitarian program managers, field workers, and interpreters who work in health programs. They accompany the TWB Glossary for Myanmar, which contains more than 200 health-and education-related terms. It is available in four languages online and offline via mobile app in written and audio format. https://glossaries.translatorswb.org/myanmar/
We compiled and verified these terms through interviews and focus group discussions, complemented by desk research.
The Rohingya people’s understanding of health combines ancient Indian traditions like Ayurveda, religious concepts like the Islamic jinns and nazar, Myanmar culture, and Western medicine. These culturally rich beliefs of how and why people get sick are valuable to understand when designing health interventions for the community. The language used by the Rohingya community when describing medical conditions reflects these various influences.
In central Rakhine, most communication to and from the Rohingya community flows through Rakhine-speaking interpreters and field staff. As such, it is important for program staff to be familiar with Rakhine and Rohingya terms. As the official language, and thus the one used by the health ministry, Myanmar influences both Rohingya and Rakhine. Newly acquired terms are often in Myanmar, and wholly adapted into the latter two languages. For example, the word for nutrition in both Rohingya and Rakhine is ahara, which was borrowed from Myanmar. Similarly, both Rakhine and Rohingya borrow the Myanmar word for vaccine, kaa-kway-see, albeit with a slight difference in pronunciation. These guidelines focus on medical concepts in Rohingya, to take into account low literacy rates and limited secondary language knowledge among Rohingya women and older people.
See also Misunderstanding + misinformation = mistrust: How language barriers reduce access to humanitarian services, reduce the quality of those services and aggravate social exclusion for Rohingya communities - A three-part report