Here at Business Language Services we recently received an unusual request from a local company that required transcription and translation from Otjiherero and Otjihimba into English. As Otjihimba does not have a written form, we received multiple interviews recorded with Herero and Himba people which we then translated into English for use as subtitles. These are part of the Bantu language family and are spoken by the Herero and Himba people who live predominantly in northern Namibia. Both groups are pastoralists who tend livestock and have a long, turbulent history in southern Africa. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Herero people suffered a brutal genocide under European colonialists; it is estimated that in just four years between 1904 and 1907, 65,000 Herero people died.

The Himba and Herero people are closely related to each other and share similar customs and ways of life. There are, however, some striking differences: the influence of the German missionaries on the Herero people for example, distinguishes them from the Himba. This is visible in the way they dress, which is Victorian in style in contrast to the Himba people who predominantly wear loincloths. In addition, the Himba women cover their skin in a mixture of ochre and butter fat which gives them a red tinge and protects them from the desert sun, and the age and status of people in the tribe is shown through their hairstyles. For example, married women wear headdresses with multiple braids, married men wear a turban consisting of multiple plaits and single men wear a single plait at the back of their head.

Today there are estimated to be around 240,000 Herero people and between 20,000 and 50,000 Himba people still living rurally in Namibia and surrounding countries in southern Africa. They have embraced the benefits of tourism, and travellers from all over the world now visit the Himba and Herero people to observe their way of life and learn about their culture.

So whether you need translation involving a language from just across the channel or from some of the most remote parts of the world, Business Language Services can help.



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