Translate this word/concept in your other language(s)
March 2, 2012 10:47 PM   Subscribe

I need a succinct translation for "advocate" or similar term in as many languages as possible .

I work for an amazing resource center for mothers and babies. We are searching for a cool, unique new title for our lactation specialists. These are kind, knowledgeable women who provide breastfeeding education and address challenges.

The word 'advocate' comes to mind, but I also would be open to any term that connotes authority, wisdom, warmth, experience, and the kind of feeling you get when thinking fondly of your grandmother, favorite aunt or a village elder.

The practitioners are exclusively female, so it would need to be something that could be applied to women (unisex is fine too).

To make sure I choose the most fitting term, it would be helpful if you included the definition, the connotation, and an example of someone who fits this word.
posted by mynameismandab to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Looking through Wiktionary's alternate languages for the word, it looks like most translations are either cognates (i.e., advokat) or difficult to pronounce.

A good word, I think, is maven. Derived from Yiddish, it technically means "a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others" or "one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge," but it's always carried a connotation of motherliness and femininity to my ear, probably because it sounds so much like "matron" (and "haven").
posted by Rhaomi at 11:26 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the German word "Fürsprecher".
posted by labberdasher at 12:38 AM on March 3, 2012

In Thai, an advocate of a person is phukaedhang (ผู้แก้ต่าง) where phu = agent or person, kae = to cure or resolve, and dhaang = on behalf of.
posted by thaivagabond at 2:21 AM on March 3, 2012

Something to be careful of here is that the word "advocate" can, in certain contexts, take on a technical meaning, i.e. in Commonwealth jurisdictions, "advocate" is primarily used to refer to lawyers. So picking words from other languages that are the rough equivalent of "advocate" may be confusing, particularly in those languages which are in use in Commonwealth countries, such as Hindi, Swahili, what have you. Rather than a term that "connotes authority, wisdom, warmth, etc." you might wind up with a term that denotes "attorney." Which is not only probably not what you want to do, but potentially legally problematic. I don't actually know any of those words, but it's something you want to watch out for.

This isn't the only term which has these issues either. For example, in the US, a "notary public" is someone who authenticates documents, signatures, and sworn testimony. That's about it. But in Latin American cultures, a "notario publico" is a lawyer, capable of giving legal advice and representing clients in legal matters. Many US states have passed laws making it illegal to directly translate "notary public" into Spanish to avoid confusing Spanish-speakers. You're going to want to avoid running into similar issues with "advocate".
posted by valkyryn at 3:19 AM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding valkyryn, I'm an English speaker in the US (although I do watch a lot of British TV) and the first thing I think of when I hear the word "advocate" is something like a lawyer. Someone who represents me, or speaks on my behalf to a third party -- a court, the IRS, or something like that.

Your specialists don't represent or act as advocates for women (or do they?) - they sound more like experts or mavens or matrons.
posted by mmoncur at 3:50 AM on March 3, 2012

Courtesy of my thesaurus, a few suggested alternate words for others to brainstorm with:

posted by mmoncur at 3:53 AM on March 3, 2012

Also, I think there's already a word for what you're describing: "doula". It's an ancient Greek word for "female slave," which may seem a bit odd, but it was appropriated by an anthropologist in the 1970s to refer to "experienced mothers assisting new mothers in breastfeeding and newborn care." This is something that almost every culture has, but many either don't have a specific name for (because it's something that women just sort of do as opposed to being a distinct role) or called some variant of "wise woman".

The term is currently in professional use. There are several national and international doula associations, including DONA.
posted by valkyryn at 4:26 AM on March 3, 2012

Seconding valkyryn, cognates of the English word advocate mean "lawyer" in a lot of languages. A lot of other translations on Wiktionary also seem problematic. For instance, the French word porte-parole means "spokesperson" (and, to my non-native ears, has a negative connotation), Spanish vocero also means "spokesman". I wouldn't use anything from Wiktionary without checking the actual meaning.

Just rely on suggestions from people who speak the language in question.
posted by nangar at 7:12 AM on March 3, 2012

Response by poster: 'Doula' was the first word that came to mind--it encompasses all that I am trying to convey. But I'm not sure we could co-op the word, given its current specialized meaning. Right now the working title for this position is lactation specialist. These are credentialed lactation professionals who primarily assist with breastfeeding support, usually in office but occasionally in-home. They do not provide help with light housework or any other services typically performed by a professional doula. Ugh, if only it was still a general term! So that is where the trouble lies...
posted by mynameismandab at 7:20 AM on March 3, 2012

Paraclete - defender, comforter, advocate. One who comes alongside. A word used in the new testament to describe the holy spirit, so it has Christian connotations which you may not want.
posted by hishtafel at 5:53 AM on March 4, 2012

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