Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Languages on QSL Cards

Radio Free Asia QSL card, 2008
Around the world today, it is estimated, there are 7,100 living languages. The same authorities state that the population in India alone speak 880 languages, and in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh there are 90 different languages.  

The international translation organization known as the United Bible Societies, states that all or part of the Holy Scriptures have been translated into more than 3,324 languages (and also dialects, we would suggest).  
The most widely spoken language on Earth is English, with a total of 1.121 billion people who speak this language as a primary or secondary language. The Guinness Book of World Records (1988) lists a Frenchman who was the world leader in the number of languages he spoke.  This polyglot was French born Georges Henri Schmidt, a United Nations official in the middle of last century, and he was fluent in 31 languages.

A perusal of any issue of the World Radio TV Handbook clearly indicates that radio programming is on the air throughout the world in a multitude of languages, though obviously not in all of the world’s total list of spoken languages. 

All India Radio speaks to its homeland listeners in 202 languages, and in its international shortwave services AIR speaks in 28 languages. The Voice of America, together with its subsidiary program broadcasts speaks to the world in about 50 languages; and currently, the BBC London is on the air in its shortwave services in 18 languages.  
Several of the Christian shortwave stations are also on the air in a multitude of languages.  For example, Trans World Radio (TWR) presents programming on shortwave in 230 languages; and Adventist World Radio (AWR) speaks around 120 languages.  The Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) in the Philippines, is on the air in 113 languages; and Vatican Radio presents programming in 20 languages.
With so many languages on the air from so many radio stations around the world, it is to be expected that QSL cards would also be printed in many different languages. Many shortwave stations around the globe issue QSL cards in their own national language.  For example, it is rather obvious that the Voice of America and Radio New Zealand International, issue their QSL cards for example in the English language.  So, did Radio Australia before it was abruptly closed two years ago.  

Interestingly, the shortwave stations in some countries have printed their QSL cards only in English, even though their people speak other languages. For example, the QSL cards from All India Radio and Radio Bangladesh are always in English.  QSL cards from Radio Canada International when they were on the air, were always printed in both of their official languages French and English.

Then too, the shortwave stations in many other countries also issue QSL cards in English as well as in their own national language. Germany’s Deutsche Welle has printed QSL cards in German, as well as in English.  Back in the mid 1990's, the German service of the BBC London also issued their own QSL card which was printed in German. Other stations that have issued QSL cards printed in the German language have been KBS South Korea, Radio Pyongyang North Korea, and the Voice of Vietnam in Hanoi.

China has issued separate QSL cards in Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and English; Radio Australia has issued QSL cards in Asian languages such as Japanese and Thai.  Radio New Zealand International has also issued cards in the Japanese language.  Vatican Radio has issued QSL cards in English and Latin; and Switzerland has issued QSL cards in four languages, German, French, Italian and English.  

In addition to internationally known languages on QSL cards, at least two of the artificially constructed auxiliary languages have also been presented on QSL cards. In 1957, amateur station SP8CK in Lublin Poland made a QSO contact with station CX1AK in Montevideo, Uruguay in South America.  The QSL card from Poland was printed in Esperanto, the most popular of all the constructed auxiliary languages.

A very rare language was used for the text on a QSL card in 1930. This card was issued by amateur spark station SKW in the city of Uman in the Ukraine, and it confirmed a QSO with an American amateur station, NU1BES in Providence Rhode Island.  

The holder of the callsign NU1BES was Lewis Bellem, an engineer with the Universal Winding Company that manufactured radio coils in Providence under the trade name Cotoco-Coils.  In 1938, both Bellem and Granville Lindley, a fellow engineer from the Universal Winding Company, went out to Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific and installed the amateur radio broadcasting station VR6AY.

The text on the QSL card from amateur station SKW in the Ukraine is printed in the Ido language, which is a modified dialect descendant from the better-known Esperanto language. These days there are no more than 200 people throughout the world who have learned to speak the Ido language.

Finally, in our perusal of languages on QSL cards, we come to the print language for the blind, which was named Braille in honor of its founder Frenchman Louis Braille who was blinded in childhood by an accident.  As a fifteen year-old teenager in 1824, Braille invented a system of six raised dots that enable blind people to read and understand the dots with their fingers.

In 1955, amateur radio station F9KX in France issued a QSL card to K6GW in the United States.  The QSL text on this card is printed in the French language, and a French Braille message composed with raised dots is also embossed onto the card.

In 1994, Arthur Cushen at Invercargill in South New Zealand received a QSL card and letter from the ABC station 2PB in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.  At the time, station 2PB was on the air as an ABC news station, and the transmitter was the old 2 kW 2CY that had been rejuvenated and returned to 1440 kHz. The QSL letter was four pages long, and it was prepared in Australian Braille.   

And finally, several years ago, Adventist World Radio in Indianapolis issued a limited number of QSL cards that were printed with an English text and with a brief message in American Braille. These cards were borrowed from the Adventist operated Christian Record Services in Lincoln Nebraska.
(Jeff White/AdrianPeterson)
AWR Wavescan/NWS 516)
The RFA QSL card, was part of a 3-part series in 2008, celebrating their anniversary. The  card was drawn by the children of RFA personnel, celebrating their languages and encouraging democracy and freedom.