Labor of love

Translating the Alcoholics Anonymous bi Naaltsoos Si’ah

Eugene Plummer, left, poses with President Russell Begaye and Sabina Wrightsman of the World Translation Center with a copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book at an AA conference this spring in Albuquerque.


Quitting alcohol was hard, said Eugene Plummer. But translating the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” into Navajo? That was right up there.

Believe it or not, Plummer, who was a pretty serious alcoholic for 30 years, says he quit drinking in one day when he got a job working with young people and couldn’t stand the thought of letting them down. Translating the Big Book took four years.

Plummer’s long journey with the Big Book, which he started calling the “AA bi Naaltsoos Si’ah” (the AA book that’s there), started one day when he was working his day job at KYAT Radio in Gallup. “Word came to me at the studio one day that they were looking for somebody to translate something,” recounted Plummer, 65, of Manuelito Canyon, New Mexico.

That wasn’t a rare occurrence. Several of the announcers at the station are fluent in Navajo and use it on the air, so people come to them when they need translation services. Usually, said Plummer, someone wants five or six lines translated for a PSA or something. “Nobody wanted to take it,” he said, “so I emailed Sabina Wrightsman at the World Translation Center to find out more.”

Wrightsman, the center’s president, pulled no punches. She told him Alcoholics Anonymous had contracted with the center to translate the Big Book, sometimes referred to as the AA bible, into Navajo in an audiobook. The Big Book is not called “big” for nothing. It is 575 pages long. Plummer would be paid by the audio file he turned in and the center would provide the recording equipment.

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Categories: News

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at