Agile project management webinar

Agile Project Management for localisation

If you are one of the thousands of members of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)theres a good chance you have seen Richard Brooks’ (CEO of K International) webinar on Agile Project Management. It was the most popular presentation in June & to celebrate they are offering it up to non-members for FREE!!!… normally this would cost you $60, this offer expires August 31st so you have just over a week left to start finding out how Agile Project Management could benefit your business.

Just enter your name and email address on the next page and we will email the details to you

 

african penguin

What Does the Penguin Say?

Penguins are better for known for their cuteness than for their songs. But their squeaks and squawks convey more information than you might think.

Italian scientists recently decoded the language of the African or “jackass” penguin, so named because of its donkey-like brays. By recording 104 days worth of video of a captive colony of the birds in a zoo in Turin, Italy, the researchers were able to identify six different calls used by the penguins to communicate with each other.

As the researchers wrote in the study abstract,

“The African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is a highly social and vocal seabird. However, currently available descriptions of the vocal repertoire of African Penguin are mostly limited to basic descriptions of calls. Here we provide, for the first time, a detailed description of the vocal behaviour of this species by collecting audio and video recordings from a large captive colony.”

The penguins use what is called a “contact call” that basically means “I’m lonely.” It indicates separation, and a desire to be reunited with mates or other group members. The “agonistic” call, on the other hand, indicates the penguin is looking for a fight. African penguins are monogamous, and single birds use an “ecstatic display song”  to let others know they are looking for a mate.

Once they’ve found “the one,” the birds then sing a duet called a “mutual display song.”  Adorable!

The last two calls identified by the research team are made only by chicks.  Young chicks still in the nest use “begging peeps” to indicate that they are hungry. Bigger chicks who have left the nest but still rely on adults for food use a longer, more drawn out “begging moan,” apparently the equivalent of a toddler whine, to indicate hunger.

As head researcher Dr Livio Favaro told the Guardian,

“Vocal communication allows us to understand the many different aspects of the biology of this species. Penguins have less sophisticated vocal mechanisms compared to song birds, but they have very sophisticated mechanisms to encode information in songs.”

Photo credit: “AfricanPenguinNEAq”. Via Wikipedia

pills

A Language Learning Pill?

Does learning a language while you sleep sound like too much work? One scientist is predicting that some time within the next 30 years, all you’ll have to do is take a pill to become instantly fluent.

Nicholas Negroponte, an architect and futurist who founded MIT’s Media Lab, made the prediction in a TED Talk released in July. Negroponte is the founder of the One Laptop Per Child program, which provides children in developing countries access to inexpensive laptop computers. He is famous for having predicted a host of technologies that we now take for granted, like WiFi and the touchscreen.

As quoted in the Daily Mail, here’s how Negroponte sees the future of language learning (and literature classes):

‘You’re going to swallow a pill and know English. You’re going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare.’

‘And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it’s [the information in the pill] in your bloodstream, it basically goes through and gets into the brain…and the different pieces get deposited in the right places.’

That seems like it would be a difficult feat to accomplish. Learning a language is about more than just memorizing vocabulary lists and verb conjugations, after all.  Speaking a second language alters your brain in a number of different ways, such as helping to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and helping toddlers to better focus their attention. Would learning a language from a pill have the same effects?

So far, the closest thing we have to a language learning pill is a drug called valproic acid. It’s a mood-stabilizing drug that has shown promise in making it possible for adults to learn to have perfect pitch, a skill that is usually impossible to learn after a certain age. So, in theory it could make it easier for adults to pick up another language if they do the work to learn it, just as infants and toddlers have an easier time learning multiple languages.  

Also, as a former English Lit major, I have to say that I find the idea of taking a pill and “knowing Shakespeare” almost offensive. It’s like reading the Cliffs Notes-you might understand the plot but you haven’t experienced the art.

Do you think language learning in pill form will be possible one day? Let us know in the comments!

Photo credits: Attribution Some rights reserved by Rod Senna

3facepalms2

Blogger Fired for Writing About Homophones

Tim Torkildson, a writer hired to manage a blog for a Utah language learning school, got his 15 minutes of fame last week after the language school fired him for writing a post about homophones.

“Homophones” are simply words that sound the same, like “read” and “reed” or “see” and “sea.” As you can imagine, they can be confusing for English language learners and students need to be taught how to distinguish them.  The post that got Torkildson fired was a short bit about homophones beginning with the letter”A” that should have offended absolutely nobody. You can read it here via the magic of Google Cache.

Unfortunately, Torkildson’s boss was offended.  Apparently his brain stopped working once he read the prefix “homo-.” Here’s how Torkildson describes what happened the next day:

“I’m letting you go because I can’t trust you” said Clarke Woodger, my boss and the owner of Nomen Global Language Center.  “This blog about homophones was the last straw.  Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.”

I said nothing, stunned into silence.

“I had to look up the word” he continued, “because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about.  We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate.  Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning?  I’ll have your check ready.”

Oh, those dirty, dirty homophones! Of course, the Internet loves a good idiot, so Torkildson’s story quickly went viral. In his zeal to avoid having his school associated with the prefix “homo,”  Mr. Woodger has all but ensured that it will be associated with homophobia on the search engines for some time to come and possibly forever.

I didn’t try to make any clever homophobia/homophone puns because it’s all been done at this point, but if you need a good laugh check out “The Homophone Menace” on the Washington Post. It’s a thing of beauty.

Packaging localisation for Glorious Foods

Glorious Day for Soup!

We’ve been working on a great deal of food packaging translation projects in the last few years. Helping some of the UK’s largest supermarkets and food providers gear their products for sale abroad is no small task. Large scale EU regulatory changes called the FIR are coming into force and are certainly keeping our translation teams uber busy.

One of our most recent clients Glorious Foods, really brightened the office today when 3 massive refrigeration boxes arrived filled with all manner of luxury soups and sauces. Glorious pride themselves on producing food containing bold and unexpected flavours, just looking at their product descriptions immediately shows off their passion. Translating this passion is a creative challenge for our linguists, but without doubt a very rewarding one too.

Localising product descriptions

 

Needless to say our team were eager to sample the produce, you know to ensure our translations properly reflect the quality of the product… so in the name of education, each pot was rapidly assigned a name tag and stowed till lunch (for the most part, some of the team skipped breakfast apparently). Our office fridge now looks like it would feel right at home in a shared student flat :)

Translating food packaging for Glorious Foodsfood packaging for Glorious Foods

Big thanks again to the team at Glorious, you might just be our new favourites ;-)

Take a look at their wonderful range of products over on their site www.gloriousfoods.co.uk

 

…now where’s that spoon?

theatre

Welsh Theatre Gets Its Own Translation App

Want to watch a play in Welsh but can’t speak the language? There’s now an app for that.  Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru has announced that they will be releasing a smartphone app called Sibrwd, which means Whisper in Welsh.

Traditionally, the theatre industry has relied on subtitles for translation. However, subtitles can be distracting for audience members, forcing them to split their attention between reading and watching the play.

 Sibwrd aims to improve on that experience by feeding audience members just the information they need to know to follow the action.

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru executive producer Carys Ifan explained to the Telegraph:

“It’s not a full translation. There are quite short sentences every now and again at key moments. The idea is that people will take their own smartphone, download the app and then they’ll hear things that we think they need to know to guide them through the play.”

In developing the app, the theatre company had two goals. First, of course, they wanted to make it easier for people who don’t speak Welsh to enjoy their plays.  As Ms. Ifan put it:

“We want as many people as possible to access our work. People will go and see an opera in French or Italian but wouldn’t think about going to see a Welsh language piece. So it’s trying to entice people to make that leap.”

If the app goes over well, the concept can be used to help make plays in other minority languages more accessible. Hasan Bakhshi, the director of creative economy at Nesta, which helped fund Sibwrd’s development, told the BBC that his organization provided funding in part to “capture and disseminate the insights from that project in such a way that other theatre companies can use[.]”

According to Bakshi,

“One of the things that was attractive about this project was the potential international applicability. It’s not necessarily tied to the Welsh language.”

Of course, it seems like enticing theatergoers to bring out their smartphones runs the risk of causing even more distractions. Will people really be able to resist reading the latest text message to come in or seeing what’s up on Facebook?

What do you think? Are smartphone translation apps for plays a good idea or not?

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Jaako

Undercover Staff

The Secret Life of Staff

During a typically random conversation between the members of the sales team here at K International it came to light that one of us had failed to mention certain things about her past. As it turns out we have a British Champion in our midsts, luckily for the rest of us Youtube still has all the evidence so we can share it with you…

So here goes, we can present Sherrien Collins, account manager & news to us, member of street dance crew Street Shock , 2007 & 2008 British Champions

Here’s the proof from the final in 2008, Sherrien is first on stage..

It also came out that she’s a former boxer… (just in case you were going to say something)

Don’t mess ;)

science2

Scientific Translation: A Lost Art?

Despite the popular stereotype of the mad scientist working alone in his lab, science is a collaborative effort.  The ability to share research and knowledge with other scientists is vital.  As Isaac Newton once wrote, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” But what if those “giants” don’t speak your language?

In fact, translators have historically been an important part of the scientific community, translating, passing on and preserving knowledge from advanced civilizations like ancient Greece and Rome, ancient China and from the Islamic Golden Age.  But these days, according to The Times Higher Education, there are not enough translation resources to go around and language barriers are hampering scientists’ ability to share knowledge.

For scientists from non-English-speaking countries, translating their work into English is essential. However, to do this well, you need a translator who is both fluent in both languages and has some understanding of the nature of the work itself. As the Times explains:

“In an effort to disseminate their work, many foreign scientists spend precious research funds on private translation services. But standard translators may not understand the science, the structure of scientific papers or the technical language. The only alternative is to rely on bilingual colleagues to provide translation services as a favour.”

What’s the solution? The Times suggests that universities and other research institutions make translation more of a priority from the beginning, instead of putting the burden on individual scientists:

 “We suggest that university departments in non-anglophone countries could hire professional translators with a science background, just as they hire statisticians and technical specialists.”

It’s not just non-English speakers who need to step up their game. The Times points out that even English language research can benefit from translation:

Much less appreciated is the potentially important role of translators in universities in English-speaking countries. Translating research into any of the world’s main languages (Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese or French) could boost a paper’s citation rate…The translation of papers into different languages should allow more rapid accumulation of data supporting or refuting hypotheses and increase knowledge sharing in applied areas, such as agronomy or conservation, where, in some countries, English-language publishing and citation is not currently pursued.”

Any other ideas to make it easier for scientists to get their work translated? Share them in the comments!

Photo credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Horia Varlan

chimp

Chimpanzee Language: Apes in Translation

We’ve known for decades that chimpanzees and their smaller cousins the bonobos have the ability to learn some human sign language.  They also use their own signs and gestures  in the wild, but until recently most research had focused on teaching them to communicate on our terms.

However, in two new studies published earlier this month, researchers were able to decode some of the apes’ own gestures.

The first study looked at a group of chimpanzees in the wild. Over a period of 18 months, primatologists carefully noted every gesture the chimpanzees seemed to be using for communication, as well as how each gesture was responded to by other chimps. Then, the researchers used computer analysis to break down the data and find out which gestures seemed to have consistent meanings. They were able to uncover 36 commonly used and understood gestures, with 15 different meanings.

Study co-author Richard Byrne, a primatologist at the University of St. Andrews, told Wired,

“What we’ve shown is a very rich system of many different meanings. We have the closest thing to human language that you can see in nature.”

The other study, from the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, decoded a complex hand sign used by bonobos. Bonobos are the free-love hippies of the primate world; they are known for having sex and lots of it. So, it’s only appropriate that researchers translated the gesture to mean something like “Hey baby, let’s you and me go someplace where we can be alone together.”

Dr. Catherine Hobaiter, the other co-author of the chimpanzee study told the BBC that the way the chimps used gestures indicated that they are closer to us linguistically than we might like to believe:

“The big message [from this study] is that there is another species out there that is meaningful in its communication, so that’s not unique to humans. I don’t think we’re quite as set apart as we would perhaps like to think we are.”

However, not everyone agrees. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Susanne Shultz, of the University of Manchester, told the BBC that the study’s results were  “a little disappointing”. She went on to say,

“The vagueness of the gesture meanings suggest either that the chimps have little to communicate, or we are still missing a lot of the information contained in their gestures and actions.”

It’s quite possibly the latter. Dr. Hobaiter told Wired that she believed their ability to analyze and understand chimpanzee gestures was limited at best:

“I have the impression that there were some meanings we couldn’t capture,” Hobaiter said. Sometimes, she recalled, a chimpanzee would gesture to another, then appear satisfied, though nothing else seemed to happen. Said Hobaiter, “I’d love to know what was going on!”

Photo credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by nzgabriel

muuzii

Muuzii: Accurate Translation for Travelers

If you’re looking for a translation app to travel with you, there’s no shortage of contenders.  Translation apps are easier to use than a clunky phrasebook, and many of them can do cool things like translate text from pictures and translate text to speech. However, the vast majority (if not all) of these apps have two main drawbacks:

  • They require that you own a smartphone.
  • Their translations are automatic and not 100% accurate.

For example, check out this amusing (but confusing) translation from celebrated translation app Word Lens, purchased by Google back in May:

 

What are they doing to that poor mozzarella?

Translation errors like that are good for a laugh, but in more serious situations you might want something a little bit more accurate.  Also, not everyone owns a smartphone, oddly enough. Muuzii is a new translation tool for all mobile phones (not just smartphones) that promises more accurate results because it does not exclusively rely on machine translation.

With Muuzii, users send the text they need translated over SMS. Muuzii automatically translates it, then has a professional translator review the translation to ensure that it is accurate. According to Venturebeat, they’ll not only make sure the translation is accurate, but also fix any awkwardness or ambiguity:

“Each team member makes sure that the response is not only accurate, but also the best way to get your message across. If the human translators think there might be a better way to phrase it, they’ll train the database to choose their preferred option next time it encounters a similar request.

So, when you find yourself in a sticky linguistic situation, you won’t deal with the awkwardness that the limitations of app technology create.”

Then, the service texts your translation right back to you.

The main drawback is that the service is only available in English and Chinese, as a subscription for American AT & T customers.

Would you use something like Muuzii? Let us know in the comments!