Europa Editions Translates Novels for the American Market

Americans are not known for being avid consumers of foreign literature. In fact, last year, only about 2 or 3% of new titles published in the US were translations of titles by non-English-speaking authors.

However, as the New York Times reports, an independent publishing company called Europa Editions has had quite a bit of success bucking the norm and selling translated novels at independent bookstores across the country.

The company is operated by a married couple from Italy.  Only 5 years old, the publishing house just reported its first profit last year. The company focuses on literary novels translated from European authors, such as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by French writer Muriel Barbery.

The book has sold 71,000 copies and has been on the New York Times’ trade paperback fiction best-seller list for the past 6 weeks. Although the novel was a hit in France, Germany and South Korea, it was an unlikely hit in the US, where most publishing houses are afraid to touch translated novels because they don’t think they will sell.

It would be wonderful to see more translated novels made available for American consumption. Perhaps Europa Editions’ success can prompt other publishing companies to follow suit.

As Sandro Ferri, one of the co-founders of the publishing house told the New York Times, “I have a universal, global feeling that everywhere people should read and could read books from different countries. Even if up to now, only 3 percent of the American books are books in translation, I think that this is not a reason that it should always be like that.”

Those ambitions are echoed by Kent Carroll, Europa’s publisher.  “We don’t want to be in that small-press translation ghetto. Our ambitions are large,” he said in the article.

Ireland’s Worst Driver: Translation issues for Irish Police

According to the BBC police in Ireland had an embarrassing month after finally discovering the mystery behind Ireland’s worst driver.

He was wanted across Ireland, right from County Cork to Cavan after he accumulated a large number of speeding tickets and parking fines. He managed to get away each time he was stopped by providing different addresses.

But his luck was soon over. Mr Prawo Jazdy wasn’t quite the man the Irish Police force had thought they were looking for.

‘Prawo Jazdy’ is Polish… yes Polish for driving licence! Not the first and last name of this villain police had been searching for. The misunderstanding was discovered by an officer working within the Garda’s traffic division.

The officer then decided to check and see how many times this mistake had happened. He discovered that the system they use had created over 50 identities with the name ‘Prawo Jazdy’.

This has now been amended and relevant guidelines have been changed to prevent this happening again in the future.

So lesson learnt for the Irish police and on the plus point they now know a little Polish.

As for Mr Prawo Jazdy and all his driving offences we can only assume he won’t get away with it again.

Old England

Oldest English Words

According to the BBC Reading University researchers have identified some of the oldest English words in the languages history.

‘I’, ‘We’, ‘Two’ and ‘Three’ are among the oldest known words, which could be thousands of years old.

The Researchers have created a computer model, which can analyse the rate of change of words. It can also predict which words will become extinct.

They believe “squeeze”, “guts”, “stick” and “bad” could become obsolete first.

The computer programme is designed to log a timeline showing how modern Indo-European words have changed over time. Students can use the software to look up any date and they can see which words were used at that time.
The researchers using the computer programme found that common words or words with precise meanings were more inclined to be the oldest and most long standing.

Basically, if you were able to go back in time (if you can that’s amazing you should tell someone about that!) Reading University could provide you with a pocket guide to the language of that time. This would enable you to communicate with English speakers throughout the ages.

This amazing piece of software can also travel forward in time and predict how words are likely to change in the future.

Does the T.A.R.D.I.S have this facility the Doctor might find this tool very useful.
Basically these guys have too much time on their hands; if they invented a tool to actually travel in time then I’d be impressed.

Words will change over time, it is inevitable. Kids make up words all the time, some stick, some don’t. New words are added to our dictionary now and again, but I don’t think old ones really disappear or become extinct. They will always be remembered somehow in books or multimedia programmes.

I guess words go out of fashion. It’s all swings and roundabouts really.

Young Interpreters

Today teachers in Britain have to cope with young children who have very little or no grasp of the English language. It is understandably difficult for the children who often misbehave due to the language barriers they face.

A school in Devon may have the answer. They have encouraged a small group of their students, many of whom came to England from foreign countries, to act as interpreters helping the new students to fit in.

Students in the group like Newsround Press Packer Angela have learnt basic language skills to help those with limited English in their class. Using a range of tools like picture cards, hand gestures and a basic language prompt sheets they are able to help the new student to fit in, learn English and therefore help improve their overall education.

It is so nice to read about young people being positive about language and helping each other to learn new skills, developing those skills for the future.

Learning languages in the United Kingdom is no longer very popular. Perhaps this is because to learn to read, write and speak a new language is very difficult and everyone speaks English so why should they bother. The latter is a common misconception believed by many adults and children.

The key to getting kids into languages seems to be to start teaching them at a young age, right when they begin learning in their first year at school. After all our first 3-4 years at school are probably the most progressive after that we are building on knowledge we already have. Children learn so quickly at that age reading, writing, basic maths and science skills why not teach them basic language skills as well.

With advances in technology most schools are now equipped with computers which could also be used to aid learning. In previous years children were often encouraged to write to a foreign pen pal. With access to the internet children could now talk to students in a foreign country via a web cam. Multimedia tools make the experience of learning a language much more fun.

Let them try out different languages, they might find one more interesting or fun to learn, which may retain their attention into adult life. Learning a language could make them stand out from the crowd when they start working.

In today’s multicultural business environment the ability to speak a foreign language is a huge advantage. It would be great to see more schools across the United Kingdom using students to help foreigners learn English developing each child for the better.

St. David’s Day

This Sunday (1st March) is St. David’s Day.

The Welsh are very proud of their heritage. St. David’s Day is a major event across the region. In Cardiff a large parade is held every year.

For the first time this year Swansea Council will be hosting St. David’s Week Festival with a range of musical, sporting and cultural events.

A little history on St. David…

Born in the 15th century he was later educated at Henfynyw (Old Menevia) in Ceredigion.

He founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosin (The Vale of Roses) where St. David’s cathedral now stands. The site is possibly an early religious community and has associations with St. Patrick who is thought to have spent time there before heading back to Ireland from Porth Mawr to convert the Irish to Christianity.

The exact year of his death is not known but the date of 1st March was chosen to commemorate his death and celebrate the patron saint.

St David is possibly the only patron saint of the four chief nations of the British Isles to have been born in the land which adopted him.

Traditions….

For years children were given a half day off from school on St. David’s Day. This custom no longer officially continues but it depends on the school.

Young girls often wear traditional Welsh costumes on St. David’s Day. The costume consists of a long woollen skirt, white blouse, woollen shawl and a Welsh hat. A Welsh hat is a tall stovepipe-style hat, similar to a top hat.
The national emblems of Wales are the Daffodil and the Leek.  The association between leeks and daffodils is strengthened by the fact that they have similar names in Welsh, Cenin (leek) and Cenin Bedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”).
The flag of Saint David often plays a central role in the celebrations, and can be seen flying throughout Wales.

Atlas

UNESCO to Release New Language Atlas

Earlier today, the AP reported on UNESCO’s release of the third edition of its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. The atlas is available online for free, and a print version will be released in May.

The atlas maps the location and gives details about each of the 2,500 languages that linguists classify as endangered or are already extinct.

According to UNESCO, these languages will probably vanish before the end of the century if efforts are not made to preserve them now.

What languages are on the list, and where are they spoken?

Endangered languages are everywhere, actually. If you look up UK on the Atlas, you’ll see 12 languages. Four of these, Norn, Manx, Cornish and Alderney French, are already extinct. Scots and Welsh are rated as “unsafe,” while Yiddish, Romany, Irish and Scottish Gaelic show up as “definitely endangered.” Guernsey French and Jersey French are severely endangered.

The US has 191 endangered languages, mostly belonging to Native American tribes like the Menominee, which has 35 native speakers remaining. Sioux, the language of the great Native American chief Sitting Bull, is listed as “unsafe” with 25,000 speakers.

Then, there are languages like Silbo Gomero, spoken by about 1,000 people on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. This language is made up entirely of whistles, to help shepherds communicate over long distances on the island. However, Silbo Gomero may benefit from the efforts of Busuu.com, a language learning website based in Spain that teaches endangered languages to people all over the world.

Can the Internet help preserve this language?

In the Associated Press article referenced above, Francoise Riviere, deputy director of culture at UNESCO, said “We are trying to teach people that the language of the country from where we come is important, and what counts is being proud of one’s own language.”

Hopefully, projects like Busuu.com can help people learn to take pride in their native languages. Having people across the globe learn endangered languages like Silbo Gomero can certainly help preserve a record of the language, but what’s really important is that the people of La Gomera keep speaking it and passing along to their children.

Preserving languages isn’t just about the number of speakers-it’s also about keeping the culture of the people speaking the language intact.

St. Patrick’s Day

A little history….

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on the 17th March.

St. Patrick himself is a man of mystery and very little is known about him. What we do know is that St. Patrick was born in Britain to a wealthy family. When he was 16 years old he was taken to Ireland as a bargaining prisoner.

After being transported to Ireland he worked in the hills as a shepherd. During this time he was lonely and scared and turned to Christianity to help him get through. To escape St. Patrick walked over 200 miles to the Irish coast and made his way back to Britain.

St. Patrick had visions of a Christian Ireland and after returning to Britain he gathered himself and returned to Ireland to preach to the people.

Celebrations….

St. Patrick’s Day falls in the time of lent, a time of fasting. In Ireland families would generally attend church in the morning and then celebrate in the evening. On this day they ignored the rules of lent and would have lots of good food and plenty of drink.
In Ireland up until the 1970’s pubs were closed by law (as they were on a Sunday) on St. Patrick’s Day. In 1995 the Irish government realised the potential profit in opening their doors to tourists and began a marketing campaign to showcase Ireland to the rest of the world. Last year they attracted almost 1 million people to the capital Dublin and I have to say the really do put on a good show.

Typically the first big St. Patrick’s Day parade was actually held in good old New York in the USA not in Ireland at all. In 1962 the city of Chicago took the day to a whole new level and actually dyed the river that runs through the city green!
It was an idea put forward by the cities pollution-control workers who used dyes to trace illegal sewage waste. They released 100 pounds of vegetable dye which was enough to keep it green for a whole week. Today they still carry on the tradition but only use 40 pounds of the dye to minimise the environmental impact. This amount keeps it green just for the day.

Shamrocks are everywhere on St. Patrick’s Day, also knows as the ‘seamroy’ to the Celts. It is a sacred plant which symbolises the rebirth of spring. It also became a symbol for the patriotic Irish, as the English claimed Irish soil the Irish men began to wear Shamrocks as a symbol of pride in their heritage and to state their displeasure with English rule.

The day has become more about advertising and drinking than the religious feast it once was. It is celebrated all over the world. So go out, celebrate and drink Guinness (please drink responsibly).

And while you are out enjoying yourself here are a few Irish ditties and toasts to say whilst raising your glass to good old St. Patrick….

The Scots have their whiskey
The Welsh have their tongue
But the Irish have Paddy
Who’s second to none

——————————-

I’ve drunk to your health in the pubs ,
I’ve drunk to your health in my home ,
I’ve drunk to your health so many times ,
That I’ve almost ruined my own.

——————————-

May you never forget what is worth remembering,
Or remember what is best forgotten.

——————————-

There are many good reasons for drinking,
One has just entered my head,
If a man doesn’t drink when he’s living,
How the hell can he drink when he’s dead?

——————————-

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.

——————————-

May you get all your wishes but one,
So you always have something to strive for.

——————————-

Here’s to you,
here’s to me,
the best of friends we’ll always be.
But if we ever disagree,
forget you here’s to ME!!

——————————-

Here’s to you as good as you are,
Here’s to me as bad as I am,
As good as you are,
And as bad as I am,
I’m as good as you are,
As bad as I am.

——————————-

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.

——————————-

Health, and long life to you
Land without rent to you
The partner of your heart to you
and when you die, may your bones rest in Ireland!

Removal of Language Learning Requirements for Teenagers

In England, concern has been growing that the country’s students are falling behind when it comes to learning other languages.

In 2004, England stopped requiring that students over the age of 14 take classes in a foreign language. Since then, the percentage of students that have chosen to take foreign language classes has continued to drop. For example, according to the BBC, the number of students taking French GCSE has fallen 30% in the past 4 years.

Most of the other countries in the European Union require secondary school students to continue taking foreign language courses, so there is a concern that England will be at a competitive disadvantage in today’s global economy.

There are several advantages to becoming fluent in another language. First, it can make you more employable, especially as more and more companies start to do business internationally. Second, learning a foreign language can improve your speaking and writing skills in English.

For example, an American study completed in 1992 by the College Entrance Examination Board found that students who had studied a foreign language for 4 or more years scored higher on the verbal section of the SAT than students who had not. Other studies have shown that learning a foreign language boosts creativity and math skills as well.

With language learning becoming increasingly important, why did England choose to drop the language learning requirement for children over the age of 14?

According to the BBC, the change was made as part of a package of curriculum reform with the intention of reducing truancy among secondary school students. England’s government began pushing hard to reduce truancy in the early part of this decade, even going so far as to put parents in jail when their teenage children consistently skipped school.

The thought was that kids who didn’t want to be in school anyway would probably be more interested in vocational courses than in learning a foreign language, so the requirement was dropped.

Starting in 2011, language learning classes will be required for primary school students instead. Hopefully, children who start learning languages early will feel more inclined to keep studying them as they get older.

Can Computers Help Preserve Indigenous Languages?

According to the BBC, nearly half of the world’s 6,500 languages are expected to disappear over the next 100 years. Languages die when people stop speaking them and stop teaching them to their children. This has happened all over the world, with one of many examples being the fate of Native American languages after Europeans began to settle the continent.

Native Americans were confined to reservations, and Native American children were taken from the parents and sent to boarding schools, where instructors would punish them for speaking their native languages.

However, many Native American tribes are now making efforts to revitalise their languages through language learning and immersion programs in schools. One Native American couple, Mary Hermes and Kevin Roach, founded a non-profit organisation called Grassroots Educational Multimedia to provide people with tools to learn Native American languages.

The organisation teamed up with a company called Transparent Language to create language learning software for the Ojibwe language. The software allows Ojibwe students to create flashcards and watch videos of native speakers conversing in Ojibwe.

Another benefit of this software is that it has helped to document the vocabulary and grammar of the Ojibwe language. Before this project, the language’s grammatical structure was poorly documented.

So, with this software, GEM and Transparent Language have created a portable system people can use to learn Ojibwe at home, created a record of native speakers’ conversations, and created a map of Ojibwe grammar.

Even better, this approach provides a way to circumvent the emotional issues involved in trying to revive a dying language. As the Earth Times notes,

‘The history of the near genocide of the indigenous people of North America and the repression of their cultures and languages has meant that many emotions can get stirred up when indigenous people try to learn their own languages. They may encounter feelings of shame that they don’t know their indigenous language, feelings of anger at the trauma their people have endured, and feelings of embarrassment when they attempt to speak their language with the vocabulary of a two year old. Tribal elders who are fluent in the indigenous language may feel too jaded or just be too few in number to offer enough assistance. Often the indigenous language learner hits a place of cultural loss and insecurity that they have great difficulty overcoming.’ –Earth Times

Practicing at home, at a computer, gives language learners a chance to overcome these issues privately, and means that elders who grew up speaking the language can more easily pass it on. Also, this software gives students learning the language at school a fun way to practice outside of class.

Hopefully, this approach will help linguists document endangered languages and help language activists teach them, at least in places where computers are readily available.

Blog Posts
Portfolio
Pages

Available Pages

Categories
Monthly