Dictionary of American Regional English Just Released

The Dictionary of American Regional English has just been completed and is now available to the general public. Why would you need another dictionary, you may ask?

The Dictionary of American Regional English is not a normal dictionary at all. 50 years in the making, it is a compilation of all the different regional dialects that Americans use in daily conversation.

This book would be especially useful for anyone planning a road trip across the country, but it’s also just plain interesting to see how English has mutated in different regions of the country.

The difference in speech between regions goes far beyond “y’all” (a southern word that’s basically a shortened version of “you all” and is used when directly addressing more than one person) and “youse guys” (same thing, only up north).

The ContraCosta Times has a review of the book that excerpts some of the more interesting pieces of dialect. For example, did you know that in Utah, a sow bug is called a “tabernacle?” or that in some parts of Appalachia, a “stool” is an invitation to a party?

One can only imagine the confusion that would ensue if someone from another part of the country heard a group of mountain folk talking about “passing out stools.” In Oklahoma, a dust storm is rather poetically called “Oklahoma rain.”

Earlier versions of the dictionary have also been used to track down criminals based on the dialect used in their letters and to decipher the speech of former President Bill Clinton, whose “folksy” speech sometimes required interpretation for those not born in Arkansas.

The former president once left a roomful of reporters scratching their heads in confusion after he told them that an Air Force official didn’t know him “from Adam’s off ox.” In Arkansas, according to the book review, an “off ox” is “one of two oxen in a team.”

Lost in Translation: 2 Cuban Pitchers

In the World Baseball Classic, an error in translation caused the Cuban baseball team to lose two of its top relief pitchers for their game against Mexico on Monday, March 16th.

According to the New York Times, in the World Baseball Classic, the official rules are always in English. However, an ‘unofficial’ Spanish translation was provided to the teams from Mexico and Cuba. Unfortunately, whoever translated the Spanish version made a minor error that demonstrates how important accuracy in translation can be.

According to the rules, relievers are not allowed to pitch the day after they throw thirty or more pitches. In Spanish, “30 or more” is translated as “trienta o mas.” The translator translated the phrase as “mas que trienta,” which means “more than thirty.”

Based on the translation, the Cuban coach pulled his two best relief pitchers out of Sunday’s game against Japan after they had each thrown exactly 30 pitches.

The goal was to keep the pitchers available for the game against Mexico on Monday, since they would have exactly 30 pitches, not “more than 30 pitches.” However, since the English document is the ‘official’ document, the two pitchers were disqualified.

Gene Orza, the World Baseball Classic player’s union’s chief operation officer, offered this assessment of the situation:

“It was a mistranslation — a mistranslation of what in English are very clear rules,” Orza said. “It’s a very unfortunate situation. But the English rules are the controlling document. We feel terribly that in trying to do a good thing something bad happened.”

“They were clearly very unhappy with the situation, but they did understand it,” Orza said of the Cuban officials. “I am eternally grateful for the class that Cuba showed. I think it’s fair to say we will endeavour to have an official Spanish rules document prepared for next time.” -New York Times

This may have actually worked out to Cuba’s benefit, since those pitchers had some extra rest before Wednesday’s elimination game. However, it wasn’t enough-Cuba played Japan again and lost.

Foreign Language Ban Enforced by Postmaster

A Postmaster from Nottingham has banned foreigners who can not speak English. According to the BBC Mr Deva Kumarasiri said that he could not serve people if he was unable to understand what they were asking for.

He claims to have refused service to six customers as they were unable to communicate effectively in English. He believed they were wasting his time and upsetting other customers who had to wait to be served.

Mr Kumarasiri came to England 18 years ago and made an effort to learn English, he had no choice. The United Kingdom is now much more open to foreign language requirements. His point is that if he did it so should other foreigners who move to the UK. A valid point, but refusing to serve these people in a post office which is supposedly a service available to all is unacceptable.

On the BBC Mr Kumarasiri is quoted as saying:

“I was born and raised in a different country, my language was different, my religion was different. But when I came to England I obeyed the British way of life, I got into the British way of life. That is what I ask everyone else to do – respect the country where you are working and living.”

Britain has become a multicultural society and people should be encouraged to speak their native language. At the same time, if they have chosen to live in the UK they should be prepared to take on the British way of life and try to learn the language.

Local language skills are vital to help people get by when doing everyday activities. Obviously translation services are also important, especially for legal and medical services. People might speak English but still feel more comfortable communicating in their native language when dealing with complex documents.

It is an awkward debate and immigration is currently a sensitive political issue. The immigration laws were amended in November 2008. The new laws basically mean that if the immigrant is from outside the European Union Economic Area they must have a basic understanding of English before they can enter the country, if they are coming here to work. Many other rules were also brought in to make the process more efficient.

Those coming in from abroad should also at least be prepared to learn English. Translation services are available when needed and at little cost to government services and departments, but it seems only polite to at least try to learn the language. Perhaps that is a particularly British thing to say. This debate will continue for years to come as long as Britain remains an attractive option for foreign immigrants.

Chicago Overcome Olympic Translation Problem

Chicago is bidding to host the 2016 Olympics but they have had to change their official slogan from ‘Stir The Soul’ to ‘Let Friendship Shine’ over problems with mistranslation in some countries.

Mistranslation is quite common; context is easily lost especially in countries such as Japan and China.

Chicago Olympic bid officials are hoping the International Olympic Committee will like their new slogan. Chicago hopes to welcome the world in ‘the spirit of friendship’ in 2016.

Many friendships  are formed at the Olympics, athletes living together in the Olympic village often share tips and experiences. The historic friendship of Jesse Owens and Luz Long is an excellent example of a friendship formed at the games.

The Chicago bid aims to continue to tell many more stories of friendships born out of the Olympics movement. The bid will even be celebrating National Friendship Day on 2nd August 09.

The new slogan will be appearing across the city of Chicago very soon and the host city will be announced in October 2009.

northern-Ireland

Schools in Irish Translation Debate

The 11-plus examination is the entrance test for Grammar Schools. In Northern Ireland they are debating as to whether or not an Irish translation of the exam should be provided.

According to the BBC an Irish language education body has requested that all schools provide suitable translations for the test so that it is fair.

Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta who are the representative body for Irish-medium education in Northern Ireland has written to schools about this matter.

The BBC quote spokesman Seán Ó Coinn as saying ‘parents could remove their children from Irish language schools or take legal action if a suitable translation was not available.’

“We’re unclear what the implications might be, and it very much depends on how parents react,” he said.

When last years 11-plus Grammar school tests took place, 150 out of 327 students sat the Irish version.

It is so important that we provide translation for all just because a pupil speaks both English and Irish doesn’t mean they are comfortably taking such an important test in English, they may feel more confident in doing the test in Irish if it is their first language.

The Welsh Assembly Government work very hard to ensure that Welsh translations are available for all in business and education, the Northern Ireland Government should be doing the same.

Danish Language Protection Laws Deemed Unnecessary

The Danish Culture Ministry has announced that there is no need to pass language protection laws in Denmark at this time, but that other steps should be taken to protect the Danish language.

According to the Copenhagen Post Online, the announcement marks the conclusion of a special government committee investigation into whether or not the use of English is threatening the future viability of Danish.

Although the report released by the committee did not recommend that any new laws be passed to protect Danish, it did recommend steps that the Danish people should take to help preserve their native tongue. For example, the report stressed the “duty” of Danes to preserve the language in their homes and in their schools.

The country’s university system was listed in the report as the one area of Danish life in which additional regulations might be beneficial. Some members of the committee, including its chairman, believe that additional regulation could be used to encourage the development of Danish professional terminology, reducing the reliance on English and other foreign languages.

Interestingly, the report also encouraged Danes to spend more time studying other Nordic languages, like Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Faroese. Since all of these languages are descended from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, they are all closely related and it is fairly easy for a native speaker of one language to pick up one of the others.

According to the report, “Danes can achieve a deeper understanding of our neighbour languages in just a few weeks than they can by studying foreign languages for years.”

The Danish language has come under increasing pressure from foreign language entertainment in recent years, and the committee recommended encouraging TV and films in other Nordic languages to help counteract this effect.

Facebook introduces two new languages

The internet giant Facebook has dramatically increased its target market by introducing Arabic and Hebrew. Many people will now find this social networking website much easier to use.

They conquered many problems during the production of the site into these languages including changing the sites layout so that it reads right to left and producing new software which recognises whether the user is male or female and adjusting the translation accordingly.

The addition of Arabic and Hebrew brings Facebook’s language total to 40 and there are over 60 more in development.

Hillary Clinton Translation

Clinton in Translation Faux Pas

Sergei Lavrov had a laugh at Hilary Clinton on Friday when she gave him a small token gift.

Hilary Clinton the US Secretary of State met with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov to discuss how the US and Russia can ‘reset’ relations.

Mrs Clinton handed Sergi Lavrov a small box which had a button inside, this was a token gift to represent the ‘resetting’ of relations between the two countries. The button had the word ‘reset’ printed on it and a Russian translation was printed underneath.

As reporters watched Clinton assured Lavrov that her staff had worked hard to get the translation right. Unfortunately it was wrong, Lavrov smiled as he pointed this out to the US Secretary of State.

The Americans had chosen the Russian word ‘peregruzka’ which means ‘overloaded’ or ‘overcharged’ rather than ‘reset’.

Despite some embarrassment the two of them laughed it off in front of the media. They both pushed the button together to signify their shared hopes for a better relationship in the future.

Later that day at a news conference the two of them joked together about the mistake.

The BBC reported Lavrov as saying through his interpreter, “We have reached an agreement on how ‘reset’ is spelled in both Russian and English – we have no more differences between us.”

Mrs Clinton managed to turn her mistake around in her speech saying, “we are resetting, and because we are resetting, the minister and I have an ‘overload’ of work.

Perhaps Hilary Clinton’s staff should have looked into proofreading. Once a translation has been done the proofreader will check that both the translation and the context are correct.

It seems the light hearted gift didn’t do the relationship any harm and hopefully any future translations by the US government will be checked.

Flesh Gordon Translation

Shockin’ly Spaiked O’er Smot Live

A screening of the 1974 R-rated film Flesh Gordon has upset David McNarry an Ulster Unionist Party member and other members of the Stormont Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee.

The BBC quoted David McNarry as saying:

“Porn is porn, is porn, is porn – and whether it is done Ulster-Scots-style, well, it really doesn’t come into it.”

The screening of the 70’s erotic spoof of Flash Gordon will be accompanied by a live translation in broad Ulster-Scots from three local comedians.

There are worries that events such as this damage the reputation of the festival and could effect funding in future.

Belfast should be proud to see Ulster-Scots being used (even if some think the event is inappropriate), especially with many languages becoming extinct.

Shockin’ly Spaiked O’er Smot (Badly Dubbed Porn) Live takes place at The Menagarie, University Street, Belfast, on Thursday 2 April at 9pm.

Chicago’s Translation Needs Are Evolving

The city of Chicago in the USA has found that as a new influx of refugees settle in the city their translation needs are increasingly difficult to meet especially in a time of financial crisis.

There are growing communities of people from Iran, Burma and Burundi along with a whole host of other nations. New languages have entered the streets of the ‘windy’ city, like Farsi, Karen and Kirundi. The cities services are trying hard to meet their translation needs.

The worry is that without good translation services these people are at risk of being exploited simply because they are unable to communicate effectively in English.

According to the 2000 US census more than 15,000 African language speakers live in Chicago. With all the bureaucracy regarding entering the country the need for languages such as Swahili is gradually increasing and in turn translation costs for the city are increasing.

Approximately 2,600 African refugees arrived in Chicago between 2000 and 2006, this is possibly the largest number of refugees to arrive in Chicago. Since 2006 around 400 Burmese and 330 Iraqi refugees have arrived in the city and the number is always increasing.

Chicago agencies do try to provide interpreting services in whatever language necessary to all. The Chicago Courts have on-site interpreters for languages they use every day, Spanish, Polish and American Sign Language. All other languages are grouped into what they refer to as ‘Exotic’ languages. The most requested languages in this group are Korean, Russian, Croatian and Arabic. The courts are expected to find an interpreter for non-English speakers within 48 hours.

These services are essential an interpreter can have a huge effect on an immigrant’s future in life-altering situations.

As America tries to cope with the recession, translation services are slipping down the list of priorities for the local authorities. They are essential services which can help change lives and even save them. Hopefully America will not ignore their foreign immigrant population and keep providing translation services no matter what the cost.

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