Hit West End Show Pioneers Translation Device

The hit West End show Hairspray, currently showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre has introduced a pioneering system which translates the show into 8 languages according to the BBC.

With one third of theatre audiences in London being tourists AirScript developers, Cambridge Consultants, hope the handsets will attract more tourists to London’s theatres.

The translation is received via WIFI and scrolls down throughout the performance. The handset has LED backlighting and the screen has a black background and orange text to minimise glare. It could be quite annoying for other theatre users if the device was too bright. It costs just £6 to hire the device.

The translated subtitles are delivered manually to make sure the line hits the screen at the same time as it is delivered on stage.

It could be quite distracting to look at a device for the whole show rather than getting lost in what’s happening on stage, but it is a great tool for tourists and can only get better as the technology advances.

What Does Your Baby's Name Mean?

Years ago, people stuck, for the most part, with traditional names for their little ones. Now, perhaps inspired by the odd names celebrities tend to choose for their offspring (Moon Unit? Apple? Sparrow?  Moxie CrimeFighter?), many expectant parents spend a lot of time trying to find something unique and special to call their little bundle of joy.

However, a name that is merely “unique” in English could have a totally different, perhaps unwelcome, meaning in another culture. For example, “Suri,” the name of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, actually means “pickpocket” in Japanese and “soured” in French, according to British translation firm Today Translation. To help soon-to-be parents select an unusual name that travels well, the company is offering a new service: the baby name translation audit. For a one time fee of $1,700, the company will look up the meaning of potential baby names in 100 different languages.

Of course, this service won’t stop sadistic parents from giving their babies embarrassing names for kicks. Even before creating your own baby name from scratch became commonplace, you still had Mr. and Mrs. Head christening their baby boy “Richard,” or Governor Hogg of Texas naming his baby girl “Ima.”

For ordinary parents, $1,700 seems like a lot to pay; even it does help ensure that you aren’t accidentally naming your child “dung beetle” in some other language.

In the New York Daily News, Today Translation’s CEO Jurga Zilinskiene explained why she thinks parents will be willing to pay for the service:

“You’ll rest assured you are picking a good name,” Zilinskiene said. “At the end of the day, it’s something a person has to live with for the rest of their lives.”

What do you think? Would you pay for a baby name translation audit?

Translation-Glasses

Glasses that Translate Speech?

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but according to Reuters, a Japanese company is developing eyeglasses that can translate speech.

The Tele Scouter consists of a pair of eyeglass frames attached to a microphone and a small computer. A tiny display unit is mounted on to the frames. When someone talks to you in a foreign language, the microphone picks up the sound and sends it to be translated. Then, the translated text is sent back and projected into your peripheral vision, so you can read what the other person said while still maintaining eye contact.

Weird, huh? Kotaro Nagahama, a manager at NEC, the company that’s the developing the glasses, explained the potential advantages of the new technology to Reuters:
“With this you don’t have to think about having to translate your own words. All you have to do is speak and you don’t have to do any thinking. You just use your own language.”

Unfortunately, according to PinkTentacle.com, at this point the devices’ translation capabilities are “insufficient for real-world applications.” So, at least for now, the company is focusing on selling the device to businesses and factories, which can use as a hands-free data display device for workers.

Also, it should be noted that even if the devices’ translation capabilities were spot-on, in order for it to truly useful for travelers, both you and the person you are speaking to need to have a pair of these magic glasses. Unless the company plans to incorporate a way to display what you are saying to the other person in their own language, the Tele Scouter appears to only translate one side of the conversation.  According to Reuters, NEC plans to sell the Tele Scouter for a whopping $83,000, so it’s not likely to gain widespread adoption anytime soon.

What do you think-will this idea ever become more than science fiction?

Baby talk

When Do Babies Start Learning Language?

By now, almost everyone knows that infants begin to learn language long before they utter their first words. But did you know that babies start learning language before they are even born? At least, that’s the conclusion that German researchers from the University of Wurzburg came to in a new study, published in the journal “Current Biology.”

For the study, the researchers recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 different newborn babies. Some of the babies were born to French-speaking parents; others were born to German-speaking parents. You might think that that wouldn’t matter, that all babies sound the same when they cry. However, the babies were only 3 to 5 days old, and they were already crying in “accents” that mimicked the intonations of the adult’s language. So, the French babies’ cries had a rising inflection, and the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection.

According to the researchers, the babies were most likely imitating the speech they had heard while in the womb.  In this article from the BBC, researcher Kathleen Wermke said that  “The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their foetal life. Contrary to orthodox interpretations, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying for seeding language development.”

Wermke also theorized that the babies were trying to bond more closely with their mothers by mimicking them in the only way possible-through the intonation of their cries.

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

A French love letter was found near Falmouth, Cornwall last week.

The beer bottle was found by Martin Leslie, a coastguard manager, and his family as they walked on Praa Sands, near Falmouth.

The bottle was poking out of the sand; its top was sealed with red candle wax. Inside was a three A4 pages handwritten in French and dated September 28th.

Mr Leslie had a go at translating the letter using the internet but could only decipher words relating to love, death and missing someone.

He assumed that the letter must be a suicide note and handed the letter to Falmouth Coastguards to pass onto their counterparts in France.

According to the Telegraph Mr Leslie said the woman said she and her lover shared magical moments together but that she understood that he had to return to his wife. She finished by saying she hoped to find another man like him with whom she could live a beautiful life.

The letter said ”These magic moments are pure secret. The secret of life and pleasure without limits. In twenty years, it will still be here, the previous moments of happiness, when life will get dreary, we will be able to tap into these memories to remember what it is to live again.”

Mr Leslie plans to keep hold of the letter which is unsigned and has no contact address on it.

FBI Behind on Translating Intelligence

8 years after 9/11, the FBI is still behind when it comes to translating intelligence information.

According to a report issued by the US Justice Department’s inspector general, the FBI has lost approximately 3 percent of its linguists since 2005. Plus, they are taking longer than ever to hire new contract linguists.

There is a lot of work to be done. According to Reuters, between 2006 and 2008, the FBI collected 4.8 million foreign language documents and intercepts in terrorism and criminal cases and 46 million electronic files. To date, 31 percent of the electronic files have not been examined. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI collected 4.8 million audio hours worth of material via surveillance campaigns-25% of that material hasn’t been reviewed, either.

Part of the problem seems to stem from the length of time it takes to do the necessary background checks and other reconnaissance on potential translators. Apparently, it takes 14 months to do the necessary reviews and investigations to make sure that the applicants aren’t terrorists themselves.

According to Reuters’ Front Row Washington blog, some of that un-translated material was pertinent to a case against two Chicago men who planned to attack a newspaper in Denmark. Affidavits in the case state that:

“While translators have attempted to transcribe the foreign language conversations accurately, to the extent that quotations from these communications are included, these are preliminary, not final translations.”

So, what would it take to get the FBI caught up? 100 linguists working 40 hours a week for seven years, according to the inspector general’s report.

So, if you’re looking for a recession-proof job and you think you can pass an extremely detailed background check, here is my suggestion: Start learning Arabic!

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