Translator Helps Deliver Baby

In Tucson, Arizona, a Language Line translator helped deliver a baby over the phone last weekend, according to this article in the Arizona Star. The baby’s family all spoke Spanish, so when the father-to-be called 911 to report that his wife was about to give birth, the language barrier made an already nerve-wracking situation even more complicated.

The dispatcher who received the call, James Charron, is not bilingual and doesn’t speak Spanish. He understood just enough to figure out what was going on, but not enough to communicate accurately with the family. Tucson’s emergency dispatch system relies on Language Line to translate for non-English speaking callers.

Through Language Line translator Paola Anderson, Charron was able to provide instructions to the baby’s father and father-in-law to help them deliver the child safely on their own.

During the ordeal, the woman and her family were not the only ones who were nervous. Anderson was nervous too, afraid that making a mistake in translation could have serious consequences. As she told the Arizona Star, “I thought a little mistake could have resulted in something bad.”

According to the report, the baby girl was born healthy. Both Charron and Anderson are proud to have helped bring her into the world.  “I feel like a godmother,”  Anderson told the Arizona Star.

This story underscores why it so important to have well-trained, knowledgeable interpreters. Especially in medical situations!

The Spanish-Language Rule Book Gets a Much-Needed Update

Spanish is spoken all over the world. It is the official national language in 21 countries, but in each of those countries, it sounds just a little bit different.

For example, according to Wikipedia, in Spain, butter is called mantequilla. In Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay, it is called manteca. Coche means car in Spain and Mexico, but almost everywhere else Spanish is spoken, it means “baby stroller.” There are also variations in which verb forms are used when.

Historically, the Spanish Royal Academy has determined what “proper” Spanish sounds like, but since they only focused on the language as it was spoken in Spain, their guidelines were out-of-step with the way Spanish is spoken by the majority of the world’s Spanish speakers. That’s why the Spanish Royal Academy’s new guide, the Nueva Gramática, is so important.

To write the  Nueva Gramátic, Spanish-speaking scholars spent more than 11 years looking at how people speak Spanish in every country where it is commonly spoken. The result is a 3,000 page, 2 volume guide that describes Spanish in all of its many regional variations. Since the last grammar guide was released in 1931, this represents a much-needed update.

According to the Latin American Tribune, in a presentation ceremony for the new book, the Spanish King Juan Carlos called the work “an historic service to the unity of Spanish and, overall, to better cohesion among the Hispanic peoples.”

The director of the Spanish Royal Academy, Victor García de la Concha “comes from the people and seeks the people. Here are all the voices, all the ways of speaking forming a great polyphony. Within the lines of scientific analysis a discourse of humanity circulates throughout (its) 4,000 pages.”

Slades Seasonal Chart Topper Gets Translated Into Welsh

The BBC has reported that Slades Christmas hit ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ has been translated into Welsh.

Nevarro, from Cardiff and Llanelli got permission to translate and perform the some from original 70’s rocker Noddy Holder.

The cover of the 1973 number one will be played on music strand C2 on BBC radio Cymru on Christmas Eve.

Steff from the band told the BBC “it wasn’t an easy song to translate but we are happy to be the first band to be singing it in another language.

If you want to sing along to the familiar chorus:

“Wel dyma hi,
Nadolig Llawen,
Pawb yn Hapus hwyl a sbri
Edrych i’r dyfodol nawr
Mae pethau ar fin digwydd”

Google Fined Over French Books

According to the BBC a Paris court has fined Google 300,000 euros (£266,000) in damages and interest for copyright infringement of books owned by French publisher La Martiniere.

La Martiniere was one of many publishers to take Google to court for digitising books without explicit permission.

Google have also been told that they will have to pay 10,000 euros a day until it has removed extracts of the books from its database.

Google had planned to scan millions of books to make them available online; this ruling may have ramifications for this plan.

The BBC report that this case will be seen as a victory for critics of the plan who fear Google is creating a monopoly over information.

The publisher Herve de la Martiniere launched his court case three years ago but Google continued to scan books throughout this time.

This is a big set back for the web giant Google.

Plurk post

Microblogging Service Plurk Attracts Asian Users

When it comes to microblogging, Twitter is king. However, according to this article on PC World, its sovereignty is being threatened in several Asian countries by upstart microblogging service Plurk, which offers the support for local languages and alphabets that Twitter largely lacks. Right now, Plurk is offered in 33 languages, including English, Chinese, Russian, and Hindi. It also offers support for European languages like Catalan and Irish. Compare that to Twitter, which only offers 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.

According to PC World, Twitter founder Biz Stone has stated that company finds it difficult to offer localized services for Asian languages, which is why Japanese is the only Asian language Twitter supports.

However, Plurk appears to have overcome these obstacles with no problems. The company handles translations by enlisting teams of its users to translate. In PC World, Plurk’s founder Alvin Woon noted that this system made the translation process surprisingly fast, saying :

“When Plurk first launched, we had a translation system where the whole system was translated into 25 different languages in two weeks, and it’s all done by our users…I’ve been surprised at how many people want to translate Plurk into their own language.”

Overall, Twitter still gets much more traffic than Plurk. However, looking at the respective popularity of each service in different countries illustrates what a profound effect local language support can have. For example,  according to PC World, Plurk beats out Twitter for the title of top-ranking microblogging site in Taiwan, and it is also extremely popular in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The lesson here is simply that customers want to use products and services that speak their language. Translation services are important for international companies because they help increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Cornell Develops Sign-Language Mobile Phones

These days, almost everyone has a mobile phone. But what about people who are deaf or hearing-impaired?

Until now, deaf people have been able to able to use cell phones in a limited fashion, for texting only. Texting is a valuable communication option, and providers like T-Mobile have long offered “data-only” plans aimed at the hearing-impaired for phones like the Sidekick that have keyboards specially designed for typing and texting.

However, researchers at Cornell University have developed a new type of cell phone that enables deaf users to go beyond texting and actually hold live conversations with other people.

The phones use videoconferencing to allow deaf people to converse in sign language. Your phone may be able to take and send a video message, but unless you’re one of the 25 Seattle residents currently using the phone, you can’t do live videoconferencing like this. The phones have been optimized to transmit clear, easy-to-see video using limited bandwidth.

The software on the phones has also been written to maximize battery life, which can be sucked dry rather quickly by data usage.

In an article on Physorg.com, Sheila Hemami, Cornell professor of electrical and computer engineering who supervises the project in cooperation with Eve Riskin and Richard Ladner of the University of Washington, explained that the devices  are important because “We completely take cell phones for granted. Deaf people can text, but if texting were so fabulous, cell phones would never develop. There is a reason that we like to use our cell phones. People prefer to talk.”

Parents of teenagers may disagree with that last statement. However, if this device makes into large-scale production, it will offer deaf people something they have never had before when it comes to using a cell phone-the ability to choose the way they communicate with others.

Microsoft to Translate Windows 7 into 10 African Languages

Microsoft has joined the cause of linguistic diversity. The software giant just announced that it will be releasing its new product, Windows 7, in 10 different African languages by 2011.

The software will be available in languages including Sesotho sa Leboa, Setswana, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Afrikaans, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, kiSwahili and Amharic.

Previously, according to an article in The Industry Standard, important technology was mostly available in English and French, to the point that Africans who could not read and write in one of these two languages are considered illiterate, even though they may be quite capable of reading and writing in their native tongues.

The lack of inclusion has also encouraged software piracy, as legal software that supports these languages is not available. Microsoft mentioned “fighting piracy” as one reason for expanding Windows 7 into different languages. However, it may be too late for that, as the Industry Standard notes that pirated software is so readily available in Africa that the native language support may simply become another selling point for pirates.

Still, nobody should be considered illiterate if they can read and write in the language that they grew up speaking. Microsoft’s introduction of local language support for African languages is a big step forward. As  Francis Hook, manager at IDC East Africa, states in the Industry Standard article:

“The localization will most certainly increase content from Africa by allowing expression in local languages, it will help with the survival and continued relevant of African languages amidst globalization.”

In addition to benefiting African computer users, this move will likely also benefit Microsoft, even if it does little to curb piracy. As Hezron Mogambi, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Nairobi, explains:

“Language has the power to draw more people into a product and internet use more than advertising can do. People want to see and feel a product that represents their community and settings.”

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