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Google’s App Now Translates as You Talk

Google just rolled out a new update for users of its translation app for Android phones. But this isn’t just any software update: the upgraded app now has a “conversation mode” feature that translates as you talk!

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping in Mexico. Suddenly, you find you’ve blanked out on your high school Spanish and can’t remember how to order what you want from the deli. With Conversation Mode, you could press a button, ask for what you want in English, and have your phone translate it into Spanish and read the translation to the salesperson. Then, the salesperson could answer back in Spanish, and the app would translate it into English. No more quizzical looks, no more hanging your head in shame at not being able to make yourself understood. Brilliant! Read more

New Research Centre for Translation

Next month, on 9 February 2011, the University of Leicester’s new Research Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies will open its doors for the first time. The centre will focus on researching subjects related to translation and interpretation. Additionally, it will also help facilitate the spread of knowledge in the translation community by hosting educational events like seminars and conferences.

In a press release from the University, Professor Kirsten Malmkjær, who will lead the centre, commented:

“I am extremely excited about my new post and looking forward eagerly to establishing translation as an academic discipline at Leicester. The main challenge we face is to establish a distinctive profile within the national and international translation studies community.”

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Japanese signs in the Cotswolds

Signs Translated for Japanese Tourists

The Cotswolds are apparently quite the destination for Japanese tourists – so much so that the railway station at Moreton in Marsh has translated some of its signs into Japanese to help them get their bearings.

According to the Daily Mail, the Japanese signs are the brainchild of station manager Teresa Ceesay, who says that they have made Japanese tourists feel more welcome and made it easier for her small staff to take care of customers. She explained:

“We’ve had a very positive reaction from Japanese visitors with many saying thank you. The Cotswolds is so well promoted in Japan. It’s just to help tourists when they arrive. I’d noticed a lot coming here and they get off the train and look a bit puzzled. They’d ask in our ticket office but we only have one member of staff. It’s only a few signs but it means a lot to people.”

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German Language Can Be Fun!

Learning a language can sometimes become a real struggle:  grammar, conjugation and structure are all that you can think of and you feel that your head is going to explode.  Some languages are harder to learn than others and personally I found German pretty challenging… For all of you guys trying to make German your second language, time to take a break in your studies and discover some fun facts about this unique dialect.

  • German and English are both sister languages: many German words are identical to their English counterparts.
  • Be careful with some meanings: for example “gift” in German means “poison”, “mist” means “bird droppings”, “rat” means “advice”.
  • German has 3 genders for its nouns: masculine (der), feminine (die) and neuter (das).
  • Famous for long words:

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” has 63 letters and means “beef labelling regulation and delegation of supervision law”

Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften” has 39 letters and means “ legal protection insurance companies” Read more

Babies Process Language Same as You

Everything started when three scientists from the University of California in San Diego initiated a study about how babies’ brains are processing all the information they receive every day. Surprisingly, they discovered that babies just over a year old analyse words they hear with the same brain structures as adults, and in the same amount of time. Even if they are too young to talk, they are capable of understanding the meaning of the words, which is a major discovery in the Science world.  In fact, Katherine E. Travis, one of the scientists working on the study says:

“Babies are using the same brain mechanisms as adults to access the meaning of words from what is thought to be a mental ‘database’ of meanings, a database which is continually being updated right into adulthood.”

Before this study, most of people were assuming that infants would have a completely different mechanism for learning words and that it would take time for them to be able to think like adults. In order to bring tangible proofs to the theory, the scientists put in place two different experiments and examined the babies’ brain activity. Read more

Rare Greek Dialect Survives In Turkey

Greek has the longest written history of any of the Indo-European languages, but that doesn’t mean that today’s Greek sounds like the Greek language of Plato and Socrates. A lot can change over thousands of years- just think of how much English has changed since Chaucer’s time!

Interestingly, Romeyka, a Greek dialect spoken along the coast of the Black Sea in Turkey, preserves some aspects of ancient Greek that have since disappeared from the language. Linguists believe that the dialect may help them understand more clearly how Ancient Greek evolved into the modern Greek spoken today. Read more

Dog Speaks English

Can animals learn English?  While the chances of your dog being able to comprehend Shakespeare are probably not very good, most dogs can learn at least a few human words.  Even my friend’s big, stupid black lab knows what “walk” and “out” mean. Fortunately, he hasn’t yet learned how to spell, so if we want to go out without including him we can just say “o-u-t” and he’s none the wiser.

And then there’s Chaser, the border collie.  Time Magazine calls Chaser “the smartest dog in the world.” After a three-year training program, psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley of Wofford College claim that Chaser knows 1,022 different words. These include both names for her toys and simple verb commands like “paw,” “nose” and “take.” She can also combine any of these commands with the appropriate toy.  Impressive…but can she spell? Read more

Oxford Aramaic Classes Attract Record Numbers of Students

Oxford University is currently offering free classes in Aramaic, the language that would have been spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Surprisingly, the class has attracted record numbers of enrollments, with 56 students in the first class alone.

In a press release, Dr John Ma, a classicist at the University, said:

“It was a real surprise for the lecturer David Taylor, who in previous years has taught Aramaic to groups of three or four students in his study, to find 56 people at his first class. You would probably have to go back two thousand years to find a room so full with people speaking Aramaic – the time when Jesus would have been speaking the language!”

The classes utilize a new grammar developed by Mr. Taylor that is supposed to make this challenging language easier for beginners to learn. They are being offered as part of Project Arshama, which aims to help scholars become more familiar with Aramaic and its dialects so that reading ancient texts in Aramaic becomes as common as reading texts in Latin or Greek. Read more

Santa Wrote Back!

Dear Konrad,

Thank you for all your correspondence sent to me.

In the first place, I hope you liked the Christmas presents I got you for 2010.

I regret to say it but I was unable to give you the metal pin slingshot, nor the indoor fireworks set. Those items are listed as hazardous and mustn’t be distributed…

I truly appreciate your concern about my health. Nevertheless I am not intending to shed a pound. To be honest, I have always been a little … fleshy if you like. Times are changing and i know people expect celebrities to look like sticks these days but “Thank God” I don’t live in Hollywood, so no need for me to slim down!

Each time I go to LA, I wonder when I’ll see an A4-size picture of my behind with a tear in my red trousers, flashing at me from a cover of a glossy mag. And believe me it is not easy to sneak away from paparazzi when getting off my sleigh or climbing up a chimney. Read more

New iPhone App Translates Images in Real-Time

If you’ve ever been to another country and struggled with reading signs and menus, a new iPhone app called Word Lens might be just what the doctor ordered. Word Lens is an augmented reality app that can actually translate text seen through your iPhone’s camera. Just turn on the app and hold up the phone so that the text you want to translate appears on your iPhone camera’s viewfinder, and Word Lens will pick out the words, translate them for you and display the translation right on your iPhone’s screen.

The app itself is free, but all the free version does is let you play with or erase text on images seen through your iPhone camera.  The actual English-to-Spanish dictionary that gives the app its translation capabilities is $4.99.

Even better, the app doesn’t have to be connected to the Internet to do this.  So, it’ll work even in areas where you have no signal and you don’t have to worry that using the app while you travel will result in obscenely high cell phone bills.  $4.99 is definitely a reasonable price for something that will help you out in a foreign country without racking up data charges. Read more

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