Translation of Foreign Stores

New York City has long been a city of immigrants, the first stop for the “huddled masses” who got off the boat in Ellis Island. While modern-day Americans like to natter on about how those original huddled masses assimilated themselves immediately while today’s immigrants do not, the truth is that immigrants have long clustered together, creating neighbourhoods that reflect their cultures and remind them of home.

For example, the neighbourhood of Flushing in Queens is primarily Chinese and Korean, and it shows- especially in the Chinese- and Korean-language signs over the doors of shops and restaurants. As Peter Tu, the executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, told the Washington Post :

“People must respect that this is a special area and please respect the Asian culture. They have their own life in this area. When you walk in the street, you don’t feel like you are in America.”

For some New Yorkers, that’s precisely the problem. While many residents embrace the city’s multi-ethnic character, others are annoyed and alienated. In response, the Washington Post reports that two City Councilmen, Dan Halloran and Peter Koo, are drafting legislation that would require translation of foreign-language store signs. Read more

Arab Spring Social Media

We already know the importance of  social media in marketing, brand awareness and communication. Social media now has a major role in democracy and in the fight against repression.

In the recent Arab Spring revolution people used social media to communicate about the facts, to organise struggle against tyranny and to raise awareness worldwide. The world media was then able to take testimonials from places where they were not allowed to report from and inform the international community. Without this, the ONU and OTAN interventions to liberate Arab people from repression may not have taken place. If governments decide to act, it is probably due to people’s opinion.

According to HansardSociety :

“Key tools for the modern revolution are digital because they achieve significant things; first, they bring together otherwise remote and disparate groups. Second, they create channels to bypass traditional state control of the media so the outside world can see what is going on. Alongside traditional activism and action, the tools of the trade today are the internet (for information dissemination and news), social media (to connect and coordinate), mobile phones (to capture what happens) and digital, particularly satellite, television to report it.” Read more

Teaching Language With Twitter

Your mental image of a knight probably includes weapons like a sword or a lance. However, a university professor in the United States just earned a knighthood using more modern weapons, specifically Twitter, Facebook and Skype.  According to WACH, a local Fox News affiliate, Dr. Lara Lomicka Anderson will be knighted by the French government for incorporating these technologies into her foreign language classes.

Dr. Anderson teaches French to students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is being made a Chevalier of the Order des Palmes Academiques for her innovative teaching techniques that include the use of tools like Twitter as well as international travel. As Dr. Anderson explained to WACH,  “One way I do that is through a partnership with a school in France located outside of Paris, and we use all of these technologies to promote a collaborative partnership among students.”

The two schools partner so that the US students can learn French and the French students can learn English. Each student is assigned a partner from the other school. Social networking technologies like Facebook, Skype and Twitter become the glue that hold these partnerships together, giving students a convenient way to practice languages with each other.  After a year’s worth of study, the American students then travel to France to meet their study partners “in real life.”

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques was instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte  to reward those who “advance the French language.”  This won’t be the first award Dr. Anderson has received for her work- according to a press release from the university, she was also awarded the National Award for Excellence in Technology by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language and Cengage Learning in 2008.

Multilingual DVD Production

This page is a step by step guide how we made a Sign Language DVD for the Scottish Prison Service.

The Project

The brief was to produce an interactive DVD containing induction material for a collection of prisons in Scotland. The Scottish Prison Service wanted the DVD to form part of the induction process that all prisoners go through on their first few days in jail. Being in an on-screen format makes the information more understandable (and therefore more valuable) than the printed alternative. Read more

Speaking With Cars

Language is more than just a set of vocabulary words. For example, think of how two different people can say the same thing two different ways. This complexity is what makes it so hard to create adequate machine translation programs, or even to teach machines to recognize spoken commands.

In an attempt to build cars that people can more easily control with their voices, Ford is teaming up with a company called Nuance Communications to address this issue using a technique called “statistical language modeling,” or SLM.

Ford’s SYNC system is one of the car company’s major selling points, allowing drivers to call people, control the stereo and more, without having to take their eyes off the road. However, at the moment, it’s pretty finicky when it comes to the commands it will accept. Ford programs the car to recognize specific recorded commands. If you try to give the car a command in a different format, it won’t respond. Read more

Oaxaca Indigenous Language

The state of Oaxaca is home to 53 percent of Mexico’s indigenous population. Approximately 1,091,502  people in Oaxaca speak an indigenous language in addition to, or instead of, Spanish. The native people of this region have clung fiercely to their ancient traditions and cultures, assisted by the rugged, mountainous terrain that has historically shielded them somewhat from the outside world.

In the past, indigenous Oaxacan parents often chose to home school their children, teaching them practical skills and traditional arts and crafts, rather than send to schools where they would be taught exclusively in Spanish. However, a recent article from the Guardian points out that this strategy is no longer working, and has in fact become counterproductive:

“Self-sufficiency is the historic norm in Oaxaca, but in recent decades as rural life has become increasingly entretejidos – interwoven – with the modern market economy, Zapotec children who have not gone to school are finding themselves on the wrong side of an urban-rural education divide that excludes them from employment and contributes to deepening poverty.”

Read more

Preserving Languages

Every two weeks, another language disappears from the world forever. According to National Geographic, more than half of the world’s 7,000 languages are expected to be extinct by the year 2100. According to Laura Welcher, a linguist with the Long Now Foundation, some experts believe the situation is even more dire, and that 90% of all languages currently spoken will be extinct by the end of the century.

Via the foundation’s Rosetta Project, Welcher is trying to use technology to preserve as many of these languages as possible.  People sometimes question whether dying languages are even worth the effort of trying to save. In an interview with Fast Company, Welcher gave an eloquent explanation:

“If languages are our how-to guides for living on planet earth, and we stand to lose up to 90% of them, then that seems like we are looking at handing our descendants an encyclopedia of human life on Earth with all of the pages ripped out, except sections X, Y, and Z.”

So, how do we preserve sections A through W? Traditionally, linguists have worked one-on-one with speakers of endangered languages, making recordings, encoding rules for grammar and compiling dictionaries. Through the use of technology like cell phones and webcams, Welker envisions a future in which people can document the languages they speak on their own, quickly building storehouses of knowledge for linguists to sift through and organize. She told Fast Company: Read more


Teenagers Save Languages

Kids these days, right? No respect for their elders, no respect for tradition…

If you’ve caught yourself thinking something like this, here’s a nugget of information that might surprise you: Teenagers in several different parts of the world are resurrecting endangered languages, using them for text messaging as well as online communication.

For example, according to, teens in southern Chile have been posting videos on YouTube of themselves rapping in a mixture of Spanish and Huilliche, an indigenous language with only about 2,000 speakers according to Wikipedia. Meanwhile, teens in parts of the Philippines text in  Kapampangan, a regional language. In parts of Mexico, young people similarly use the endangered language of Huave, with only 18,000 speakers, as a code for text messages. Read more

Better Value for Government Translation

This article is a consolidation of the report entitled “Guidance for Local Authorities on Translation of Publications” published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in June 2009. This in turn was based on the Commission on Integration and Cohesion’s final report, Our Shared Future.

Details have been added about the pan-Government agreement for translation services 05/GEN/25, established by the Office of Government Commerce to allow all Local Authorities to use a low cost translation service.

Our Shared Future

The Commission on Integration and Cohesion is a fixed term advisory body, announced by former Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, on 24 August 2006. The Commission considered how local areas can make the most of diversity while being able to respond to the tensions it may cause.

In their report (Our Shared Future) they set out a new framework for local cohesion, this was based around four key principles. Read more

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