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.

Language Learning Company Connects Students with Native Speakers

Fluency in a foreign language is an excellent, useful skill to have. Unfortunately, many teenagers see language learning as just another chore, especially if they are having difficulty grasping the concepts.

Studies have shown that listening to native speakers makes it easier for your brain to pick up a new language. However, it’s hard to get interested in a TV show when you don’t understand what’s going on.

Human interaction is one of the best ways to create interest in learning another language. After all, if you’re just learning the language to pass a test, or satisfy a school requirement, it’s easy to get bored with it. If you’re actually trying to use it to communicate with another person, learning a second language becomes much more satisfying.
Enter Learnosity, a company that produces language learning software.

The Journal reports that Learnosity is partnering with Voxbone, a company that provides toll-free numbers for international calls, to connect students from different countries.

Currently, students can call a Voxbone number and become part of a conference call with other students to practice speaking the language they are studying. Learnosity then provides teachers with an interface that tracks who is saying what and allows each student to be graded individually.

One of Learnosity’s goals, however, is to expand the concept so that students can call native speakers of the language they are studying and talk to them directly.

The idea is that students could use their own cell phones or phones provided by the school to call students in a different country and practice speaking the language. Each student would get a chance to practice speaking the other student’s language. Since Learnosity is partnering with Voxbone, the calls would be billed as local calls instead international long distance.

Learnosity’s CEO, Gavin Cooney, explained the value of the program to The Journal, saying “We can’t provide every student in a country with a laptop, broadband connection and headsets, but we can easily put a phone in the hands of every student. In fact, they already have one in most cases. Also, there is no learning curve for the student. And teachers don’t have to book computer facilities within the school; they just ask the students to take out their phones and dial in. This removes a significant barrier to entry.”
Of course, for this to work in countries like the US, schools would have to start allowing cell phones in class or provide special pre-paid phones specifically for these calls. Still, most teenagers love to talk on the phone, and this program would probably make language classes a little bit more exciting for the students involved.

International Mother Language Day

The 21st February was the tenth International Mother Language Day. The day was officially named so by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

There are 6,000+ languages around the world and many of them are in increasing danger of becoming extinct. 2,500 languages are officially listed as endangered. According to UNESCO there are 5 levels of language strength. These are, unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct.

Worrying Statistics from the UNESCO

•    200 languages have become extinct in the last 3 generations.

•    538 languages are officially critically endangered

•    502 languages are severely endangered

•    632 languages are definitely endangered

•    607 languages are unsafe

The International Mother Language Day was set up to encourage people to take an interest in there mother tongue language. It is important that we do not let these languages become extinct.

In the UK the dominant language is English but there are many other languages which are slowly disappearing. Welsh is slowly being forgotten despite desperate efforts by the Welsh Assembly Government to increase awareness and even making it compulsory for commercial companies to have their welsh documents translated and interpretation facilities readily available.

Two old UK dialects are already extinct and have been since around the 1950’s. They are Manx (Spoken in the Isle of White) and Cornish (Spoken in Cornwall). Yola which is spoken in southern Ireland is also extinct.

International Mother Language Day is celebrated all over the world. Its objective is to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. Many countries have built monuments to help raise awareness and conserve their mother languages.

It is important that we recognise the importance of our ancestral languages and learn from older generations, keeping as many languages as possible alive.