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Your End-of-Summer Language News Digest

And just like that, summer is over.  Feeling left behind? Here are 7 interesting stories about language and translation to keep you in the know!

Britney Spears’ French Teacher is Probably Dying of Shame Right Now 

8514687036_83acba7062_bSo, this week Britney Spears released a new album. One of the songs, “Coupure Electrique,” is sung entirely in French. How sophisticated! Except she obviously didn’t get a French translator to help with the lyrics. To quote Bustle,

“The French lyrics in this track are not actually grammatically correct, so a direct translation would result in English lyrics that actually don’t really make that much sense.”

But if you’re interested in what she’s trying to say, Bustle does a good job of trying to parse the lyrics into understandable English.

United States Finally Settles on a Spanish Translation of the Miranda Warning

26682691294_385a8a19c4_bIf you’ve watched an American cop show, you’ve heard it: The Miranda warning, which advises suspects being placed under arrest that they have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, etc.

But if what if the suspect doesn’t speak English? The US now has the world’s second-largest population of Spanish speakers. Only Mexico has more. But until this month, the US did not have a standard translation of the Miranda warning. And that has caused all sorts of problems. According to Vice, there have been “dozens of instances of bad translations, including the use of Spanglish, and completely made-up Spanish words like “silento.” (The Spanish word for silent is “silencio.”)

Finally, a half-century after the Miranda warning became the law of the land and standard police operating procedure, the American Bar associaton has voted to create a standard Spanish-language Miranda warning.  Read more

Google Translate Vs. Sir Mix-a-lot, RuPaul Gets Lost in Translation, and More: 10 Language Stories to Read Right Now

Happy Monday! Looking for something to read while you readjust to the working world? Here are 10 interesting, funny or thought-provoking stories from the language and translation world to make you seem like the most interesting person in the room:

ET, Phone Home 

If extraterrestrials ever make contact, how in the world would we speak to them? According to Carl DeVito, a math professor at the University of Arizona, mathematics might be the key to communicating with ET. And he’s developed a math-based language that could, in theory, allow us to discuss physics with an alien race.

Japanese Prisoners Get a Translation Upgrade

Even prisoners deserve help in their own language. But deploying interpreters efficiently can be difficult. Japan is addressing the issue by providing prisoners access to translation services using video phones and tablets. This will also make it easier for families of non-Japanese inmates to visit their loved ones since they are not allowed in without an interpreter to help prison officials monitor their conversation.

Baby Got What? Google Translate Mixes Up Sir Mix-A-Lot On the Tonight Show


What happens when Google Translate gets hold of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s classic “Baby Got Back?” Somehow, “I love big butts and I cannot lie” becomes “I love large saplings that is the truth . . .”

And that’s just the beginning. Watch the video to see Jimmy Fallon and Idris Elba sing Google Translated versions of songs by Sir Mix-a-Lot, Britney Spears, and Boyz II Men. Read more

Your Language News Digest: 6 Stories to Read Now

With so much going on in the world right now, it’s no wonder if you haven’t been keeping up with all the latest language and translation stories. Let’s get you caught up, shall we? Here are 6 fun and interesting language news articles from the past month.

Language News: A New English Translation of Saddam Hussein, Just in Time for Christmas

Apparently, George R.R. Martin has some competition from beyond the grave, from one of the world’s most notorious dictators. UK publishing house Hesperus has announced it will be publishing an English translation of a Saddam Hussein novella in December 2016. Just what you wanted in your stocking, right?

According to the Guardian, “Hesperus described the book as “a mix between Game of Thrones and the UK House of Cards-style fiction”, and said it was full of political intrigue.”

The book is being used to launch an imprint focusing on “Eastern” literature. Which raises the question: Couldn’t Hesperus have found a more deserving author to honor?

Given that the New York Times called it “a forgettable piece of pulp,” it seems safe enough to assume that Hesperus isn’t publishing the novella for its literary merit.

So, who should they have gone with instead? Suggest your favorite un- or under-translated “Eastern” author in the comments!

Read more here. Read more

8 Stories About Language and Translation for September

Are you having trouble getting over the hump this week? Could you use some midweek motivation? Why not take a few minutes to catch up on all the news you’ve missed over the past month from the world of language and translation? We’ve handpicked 8 interesting stories, so grab a cup of your favorite pumpkin spice-flavored beverage, sit back, relax and enjoy:

Should you learn a local dialect instead of a global language?

That’s the idea behind this article from Quartz. The article posits that since Google Translate already has global languages covered (yeah, right!), it makes more sense to learn a local language like Welsh or Irish instead.

We’re all for more people learning smaller local languages, obviously. But machine translation still has a long way to go, and it will be a long time, if ever, before being able to speak another global language becomes an “obsolete” skill.

That said, there’s evidence that once you’re fluent in two languages, it’s easier to pick up a third. So, maybe you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Looking for some global language learning suggestions?  See The Top Languages To Learn in 2017 Read more