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Top 3 Language Translation Traveller Apps

In today’s digitally connected age we are fortunate to have connectivity and access to our smart phone/tablet of choice virtually everywhere we travel. Regardless of location, in most instances we will be able to utilise our smart phones and tablets in some capacity. One of the advantages of this new era in technology is that the savvy traveller can now take advantage of the many wonderful applications designed to enhance any type of trip. When it comes to traveling to new lands it is always handy to have easy to use, informative and fast language translation tools at your fingertips.

As technology tears down cultural boundaries it is now becoming much easier to communicate across borders. Smart phones and tablets are now more then ever before allowing for language barriers to be broken in ways we never once imagined. If you’re like me and seem to not be able to go anywhere without your personal electronic devices then this is a great opportunity to review some of top language translation applications currently available.

Obviously (and I’m not just saying this because I’m biased) none of these will replace or do the same job as a professional translator or interpreter. But if you need to get by and/or want to have some fun while you’re on your travels these will help. So here you go… 3 language translation apps for the modern traveller. Read more

Atlas

UNESCO to Release New Language Atlas

Earlier today, the AP reported on UNESCO’s release of the third edition of its Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. The atlas is available online for free, and a print version will be released in May.

The atlas maps the location and gives details about each of the 2,500 languages that linguists classify as endangered or are already extinct.

According to UNESCO, these languages will probably vanish before the end of the century if efforts are not made to preserve them now.

What languages are on the list, and where are they spoken?

Endangered languages are everywhere, actually. If you look up UK on the Atlas, you’ll see 12 languages. Four of these, Norn, Manx, Cornish and Alderney French, are already extinct. Scots and Welsh are rated as “unsafe,” while Yiddish, Romany, Irish and Scottish Gaelic show up as “definitely endangered.” Guernsey French and Jersey French are severely endangered.

The US has 191 endangered languages, mostly belonging to Native American tribes like the Menominee, which has 35 native speakers remaining. Sioux, the language of the great Native American chief Sitting Bull, is listed as “unsafe” with 25,000 speakers.

Then, there are languages like Silbo Gomero, spoken by about 1,000 people on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. This language is made up entirely of whistles, to help shepherds communicate over long distances on the island. However, Silbo Gomero may benefit from the efforts of Busuu.com, a language learning website based in Spain that teaches endangered languages to people all over the world.

Can the Internet help preserve this language?

In the Associated Press article referenced above, Francoise Riviere, deputy director of culture at UNESCO, said “We are trying to teach people that the language of the country from where we come is important, and what counts is being proud of one’s own language.”

Hopefully, projects like Busuu.com can help people learn to take pride in their native languages. Having people across the globe learn endangered languages like Silbo Gomero can certainly help preserve a record of the language, but what’s really important is that the people of La Gomera keep speaking it and passing along to their children.

Preserving languages isn’t just about the number of speakers-it’s also about keeping the culture of the people speaking the language intact.

Postmaster Loses Job after Foreign Language Ban

Bloglingua previously reported the news about the Postmaster from Nottingham who refused to serve some customers as they were unable to communicate in English.

Mr Kumarasiri was moved to new post office, on his request. He has now been told by the agency which employed him that his contract will not be renewed.

The BBC reported Mr Kumarasiri as saying, “I was forced out by a small minority of people who don’t want to integrate into society.”

Mr Kumarasiri claims that he has been threatened by people in the community and the local Muslim leaders began a petition against him. Polish migrants have reportedly also been boycotting the store as well.

The Post Office has said that the postal service they provide is for everyone and they are very concerned about the impact this incident may have on trade. The Post Office is part of Royal Mail which has been a constitution in the United Kingdom (UK) for many years. Despite its recent money troubles the company continues to operate providing a service for everyone in the UK.

What about tourists?

When we go on holiday we expect people to give us a bit of slack with the local language and be polite and helpful.

It seems obvious though when reading Mr Kumarasiri’s argument that he was specifically referring to people who have moved to the UK from abroad to live. His frustration is that he worked hard to take on the British way of life and he wishes those coming to the UK these days would give the country the same respect.

Languages in New Guinea

Languages in New Guinea

Which country has the highest number of different languages within its borders? Surprisingly, the answer is not China, India or any other large country.

Tiny Papua New Guinea is all of 462,840 square kilometres in size, about as big as the state of California. Despite its small size, it is the most linguistically diverse country on the planet. According to the Ethnologue website, there are approximately 6,912 known living languages in the world today.

The exact number is subject to change as new languages are discovered and other languages become extinct. Of those 6,912 languages, 820 of them are spoken in Papua New Guinea. Can you imagine 820 languages being spoken in one country?

 

Why so Many?

There are a couple of reasons that New Guinea has so many different languages. For one thing, the island has been occupied by human beings for a long time-at least 40,000 years!

This means that there has been plenty of time for the language or languages spoken by the original settlers to change and mutate. In fact, even though the same group of people populated New Guinea and Australia, after 40,000 years there are very few similarities between native Australian languages and native New Guinea languages. Over the millennia, they have grown so far apart that they are not even considered part of the same language family.

The territory of New Guinea is also extremely fragmented. New Guinea villages are cut off from their neighbours by a variety of obstacles, including steep mountains, dense forests, rivers and treacherous swamps. Because of this fragmentation, New Guinea has many small indigenous groups with vastly different lifestyles, all having lived in relative isolation from each other for thousands and thousands of years.

Small tribes of people live by fishing on the coasts, by farming at higher elevations, and by gathering sago palms for food in the lowland swamps. Over many centuries, each of these tiny groups has developed its own culture and in many cases its own language.

In New Guinea, most languages have a relatively small number of native speakers. The native New Guinea language with the highest number of speakers is Enga, spoken by approximately 165,000 members of a nomadic tribe called the Maramuni. In so many cases, countries are only held together by a common language. In New Guinea, shared land and a shared history as an Australian colony create a tenuous bond between the citizens.

Still, how do they communicate?

Map of Papau New Guinea

New Guinea has 3 official languages: Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, andEnglish.

Tok Pisin is an English-based Creole, a language that started out as a combination of two different languages and evolved into a distinct language of its own. In New Guinea, around 121,000 people grew up speaking Tok Pisin as a first language, but 4 million of the country’s residents are fluent in it.

If you need to be able to communicate in New Guinea, Tok Pisin is probably the best language to learn. Hiri Motu is a pidgin, a combination of the Motu language with English, Tok Pisin and various other regional languages. Very few people grow up speaking Hiri Motu, but approximately 120,000 New Guineans understand it as a second language. Because it is not spoken as a first language, it cannot be considered a Creole language at this time.

According to the New York Times, one of the world’s languages is lost forever every two weeks. New Guinea’s linguistic diversity has so far been protected by the inaccessibility of much of the country, as well as the fact that many people in New Guinea think of themselves as members of their tribe first and their nation second.

Hopefully, as New Guinea becomes more and more modern in the years to come, its rich linguistic heritage will remain intact.

Talk like a Pirate Day

Avast! Ahoy there all ye heartie land lubbers, swashbucklers and buccaneers! It be International Talk like a Pirate Day on the ‘morrow. Shiver me timbers! Gaarrrrr!

Tomorrow (19th Sept) is talk like a pirate day. This is a world wide event which is very popular in the USA. Check out talklikeapirate.com for more info on events happening in your area.

Arrrrre ye ready for TLAPD 2009?!

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.”

Ancient Humans May Have Developed Language Capabilities From Tool Use

Some things just go together: Cookies and milk. Peanut butter and jelly. Language and tools. Wait a minute…language and tools? Yes, according to the Guardian, scientists are now saying that language development and tool use went hand in hand as humans evolved.

The tools made by the earliest humans were quite simple-really just sharp flakes of stone used for cutting. As time went on, though, early humans began to develop tools that were both more useful and more complex to make, like hand axes. Scientists were not sure whether the improved tools came into being because humans became smarter or because they became more dextrous. Now, a study from the Imperial College in London may have provided an answer. Read more

Language of Texting

Are text messages and IMs killing the English language? Your former English professor may have thought so, citing the common use of abbreviations like “LOL” as a sign of the “dumbing down” of our culture and perhaps of the coming apocalypse. However, experts who study the history of language are more inclined to see SMS-speak (also known as “computer mediated communication” or CMC for short) as part of the natural evolution of the English language.

For example, Sali Tagliamonte, linguistics professor at the University of Toronto, told the Toronto Star that complaints about CMC are no more than the linguistic version of “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!”  She says:

“People have always complained about the kids’ use of language. But there are never going to be any changes in language, made voluntarily, that impede understanding. The kids are further ahead in language exchange than older people.”

According to Tagliamonte, people start using new words primarily because they fill a need – in this case, the need to communicate using a keyboard as quickly and concisely as possible. Read more

Facebook Translates Comments

Facebook already connects hundreds of millions of users around the globe, and the site itself has been translated into more than 70 different languages. Now, it looks like the popular website may take its efforts to break down language barriers between users to another level by offering automatic translations for comments.

At the moment, the feature is only available to some users. When it’s active, it allows users to see translated versions of comments written in an unfamiliar language, as well to switch back and forth between the translation and the original comment. The translation program doesn’t work all the time, but when it does work it is apparently even able to translate some slang terms. So far, it’s been spotted translating Hebrew, French, Spanish, and Chinese. Read more

A Bounty on Engrish

Visitors to South Korea, take note. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has set a bounty on the awkward, low-quality translations known as “Engrish.” These malapropisms are a prime source of amusement for tourists abroad in Asian countries (see The Top 10 Asian English Translation Failures for examples), but locals are generally somewhat embarrassed by their existence. Plus, when you’re a tourist trying to navigate a foreign country, mistranslations don’t help.

It’s understandable, then, that the KTO would make it a priority to improve the quality of translations available to tourists. What’s interesting is the way in which they are going about it. As CNNGo reports, from now until December 14th, you can go to the Visit Korea website and submit pictures of translation mistakes from any tourist site in South Korea. When you do, you’ll be entered to win the Korean equivalent of a $45 gift card, accepted anywhere credit cards are taken. Read more