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Translation-Glasses

Glasses that Translate Speech?

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but according to Reuters, a Japanese company is developing eyeglasses that can translate speech.

The Tele Scouter consists of a pair of eyeglass frames attached to a microphone and a small computer. A tiny display unit is mounted on to the frames. When someone talks to you in a foreign language, the microphone picks up the sound and sends it to be translated. Then, the translated text is sent back and projected into your peripheral vision, so you can read what the other person said while still maintaining eye contact.

Weird, huh? Kotaro Nagahama, a manager at NEC, the company that’s the developing the glasses, explained the potential advantages of the new technology to Reuters:
“With this you don’t have to think about having to translate your own words. All you have to do is speak and you don’t have to do any thinking. You just use your own language.”

Unfortunately, according to PinkTentacle.com, at this point the devices’ translation capabilities are “insufficient for real-world applications.” So, at least for now, the company is focusing on selling the device to businesses and factories, which can use as a hands-free data display device for workers.

Also, it should be noted that even if the devices’ translation capabilities were spot-on, in order for it to truly useful for travelers, both you and the person you are speaking to need to have a pair of these magic glasses. Unless the company plans to incorporate a way to display what you are saying to the other person in their own language, the Tele Scouter appears to only translate one side of the conversation.  According to Reuters, NEC plans to sell the Tele Scouter for a whopping $83,000, so it’s not likely to gain widespread adoption anytime soon.

What do you think-will this idea ever become more than science fiction?

Australian Robots Develop Their Own Language

Robots are the modern-day version of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. Writers and filmmakers have been fascinated by the idea of machines rising up against us for decades, long before the technology to create intelligent robots was even available.

Now, in a step toward the dystopian future that’s fueled a thousand science fiction films, a pair of Australian robots called “Lingodroids” have been developing their own language. The two robots, which use wheels to move around and sonar to perceive the world around them, are programmed to play games in the which the object is to find one another. This has allowed them to develop a shared vocabulary, which they use to describe their current location.

As project director Ruth Schulz explained to Reuters, at the moment, their vocabulary is quite limited:

“In their current state all they can talk about is spatial concepts, which I think is pretty cool as a starting point. But the important part is that they are forming these concepts, they are starting to really understand what words mean and this is actually all up to the robots themselves.”

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Irregular Verbs Don’t Like Us

Nobody likes irregular verbs. When it comes to learning a new language, these verbs dance to their own drummer, running roughshod over all of the conjugation rules you worked so hard to memorize. Even native speakers sometimes have trouble with them.

As Dr. Spock would say:

“Humans make illogical decisions. So, why do these “illogical” verb forms persist in the language? New research from Oxford University provides us with some clues toward the answer. In a write-up of the study published on the Science Daily website”

Professor Martin Maiden adds:

“Many people will remember groaning at school when faced with irregular French or Spanish verbs and wondering why they were the way they were. Our work helps to explain why they, and their equivalents in many related languages, not only exist but are even reinforced and replicated over time.”

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Languages Sound Faster Than Others‎

Have you ever wondered why some languages sound faster than others? Researchers at the Universite de Lyon may have stumbled on the answer. They analysed several different languages to determine how much information each one was able to stuff into a single syllable. Then, they had speakers of several different languages read the same texts out loud. Each text had been translated so that the participants were all reading in their native languages. Eight languages were studied: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Vietnamese.

After listening to the recordings, the researchers used them to figure out how many syllables were spoken per second for each language. According to a write-up of the study published in Time, that led to an “a-ha” moment of sorts:

“A trade-off is operating between a syllable-based average information density and the rate of transmission of syllables. A dense language will make use of fewer speech chunks than a sparser language for a given amount of semantic information.”

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To Speak Like a Native, Learn Like One

Want to speak a new language like a native? Your best bet may be to forgo classroom lessons in favor of immersion (if possible). That, at least, is the conclusion that a group of researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center came to after reviewing results from a recent study that used brain scans to peek into the heads of language learners.

If you’ve studied a foreign language, you might remember being told to try to think in the new language rather than to think in English and then translate. This is still good advice, and the study shows that is definitely possible for students to begin “thinking” in the new language. Georgetown University Medical Center neuroscience professor Michael Ullman explains:

“In the last few years, research has begun to suggest that adults learning a foreign language can come to rely on the same brain mechanisms as native speakers of a language, and that this might be true even for those parts of a foreign language that are particularly difficult to learn, such as its grammar. We confirmed this in our studies.”

When it comes to foreign languages, do we learn best by explanation or by example? You might think that an explanation of the language’s underlying grammatical structure would be helpful, but this study implied it’s not so. To test, the researchers created a very simple language and taught it to the students both ways. Then, they scanned the subjects’ brains while they used their new language skills. According to Ullman,

“Only the immersion training led to full native-like brain processing of grammar. So if you learn a language you can come to use native language brain processes, but you may need immersion rather than classroom exposure.”

The researchers also found that the people taught in a classroom setting got better at “thinking like a native speaker” after a few months, even though they hadn’t been using the language. Still, those who learned the language via immersion still had an edge.

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Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo

Travel Photography: A simple guide for the social media crowd

Most people take a camera with them on their travels, whether it’s a phone, a compact or a full blown DSLR. Travel photography is now easily accessible to the wide majority, even if just to relive a few memories or to make your Facebook contacts jealous. Read more

The Cherokee Language

In parts of the United States today, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, road signs are marked with unfamiliar symbols that don’t correspond to English letters. Passing through these areas, you may wonder what the symbols mean.

In all likelihood, you are looking at signs written in the Cherokee language, a remarkable example of linguistic resilience. In spite of 100 years worth of efforts to stamp it out, there are still approximately 22,000 native Cherokee speakers alive today.

How did they manage to preserve their language?

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kevin-the-teenager

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 Mobiledia.com, 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

Babies Language

Do sounds have inherent meanings or connotations that influence the development of language? The results of a new study covered on Science Daily suggest that they might – that is, that there are certain sounds that we instinctively associate with specific physical characteristics, like “larger” or “smaller.”

In the article, Marcela Peña of the  International School for Advanced Studies explained that the study sought to answer some big questions:

“What is the nature of language? Is everything symbolic or arbitrary? Or are there particular physical aspects of learning that we exploit” to begin to make sense of a large, complex, and — for a tiny infant — brand-new world.”

To find out, the researchers tested 28 four-month-old infants to see if they associated certain sounds with concepts like “larger” or “smaller.” The babies, all from Spanish-speaking homes, were exposed to a variety of meaningless combinations of consonants and vowel sounds, along with a variety of shapes of differing sizes.  Read more

Texting in Endangered Languages

If you’re trying to preserve an endangered language, technology can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. More and more frequently, however, technology has become an ally in the quest to keep indigenous languages alive. Apps and computer programs have been developed to bring these previously left-behind languages into the digital age. That makes it easier and more practical for people to keep using them.

Indigenous Language Institute executive director Inée Slaughter explained this sea change to the New York Times:

“For a long time, technology was the enemy.  Even in 1999 or 2000, people were saying technology killed their language. Community elders worried about it. As television came into homes, English became pervasive 24/7. Mainstream culture infiltrated, and young kids want to be like that. It was a huge, huge problem, and it’s still there. But now we know ways technology can be helpful.” Read more