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Man Deals With Dyslexia by Learning Klingon

According to Wikipedia, between 5 and 10 percent of people are believed to be dyslexic. Dyslexia is a frustrating neurological disorder that affects its victims’ ability to process written language. Dyslexic patients have normal and even high levels of intelligence, but they nonetheless have difficulty reading and writing.

Dyslexia is found across the world, but the manner in which it is expressed and the type of difficulties it produces depend in part on the language the person is trying to learn to read and write. As Wikipedia explains:

“Because different writing systems require different parts of the brain to process the visual notation of speech, children with reading problems in one language might not have a reading problem in a language with a different orthography.”

But can learning another language help English-speaking patients improve their ability to read and write in English? The experience of one man from Milton Keynes suggests that it can. Read more

Star Trek's Universal Translator: Coming Soon to an iPhone Near You?

Remember the Universal Translator from Star Trek? The translator enabled members of the Star Trek crew to understand alien languages as they were spoken. According to Geek.com, there is currently an iPhone app in beta that is reminiscent of the science-fiction device.

The iPhone app from Sakhr Software and Dial Directions, which is being used by US diplomats and soldiers in Iraq, can translate from Arabic to English and back again.

To use it, all you have to do is press a button on the iPhone and speak the phrase that you need to have translated. The app does the rest, using voice recognition algorithms to decipher what you are saying and translate it.

When the translation is complete, the app speaks the phrase in the other language, as well as displaying the translated version on the screen. Unlike earlier pocket translation programs, you don’t have to type anything.

Unlike most computerized translation programs, this one is actually pretty accurate, and based on this video demonstration, can even translate relatively difficult and complicated sentences.

As cool as it would be to have this on your own iPhone, it’s not available to the general public yet. But just imagine how much easier it would be to travel to another country if you had one of these!

Of course, I can’t see this app completely replacing trained, fluent and human interpreters who understand the nuances of both languages and cultures. Also, even if devices like this become common, it would still be preferable to learn as much of the language of the country you are visiting as possible. After all, most people prefer it when you talk to them, not to a machine. However, I think a pocket translator like this could make learning another language easier if you tried to learn from it instead of using it as a crutch.

The Top 5 Star Trek Languages

This September, we’re celebrating two important birthdays. On the first of the month, K International turned 30. Meanwhile, September 7th was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.  In honor of the latter occasion, let’s take a look at some of the most memorable Star Trek languages, and the alien races that speak them.

Klingon

Spoken by: The Klingons TNG-redemption_worf_and_gowron

Klingon is the most famous of the Star Trek languages. It is a fully fledged constructed language, which means it has a set grammar, syntax and vocabulary.  You could learn it yourself, if you wanted to invest the time and impress the opposite gender at your local Star Trek convention.

Learning Klingon is not easy. Although the language only has 3,000 words, it was designed to be as different from most human languages as possible. It is guttural and harsh. And don’t expect it to be appreciated outside of your local Star Trek convention; actors speaking Klingon (as well as those around them) routinely have to have spittle wiped off of them between takes. Apparently, the Klingon race has never heard the saying “Say it, don’t spray it.”

There are an estimated 20-30 people who speak it fluently.  One man actually went so far as to try to raise his son as a bilingual Klingon native speaker, but it didn’t work.

You can read The Epic of Gilgamesh, HamletMuch Ado About Nothing and the Tao Te Ching in Klingon translations, and there is actually a Klingon version of A Christmas Carol. 

Want to learn more? Check out the Klingon Language Institute. Read more

Klingon Opera Heads to Germany

In the realm of fantasy and science fiction, Star Trek fans are justly recognized for their unwavering, some would say obsessive, fandom. The latest manifestation of this obsession? An opera written and performed entirely in Klingon.

Why not? It’s not like anyone most people can understand the words in a normal opera, anyway.

The opera, called “u,” which apparently translates to “universal,” just finished a run at the Zeebelt theater in the Hague, and will be performed next in Germany on September 25 for a group of wannabe Klingons.

According to the “u” website, the opera was written based on “some fragments of a masterpiece of the batlh jachlut or Honorable Battle opera” with the help of Marc Okrand, the creator of the Klingon language.

Here’s a brief plot summary, again from the “u” website.

“The libretto of ‘u’ is based on the epos of Kahless the unforgettable. Betrayed by his brother and witness to his father’s brutal slaying, Kahless is pitted against his bitter enemy the mighty tyrant Molor. To regain his honor he must travel into the underworld, create the first Bat’leth, be united with his true love the lady Lukara and fight many epic battles.”

Sounds like geek catnip to me. Read more

Star Trek: The next generation of gadgets

According to National Geographic, every 14 days another language passes into oblivion. New languages are created at a much slower rate. Usually, new languages evolve naturally from older languages over time. On the other hand, sometimes new languages are simply created from fiction. These languages are called constructed languages. One of the most commonly spoken constructed languages is Klingon, the language spoken by Klingons in Star Trek.

Star Trek is known for having the most rabid set of fans ever, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Klingon has become a language with its own dictionary, an organisation called the Klingon Language Institute that was founded to promote it, translated editions of Gilgamesh and plays by Shakespeare, and now, a keyboard that’s lettered exclusively in Klingon.

DVICE has a review of the keyboard that begins with the question “Are you one of the biggest nerds in the world?” If you are a fluent Klingon speaker who has always wanted to be able to express your thoughts more fluently in Klingon, this keyboard is for you.

DVICE gave it a low rating because of its limited utility for the rest of us puny earthlings, but what’s really interesting about their review is the comments section, which quickly turns into a lively debate over whether or not Klingon is a “real” language.

So, is Klingon a “real” language? Yes and no. It’s a constructed language, true, but according to Wikipedia there are at least 12 people who can speak it fluently. This means that in the sense that it can be used by two people to communicate, it is a real language. However, it’s missing one of the key features of a natural language, the ability to evolve over time.

Klingon vocabulary is limited to official Klingon words supplied by its creator, Marc Okrand. He adds new words to the language every so often, but the language doesn’t evolve without his approval.

It will be interesting to see how long Klingon survives under these circumstances…will anyone still speak Klingon generations from now? What happens to the language after its creator passes on?