Ohio University Teaches Students Quechua

Forget Spanish and French. Starting in the spring semester, Ohio State University is offering classes in Quechua, the language of the ancient Incas.

Why learn Quechua? The language is ancient, but it’s far from dead. The Inca Empire may have collapsed after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America, but the language lives on throughout the Andes. About 10 million indigenous people still speak some variation of Quechua, which is often classified as a language family rather than a distinct language because it contains so many different dialects, some of which are not quite mutually intelligible. Read more

US Department of Defense Seeks Universal Translator

The quest for a machine that can reliably translate between one language and another has been going on since 1954, when IBM translated the first pieces of text from English to Russian. Obviously, a “universal translator” would be a tremendous asset to the military, especially as they often have a scarcity of competent interpreters.

Machine translation has progressed by leaps and bounds, but a truly dependable “universal translator” has not yet been developed. However, the US Department of Defense is not giving up. Darpa, the Defense Department’s research arm, has requested $15 million from the US Congress for a “ Boundless Operational Language Translation” system. Read more

Twitter to Crowdsource Translations

Twitter is quickly becoming an international phenomenon, as its role in uprisings throughout the Middle East illustrates. However, so far Twitter is only offered in 7 languages:  English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

To help make the service available in more languages as quickly as possible, Twitter just launched a new “Translation Center” where users can help translate the product into their own local languages.

Here’s how it works: Volunteers sign in to Twitter, then go to Twitter’s Translation Center to select a language they are fluent in. They can suggest translations for different phrases from the Twitter home page,  Welcome Email, Terms of Service, etc. or vote on translations that others have already suggested. Twitter chooses the best translations for each phrase based on recommendations from the community. Read more

How to Talk to Dolphins

It’s clear that dolphins have a relatively sophisticated way of communicating between themselves. And studies have shown that they have an amazing ability to understand humans as well, even to the point of being able to comprehend the importance of syntax.

Dolphins may have a language of their own, but the physical differences between us and them have kept them from being able to talk back…until now.

Denise Herzing, a biologist with the Wild Dolphin Project, has developed a system of sounds, symbols and props that allow dolphins and humans to communicate simple concepts to each other.

Herzing told Wired that she was inspired to attempt the project when she noticed that wild dolphins would sometimes seek out interaction with humans on their own:

“We thought, ‘This is fascinating, let’s see if we can take it further.’ Many studies communicate with dolphins, especially in captivity, using fish as a reward. But it’s rare to ask dolphins to communicate with us.”

Read more

Translating the Census

The 2011 Census will have you filling out forms and maybe even digging through cupboards. Sounds pretty straightforward right? With good organisation and 30 minutes of your time, you should be just fine. Oh no… Do you speak a language other than English? French? German? Italian? No panic guys, for every problem, there is always a solution! Take a look at how K International helped bridge the diversity of the UK…


Once upon a time…

Everything started when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) knocked on our door back in 2007, we were very excited to hear what they wanted from us. As you can guess, the discussion was all about the Census and the services that we could provide to help making this project as enjoyable as possible for everyone in the country.

Before any major event, there are always several rehearsals and the census is no exception. First, we translated, proofread and typeset the original questionnaire in the 20 languages the ONS identified the most important in order for them to see if they were happy with our process and results.

2008 was around the corner but we managed to “stress test” the process again with more languages this time, you know what they say, the more, the better. 🙂 Read more

Android Market

Google’s Android Market Isn’t Speaking Customers’ Language

When designing a website, users generally prefer it when everything “just works.” Unfortunately, when it comes to translation, trying to guess their needs can backfire if you don’t guess correctly.

That’s a lesson that Web behemoth Google is learning the hard way.  Google just unveiled its new Android Market website last week, hoping to entice customers with Android phones to purchase more apps with an improved shopping experience. Read more

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic All Go Hand in Hand

Starting in school, kids often begin to see themselves as “math people” or “English people” based on aptitudes. But math and language skills are actually more closely related than you’d think. In fact, a new study shows that language skills are a prerequisite for being able to understand numbers.

The study looked at a group of “homesigners” in Argentina. These people were born deaf, but were never taught a structured sign language system like American Sign Language or British Sign Language. Instead, they get by with a system of signs of their own devising. Despite this limitation, the homesigners in the Argentinian study were fairly independent, able to hold jobs and use money. Read more

Translating for ET

Assuming there is actually is intelligent life somewhere else in the universe, how are we supposed to communicate with it? What would we say? “Na-Nu Na-Nu?” “ET phone home?” Without Star Trek’s universal translator, our chances of being understood are frankly not very good.

But that hasn’t stopped dedicated “alien hunters” from trying. According to MSNBC.com, an article recently published in the “Space Policy” journal suggests creating an international protocol for sending messages to aliens, and then  creating a website in which people from all over the world could use the protocol to post their own messages. Read more

Translation Issue Puts Businessman in an Egyptian Jail

An Egyptian-American businessman found himself trapped in an Egyptian jail cell last month, all because of a translation issue. Mostafa Soliman has dual Egyptian and American citizenship and owns an Egyptian health food company called Healthy Harvest. He claims his problems began when he went to Egypt to manage the shipment of a variety of products he imports into Egypt, including hemp oil.

Hemp oil is made from the hemp plant, the same plant that produces marijuana. Unlike weed, hemp oil is not psychoactive. It will not give you a buzz. However, it is highly nutritious, containing all the amino acids you need and a bunch of good-for-you fatty acids as well. It is often sold in health food stores and natural food stores as a supplement. Read more

UK Border Agency Crashes Wedding

They say love transcends language, but when you have to have an interpreter to exchange your wedding vows,  something’s not quite right. That was the opinion of the UK Border Agency as they observed the July 26 “wedding” of Subhani Ahmed, a 33-year-old Pakistani man, and a 35-year-old Slovakian woman.

The two were getting married as an attempt to circumvent UK immigration laws. However, officers working on Operation Relinquish, a government crackdown on sham marriages, were in the audience watching as the two pledged their eternal love for each other –  via an interpreter.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency told the Yorkshire Post:

“The couple, who relied on an interpreter at their wedding to exchange vows and understand the registrar, were unaware of the presence of officers from the UK Border agency’s immigration crime team.”

Read more

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