Twitter is Changing Language

One of the most intimidating parts of learning to use Twitter is the lingo. Confronted by words like “retweet,” “hashtag” and the “Twittersphere,” new users often find themselves wondering:

“What language are these people speaking?”

English, as it turns out – Twitter is just changing the way we speak it, adding new vocabulary words and even influencing the way people talk and write when they aren’t using the service. No less an authority than the Oxford Dictionary just added the words “Twittersphere” and “ZOMG” to the lexicon, according to Time Magazine.

Meanwhile, digital anthropologist Brian Solis observes that the popular social networking service  is also changing the way people communicate outside of Twitter, even offline:

“At some point, a chasm emerges between those who use Twitter and those who do not. In other channels where Twitter users and other non-users are connected, for example email or text messaging,  the culture of conversation becomes noticeably divergent. To begin with, Twitter users, like texters, are groomed to speak with brevity.”

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Star Wars + Vikings = Awesome!

If there were an award given out for the geekiest translation project ever, I think I might just have found a contender: Tattúínárdœla Saga, the “Star Wars” story rewritten in the style of the Old Norse Sagas and translated into Old Norse as well.

The saga is the brainchild of Jackson Crawford, a grad student going for his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It’s a fun re-imagining of the classic films, and a vast improvement over those awful prequels. Personally, I found it particularly satisfying to read that “Jarjari Georgsson,” the Jar-Jar Binks character, gets “killed by Anakinn in an early berserker rage.” Seriously, I want Episodes I-III remade, Viking-style.

This isn’t simply the original Star Wars story re-written in Old Norse, either (although that would still be kind of cool). Crawford changes the setting to around 1200 AD, in the North Atlantic. So, the characters sail in longboats instead of flying in spaceships, the two droids are re-imagined as Irish slaves or thralls, and Lúkr Anakinsson fights with a sword called “Light saber the Green” instead of an actual light saber. Read more

Automatic Sign Language

We’ve all seen TV shows and movies make use of subtitles for the hearing impaired. However, for many deaf people, it takes more effort to decode the English words used in the subtitles than it would to understand the material if it were presented in their native tongue: sign language.

In an attempt to address this issue, the NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories just released some interesting new technology: a system that automatically translates spoken language into  sign language using an animated virtual avatar.

As the researchers who developed the system explained to Akihabara News, “Subtitles are fine for people who understand Japanese, and who lost their hearing at some point. Meanwhile, people who are deaf from birth learn sign language first, naturally they study Japanese after that, but they find that sign language is easier to understand than subtitles, so we are conducting research in sign language.” Read more

Akkadian Dictionary Finally Published

Over 4,000 years after the death of Sargon the Great, scholars have finally finished compiling a dictionary for the Akkadian language.

The Akkadian language is probably the first language in the world that was written down, using a set of small, stylized pictures called cuneiform. From its origins in the ancient city-state of Akkad in what is now Iraq, use of the language spread along with Sargon’s empire to cover much of the Middle East. The Code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest known written legal codes, was written in this language.

Speaking to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Gil Stein, head of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, which compiled the dictionary, explained the project’s importance:

“The Assyrian Dictionary gives us the key into the world’s first urban civilization. Virtually everything that we take for granted … has its origins in Mesopotamia, whether it’s the origins of cities, of state societies, the invention of the wheel, the way we measure time, and most important the invention of writing. If we ever want to understand our roots, we have to understand this first great civilization.”

Work on the dictionary started in 1921. Back then, scholars thought they were looking at the Assyrian language, so the project is called the “Chicago Assyrian Dictionary” even though the language in question was later found to be Akkadian, of which Assyrian is simply a dialect.  Read more

Russian Language Day Was June 6th

According to The Voice of Russia, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev recently declared a new holiday: June 6th, Russian Language Day. The intention of the holiday is to:

“preserve, support and develop the Russian language as the Russian people’s national heritage, a means of international communication and an inalienable part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the world civilization.”

Why June 6th? That’s the birthday of Alexander Pushkin, generally considered to be Russia’s greatest poet and playwright. According to Wikipedia, most of the English-speaking world knows Pushkin’s name but not his work, simply because the language he used contains layers of meaning that don’t translate well. For example, when Vladimir Nabokov attempted to translate Pushkin’s short 100-page novel “Eugene Onegin” into English, he ended up with a dense, two-volume tome.

To celebrate the occasion, Medvedev spent the day at the Alexander Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, according to In a speech, he stressed the importance of preserving the language, telling the audience:

“We need to look after our cherished Russian language, and not just on special dates of course, but all the time. The president can announce a symbolic event such as this, but looking after our language is something we all need to do every day, after all, every person living in our country uses the Russian language.”

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Lady Gaga Wants To Learn Sign Language

Lady Gaga has been branded as the new “Queen of Pop Music” and a music phenomenon of her generation with a string of hits: “just dance” , “bad romance”, “poker face “and more recently “Judas”. Since 2005 she has sold more than 6 million albums worldwide.

However, underneath the surface gloss, glamour and eccentricity, there beats the heart of a true philanthropist who has contributed to various charities and humanitarian works as well as campaigning for gay rights in America and the fight against HIV. The last year, Lady Gaga held a benefit concert to aid in the reconstruction of Haiti after the devastating earthquake claimed an estimated quarter of a million lives.

More recently, Lady Gaga has expressed a desire to learn sign language so she can communicate with her deaf fans. A source told The Sun newspaper :

“Now she wants to make sure her deaf fans feel included too. Once she’s mastered sign language she’ll be able to respond to the videos that are online, and include signing in future live tours.”

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Google +1 on K International's blog

We have added the google +1 to the top right hand corner of all pages on our blog. So if you like an article click on the button to vote for it. It helps us by appearing higher in the rankings and helps you to share great content with your friends and family.

The video below (from google) explains more about the +1 button.

I’m hoping that you find the new +1 addition to K International useful. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, ideas and suggestions. Comment are live below.


We have also just added the +1 button to the rest of the site (along with a tweet button). See image below for location.


Understanding Metaphors

People in every culture use metaphors and other figurative language to express themselves.  For example, in English we say “he is a pig” to indicate someone who is gluttonous or slovenly. What does it mean that we say “pig” instead of, say, “dog?” What does our use of that particular metaphor say about us as a culture?  Does it say anything at all?

The US government believes that it does. According to The Atlantic, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is giving out grants as part of a program to “understand how speakers of Farsi, Russian, English, and Spanish see the world by building software that automatically evaluates their use of metaphors.”

The grants could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The idea behind the investment is that if you can understand the metaphors people use and how those metaphors affect the way they perceive the world, you can alter the way you present your ideas and proposals so that they are more likely to be accepted. Building a database of metaphors and their meanings also makes it easier to use computers to accurately parse written texts, which is important since the US has a perennial shortage of human translators in certain languages. Read more

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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Jersey Shore goes to Italy

For two years, MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore has been offending Italian-American advocacy groups (and intelligent life-forms in general) with its portrayal of a group of young Italian-American adults chosen primarily for their addiction to tanning salons, ability to consume large amounts of alcohol and propensity for drama.

Now, MTV has decided to help the Jersey Shore cast get “back to their roots” by moving the show to Florence, Italy for a season. However, if the cast was expecting a warm welcome in the “old country,” they’ve no doubt been disappointed.  In the process, they’re learning the heard way about the differences between the Italian culture they’re living in now and the Italian-American culture they grew up in.

The New York Post notes that Italians seem to see the show as an insult:

“Their stay has yielded one cultural insult after another for Italians, who fail to identify with the “Guido” mantra of palestra, abbronzatura, lavanderia (gym, tan, laundry). On Day 1, the Italian press labeled them “supercafoni,” or superboors.”

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