Malaysian Defence Awkward Translation

Last week, the Malaysian Ministry of Defense posted an English translation of its dress code for employees on its web site. Unfortunately, it appears that they didn’t make arrangements to have the translation work done by a competent translator. The results were predictably hilarious and awkward.

Some of the issues stemmed from simply atrocious grammar. For example, this rather convoluted sentence comes from a screen grab of the web pages in question, now hosted on Scribd since the originals have been taken down:

“Therefore, how to dress and clothes are clean, tidy and appropriate to be standard practice is emphasized to the officers and staff.”

Well, then. That’s enough to give any English teacher a fit, but at least you get the gist of it. But, it gets worse. Women working at the Malaysian Ministry of Defense are advised not to wear “Clothes that poke eye” or “Dress up that thought it seems to want to attend a party or picnic.” Read more

Father Builds Inuit Video Game

When it comes to protecting threatened languages, technology can be a double-edged sword. It can serve to discourage young people from speaking the language of their parents and grandparents, or it can provide tools to help them learn it and space for them to practice it.

Here’s one especially sweet example of how technology can help preserve indigenous languages: an Inuit father named Qajaaq Ellsworth is in the process of developing a video game for young children ages three to seven, the same age range as his little girl. The video game, called Ilinniarnaqsivuq (Time for School), has two goals. The first is to help children get a head start on school by teaching them about colours, numbers, animals, weather and how to navigate the classroom setting.  The second is to help children practice these concepts in three languages: English and the Inuit dialects of  Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. Read more

Recovering Aboriginal Languages

In Australia, English is by far the most commonly spoken language. Of course, that wasn’t always so.  According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, before Europeans set foot there, about 250 languages were spoken, divided into at least 500 different dialects.

Many of those languages are completely extinct. As it stands now, only about 15 of them are still taught to children, which is necessary for any language to survive long-term.

However, indigenous activists like Diane McNaboe are leading an effort to recover some of these lost languages. McNaboe is a member of the Wiradjuri people, an indigenous group living in New South Wales. Although their language was once effectively dead, Ms. McNaboe is one of a group of activists trying to piece it back together. In an interview with, she explained her efforts to recover the lost words her ancestors spoke by asking for help from local communities: 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

Japan fbomb

No matter where you are these days, it seems that holiday advertising has become increasingly in-your-face: flashing lights, signs that shout at you, and of course Christmas carols played at the highest possible volume starting sometime around Halloween. Leave it to a department store in Japan (where else?) to take it to the next level.

Two readers of the Japanese Subculture blog were strolling around Shinsaibashi, Osaka, when they came upon a store having a New Year’s sale that featured deals so huge that apparently the only way the store could properly advertise them was to festoon their signs with one of comedian George Carlin’s seven dirty English words. As Japanese Subculture’s Jake Adelstein so eloquently put it, this was “no ordinary sale- it’s an effin sale!” Read more

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