Should Computer Languages Count as Foreign Languages?

In the UK, the government is struggling to encourage more students to pick up a foreign language. Across the pond in the United States, however, some legislators are taking a different tack: allowing students to learn a computer language instead of a foreign language.  The states of Texas and Oklahoma were the first to allow students to substitute. Now, New Mexico and Kentucky are jumping on the bandwagon.

Should learning a computer language count as learning a foreign language? Why not encourage students to learn both?  In New Mexico, at least, funding appears to be the main issue.  Senator Jacob Candelaria, the senator who proposed the measure, told the Albuquerque Journal that computer classes would not necessarily replace all foreign language instruction:

“Districts could still teach Latin, French or Spanish, but it provides the incentive for them to incorporate (computer) coding into their curriculum without it being an unfunded mandate.” Read more

Travelling with Google Translate

Going travelling? Rich recently covered why you might be wary about using Google Translate for business materials, but what about personal travel?

Google Translate’s mobile apps promise to replace bulky phrasebooks and time spent memorizing key phrases with instant, real-time automatic translation. The question is, do they live up the hype? Looking at recent tests of the service, the answer is clearly “it depends.” Google may aspire to build Star Trek’s “Universal Translator,” but they’re not there yet.

 LA Times writer Sarah Hashim-Waris recently took the app on a test drive during a trip to Tokyo, where she was more often than not left struggling to communicate and dependent on the kindness of bilingual strangers. She describes one particularly egregious example here:

“’You are using me kimono I think Nishika. Kimono Nishihata large four.’ Say what? These were the responses from a shopkeeper in the Asakusa district, who spoke only Japanese, when I asked him about the items he sold in his traditional kimono store. Or at least that’s what Google Translate told me he said. What the patient shopkeeper was trying to say was that he designed the pieces he sold in the store – something I wouldn’t have been able to pick up from what Google Translate relayed to me, if some English speaker hadn’t kindly stepped in.”

The quality of translation depends on the languages you’re translating between, as this comparison from The New York Times shows. And to be fair, The Frugal Traveler used the Google Translate app on an off-the-beaten path assignment in China and found it quite adequate, with a little bit of prep work to save frequently translated phrases. Still, even the Frugal Traveler recommended carrying a phrasebook for backup.

Have you used Google Translate’s app while traveling? How did it work for you?

Agile Localization at Tekom India

Micro blog post to announce that I’ll be talking about Agile Localization Practices and Leadership at this year’s Tekom India in Bangalore next month.

It’ll be my first time in Bangalore but judging by the video they sure know how to party.

Hope to see you there!


Movie Title Translations, Israeli Edition

Need something fun to kick off your weekend? Here’s a list of Israeli translations of American movie titles. Can you guess what the original movies were? Scroll down below the fold for the answers!

  1. “The Date That Screwed Me”
  2. “The Gun Died Laughing”
  3. “Crazy About the Moon” and the sequel, “Crazy About the Minions”
  4. “Breaking the Ice”
  5. “It’s Raining Falafel”
  6. “Agitated Women”
  7. “American Dream”
  8. “Woman of Valor”
  9. “Dancing with Pilots” and its sequel, “Dancing with Fighters”
  10. “Lost in Tokyo”
  11. “The 8th Passenger, 3”
  12. “Before the Wedding We Stop in Vegas”
  13. “Some Kind of Police Woman”

Read more

A Language for Smells

We use our sense of smell all the time, even when we aren’t aware of it. In fact, most of what we perceive as our sense of taste is actually smell. However, as important as our sense of smell is, when it comes time to actually describe what we’re smelling, words often fail us. Even wine industry professionals like sommeliers, people who spend considerable amounts of time training their noses, cannot consistently or accurately describe what their nose is telling them. This inability to describe odors with the same precision as colors or sounds has led some scientists to hypothesize that the part of the brain that processes smells simply does not connect well with the part that processes language.

However, new linguistic research on a small Malaysian hunter-gatherer tribe has called that hypothesis into question. Read more

US Healthcare Website Lost in Translation?

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the United States, so the US government has made a concerted effort to include Spanish speakers in the roll-out of the country’s new healthcare laws. However, their outreach efforts have come under criticism a number of times.  The most recent example is, the Spanish-language version of, an official website where Americans can view and purchase insurance plans available under the Affordable Care Act.

According to a recent Associated Press Story, the website was full of translation errors. The AP called the translation “Spanglish” and said  “the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution of health.” Read more

Sign Language in Cambodia

True sign languages arise when communities of deaf people have the opportunity to interact and communicate with each other — there are around 200 sign languages in use around the world today.  However, in some countries, there is no deaf community, just deaf individuals isolated from each other and from the world around them.

In 1997, when Catholic priest Charles Dittmeier arrived on the scene, Cambodia was one of those countries. There were no services available for deaf people, who were generally stigmatized and treated as outcasts.  Since 1997, Dittmeier has been working with the Maryknoll Deaf Development program to coordinate the development of a Cambodian deaf sign language.

Now, the charity operates a school for deaf teenagers and adults in Phnom Penh, offering food, clothing, shelter and job training programs to people who have grown up without a language, often without even a name to call themselves.  Ouen Darong, 27,  described his life before he came to the Deaf Development Program center:

“I didn’t have any contact outside of my family. It was like being in prison. I was stuck there. I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any education.”   Read more

A Translation Headset for Dogs?

In this week’s edition of “weird translation news,” we bring you “No More Woof,” a translation headset for dogs.  No, really.

The project is under development by a Swedish group of researchers and designers who call themselves the “Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery,” and it’s already fully funded on Indiegogo with over a month left to go.

According to the Indiegogo project page,

“No More Woof aims to develop a small gadget that uses the latest technology in micro computing and EEG to analyse animal thought patterns and spell them out in Human Language* using a loudspeaker.”

So, basically, as Mashable has already pointed out, it’s like Doug the dog’s headset from Up.  Read more

Last Monolingual Chickasaw Speaker Dies

The New Year brought sad news for the Chickasaw Nation of Native Americans. On December 30, 2013 they lost Emily Dickerson, the last monolingual speaker of the Chickasaw language. She was at least 93 years old.

The Chickasaw once lived in the Southeastern United States, in what is now Mississippi, though the United States government forced them to relocate to Oklahoma in the 19th century. Their language, Chickashshanonmpa, is hurtling toward extinction. According to Sky News, there were around 1,000 people speaking in 1994. Now, 20 years later, that number has dwindled to less than 70, most of them elderly.  Read more

Corporate Translation Guide

Translation Guide for Business

Here at K International, we are regularly asked by our clients what is actually involved in translation. There is not really one overall answer to this as it is very much dependent on how you intend to use the results. Some clients appear to see translation as a low cost means of increasing sales or even treat it as a complete after thought, a simple last minute process. With the advent of tools such as Google translate, this notion of a straight forward push button solution seems to be becoming even more embedded into people’s way of thinking. Read more

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