When Irish Tongues Are Talking… 

When Irish tongues are talking (in Irish, of course!) scientists from a California university will be watching. Researchers at the University of California in Santa Cruz just received a $260,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study how Irish speakers use their tongues in speech.

Despite being protected as the official language of the Republic of Ireland and as a minority language in Northern Ireland, UNESCO classifies  Irish as “definitely endangered.” That means it’s still a priority for linguists to document. Recording the language is a good start, but for preservation purposes, it’s not enough to know what it sounds like. Scientists also want to know how those sounds are made. Enter the UC Santa Cruz project, called ” “Collaborative Research: An Ultrasound Investigation of Irish Palatalization.”

As Principal Investigator Jaye Padgett explained on the UC Santa Cruz blog:

“Although we all have tongues, we are surprisingly bad at knowing precisely what they’re doing or conveying that to others.”

The solution? Documenting native speakers as they speak, using an ultrasound machine to record how they use their tongues. One of the main goals of this project is to document the different between “slender” and “broad” consonants in Irish. In Irish, the same consonant sound can be pronounced one of two ways: broad,  with the back of the tongue pulled back towards the soft palate, and slender,  with the middle of the tongue pushed up towards the hard palate.

As you can see, words are only somewhat useful when it comes to describing the difference between the two. According to Professor Padgett, the team will use a portable ultrasound machine to “non-invasively capture video of the tongue’s surface while it moves during speech. Analysis of this ultrasound data will also allow us to answer more general questions about speech production.”

Researchers will travel across Ireland to collect data from native speakers of all three Irish dialects.

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by M Glasgow

New Online Projects Preserve Endangered Languages 

Between 50-90% of the languages being spoken today may very well be extinct by 2100. Some will be extinct much sooner than that-we lose one language every two weeks! The Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages seeks to preserve endangered languages both online and in the communities they come from, and they have a couple of interesting new projects going on.

First, there’s a collaboration with streaming video site Viki, which uses crowdsourcing to translate subtitles for movies and TV shows into a variety of different languages. Viki is partnering with Living Tongues to help encourage speakers of endangered languages to translate subtitles. By doing so, they help build a record of the languages and keep them relevant for younger speakers. So far, content on Viki has been translated into 29 endangered or threatened languages and 20 “emerging languages,” according to a press release.

Living Tongues Director of Research David Harrison, a linguist at Swarthmore, told The Atlantic that partnering with Viki could help people who speak these languages to take pride in their native tongue:

“Suddenly you have something that isn’t a dry textbook or a grammar lesson,” he says. “Seeing it on TV or on the Internet helps them see that it’s not backwards or obsolete, it’s suited for the modern world. They can restore their pride in the language, which is really the X factor that causes language to be abandoned.”

Of course, the partnership with Viki does little for those languages only spoken by people in the remote communities, out of the reach of the world wide web.

For those languages, Living Tongues creates Talking Dictionaries available online. Two new Talking Dictionaries were released this month, as part of a collaboration with National Geographic. These dictionaries preserve the vocabulary and sounds of endangered languages while providing scholars around the world with easy access.

The newest Talking Dictionaries preserve two highly endangered languages from Papua New Guinea: Yokoim,  which is spoken by less than 2,000 people in three small villages, and Panim, spoken by 400 people in only village. Learn more about the languages and listen to some vocabulary words on National Geographic’s Explorers Journal.


retail translation services
FIC regulation: Lost in translation?

Our CEO, Richard Brooks was recently interviewed by Caroline Scott-Thomas for foodnavigator.com. They discuss the challenges faced by food retailers when implementing the new FIC regulations and how quality translation is key to delivering information that meets the requirements set out in the legislation.

Pan-European food companies could be prone to major translation blunders as they look to implement new food labelling rules, says translation expert Richard Brooks.

You can read the entire article by pressing the button below

Human Language Gene Helps Mice Learn

Creepy but cool: Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have inserted the “human language gene” into mice. The result:

Okay, not really. But the gene-spliced mice were able to navigate certain types of mazes faster than their un-enhanced counterparts.  So what does this tell us about how humans developed language?

Mice genetically engineered to carry the human version of the Fox2P gene learned to navigate a maze to find chocolate in only 7 days, compared to the 11 days it took regular mice. The maze was set up to encourage the mice to use two types of memory: procedural memory, which relies on conscious decisions using navigational cues like landmarks, and procedural memory, which relies on routine habits.

The mice with the humanized Fox2P gene only learned faster than regular mice when they were able to use both types of memory. In mazes that only allowed one type of learning, the two groups of mice performed the same. MIT professor Ann Graybiel, a senior author of the study, told MIT News that the results suggest the Fox2P gene helps enable us to use language by learning new words and then forming unconscious, routine associations with the objects they describe.

In the MIT News press release, Graybiel said:

 “This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us.”

The FOX2P gene isn’t the only gene that affects language function, but it’s one of the most well-known. It was discovered in the 1990s in family with severe inherited speech and language issues.

There is no word yet as to whether the “humanized” Fox2P mice have begun making plans for world domination, but presumably it’s only a matter of time.

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by theglobalpanorama

Want to Learn Dothraki?

You can give a toast in Klingon. You can read poetry in Sindarin. What fantasy language should you learn next? Dothraki, of course! Thanks to a new online course, Game of Thrones fans can now follow in Daenerys’ footsteps by learning to speak the language of the Dothraki horse lords.

 The Dothraki course is being offered by Living Language, a language learning company that offers written and online courses “using techniques originally developed for the U.S. State Department.” The Dothraki course was developed with the help of David J. Peterson, co-founder of the Language Creation Society, who developed the language for the Game of Thrones TV series and works as a language creator and “alien culture consultant” for other fantasy/scifi shows. Basically, he has one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

You can choose from two different course options, depending on your desired level of proficiency. The Basic course costs $19.99, and will teach you how to pronounce words in Dothraki, how to construct sentences and how to say 200 different vocabulary words. The “expanded” online course costs $30.00 and gives you 500 vocabulary words, as well as more detailed guides to grammar and pronunciation, more ways to practice and more information about Dothraki culture. Finally, students in the either course have the option to buy a companion app for their smart phone, though there’s no word yet on which operating systems will be supported.

In a press release, Peterson said,

“I’m thrilled to be working with Living Language to produce the first official Dothraki text,” says Peterson. “This book will take you from arakh to zhavvorsa in no time, and the audio samples will help you perfect your pronunciation. I often get the question, ‘When will there be a Dothraki guide I can buy?’ The answer is now, thanks to Living Language. Me nem nesa!”

If you want to learn Dothraki but you don’t necessarily want to pay for it, you can always head over to Dothraki.org, which has a full Dothraki dictionary, a wiki and forums available.

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by PatLoika


Translating The World Retail Congress

One of the biggest retail events of the year takes place in Paris on the 29th September – 01 October 2014, it is the World Retail Congress. This year the theme is “Retailing in a disrupted world”. As retail faces new challenges with new technology “disrupting” the old ways of shopping and consumers behave differently, business models and strategies need to reflect this. This is especially true in my world of internationalisation and translation.

As some of you know K international works with some large retailers (like Tesco and M&S), helping them to put their products on shelves all over the world by providing a language translation service specifically tailored to the retail sector. If you are an emerging retailer and look to expand into new markets, we have the experience and knowledge to assist you in your journey. If you are already established in new markets we can work with you to improve the translation and artwork processes to smoothly run your linguistic operations. We supply a quality retail translation service starting with product specification and description and finishing on translation of your technology solutions. At all times we work along side our clients and in line with their brand message. Read more

13 Superstitions from Around the World

According my calendar of offbeat holidays, the 13th of September is Defy Superstition Day. I’d never heard of this holiday before and I’m not sure who founded it, but it’s supposed to be a day “to break those superstitious beliefs that you have been living with most, or all, of your life.”

Not sure how to celebrate? In honor of Defy Superstition Day, here are 13 superstitions from around the world:

1. Sleeping in a closed room with a fan on will kill you: This is a fairly common superstition in South Korea, dating back to the ’20s and ’30s. Death is believed to occur from hypothermia or asphyxiation.

2. If you chew gum after dark, it turns into dead flesh. This one hails from Turkey. 

3. If you have to re-enter a friend’s home to pick up something you forgot, you must look in the mirror before you leave again.  This one is from Russia. Forgetting things is bad luck; looking in the mirror helps reduce the bad luck.

4.  Whistling in the house is bad luck. Also from Russia.

5.  It’s bad luck to leave a house through a different door than you came in from. Country of Origin: Romania

6. Walking with only one shoe on could cause a death in the family.  This variation of “step on a crack, break your mother’s back” is from Romania.

7. Placing a loaf of bread upside-down on the table will cause everyone at the table to go hungry. This is from France, where it was once customary for shopkeepers to leave a loaf of bread upside-down for the town executioner.

8. Seeing a calico cat foretells your accidental demise. We’ve all heard of black cats bringing bad luck, but this belief about calicos comes  from Normandy, France.

9. The number four is unlucky in Chinese culture. The pronunciation for “four” is similar to that of the word “death,” so the number four is considered to be a very bad omen, to the point that Chinese people often go out of their way to avoid it. Some buildings are built without a fourth floor, license plates often omit the number, and many Chinese people simply will not accept a phone number with the number four in it.

10. Cutting your fingernails on a Saturday will bring bad luck, according to some in India.

11. Cutting your fingernails at night is bad luck, according to the Japanese. Cut them tonight for maximum defiance!

12. Leaving your purse on the floor is bad luck/will make you go broke. This one is apparently common to several different cultures. I’ve found it listed as Polish, Spanish and Chinese.

13.  We all know spilling salt is supposed to be bad luck, but in Italy, it’s also considered bad luck to spill olive oil! 

Can you think of any unusual local superstitions? Share them in the comments!

Supporting the MK Food Bank

Supporting the Community

What a massive heart!  The team at K International show yet another way of helping to communicate care in the local community.  Their contribution to the MK Foodbank during Harvest Festival will see many families being fed over the coming weeks.  Many thanks to the K International family

Donation to MK Food Bank

The Food Bank’s aim is that no child or adult goes to bed hungry in Milton Keynes!

Run By The Community, For The Community

Set up in 2004 by a local Christian Centre, led by Mark Sherratt, the Senior Pastor, The Food Bank relies entirely on donations of food and money from local schools, churches, businesses, organisations and individuals, working together to fulfil the aim and making sure that no child or adult should go to bed hungry.  It is manned purely by volunteers who donate their time in a variety of ways to make sure that the service is run to precision, whilst giving opportunities for school groups, offenders and those with all manner of disabilities to become involved in the sessions to develop skills in the warehouse

Milton Keynes Foodbank

How Does The Food Bank Work?

Referral Agencies identify families and individuals who need our support and issue a voucher entitling them to a food parcel. Clients can receive a food parcel 5 times in a rolling 12 month period although some cases may need a bit more flexibility for further help. Within this service there is also time for a chat and a cup of tea.

You can get involved by supporting your local food bank via the Trussell Trust, or if you are a fellow resident of MK, the Milton Keynes Food Bank

Demand for Translation Services is Booming

Translation apps and machine translation tools like Google Translate are all the rage, but how is this affecting the translation industry? I’m sure everyone has a war story or two about potential clients who think they can get away with using Google Translate, but even with the availability of “free” translation services, demand for professional translation services is growing by leaps and bounds.

According to the The Dallas Morning News, in the United States alone the number of jobs available for translators has doubled over the past ten years, and is expected to increase by another 46 percent by 2022. Wages are going up, too. Jiri Stejskal, a spokesman for the American Translators Association, said:

“Good translators who specialize in a particular subject and become really good at it can really make six-digit figures annually. The professional translators and interpreters … they are pretty happy right now because the economy is good and the jobs are there.”

Meanwhile, the worldwide value of the language services industry is up to $37.2 billion this year, a 6.2 percent increase from last year. Market research firm Common Sense Advisory predicts that number to climb to $47 billion by 2018.

In March, Inc Magazine chose the translation industry as one of the best industries to start a business in 2014, citing massively increasing demand. More and more companies are choosing to go global, and as they expand into new markets, they need to translate their business materials for both customers and employees alike. As Rick Antezana of Dynamic Language told Inc:

“Tracking all that content and translating it accurately takes so much. There have to be multiple steps in the quality control process so the content doesn’t embarrass the company.”

And what about Google Translate? You might think it would hurt demand, but industry experts say the opposite is true. According to the Dallas Morning News,

Online translation services like Google Translate actually raise demand for human translators and interpreters, experts said. “Even Google doesn’t use Google Translate for their business documents,” [American Translator Lillian] Clementi said.

New Foreign Language Requirements for British Army

The British Army is getting serious about foreign languages. According to The Telegraph, starting in 2018 soldiers will need at least some foreign language training if they wish to be promoted above the rank of Captain.

The move is meant to help improve cultural awareness and make it easier for the military to communicate with local people during overseas deployments.  Some experts believe that better cultural awareness would have improved outcomes in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The requirement is new, but according to outside experts and senior military officers alike, the goal is a return to an older model of military service, one that is less reliant on brute force and more reliant on “people skills” to gain cooperation. For example,  James de Waal, senior fellow for international security at international affairs think-tank Chatham House, told the Financial Times,

“In part it’s a return to a traditional British empire policing role – chaps in long khaki shorts dealing with locals with low levels of force but high levels of nous.”

Meanwhile, a senior officer told The Telegraph that

“Many of our forebears would have been embarrassed to see how little knowledge we arrived with in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our great grandfathers’ time, when they served in those regions, they spoke the languages and knew the people.”

Starting this year, subunit commanders will be offered language training, primarily in French and Arabic.  Fluency is not the goal, an army spokeswoman said in a statement to Soldier Magazine:

“Bi-lateral relationships are essential for the Army’s future focus on defence engagement. Officers aiming to be considered for subunit command appointments starting in 2018 will need to demonstrate basic survival level speaking and listening skills in a foreign language.”

Do you think the new requirements are a good idea?

Photo credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by isafmedia

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