Hit West End Show Pioneers Translation Device

The hit West End show Hairspray, currently showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre has introduced a pioneering system which translates the show into 8 languages according to the BBC.

With one third of theatre audiences in London being tourists AirScript developers, Cambridge Consultants, hope the handsets will attract more tourists to London’s theatres.

The translation is received via WIFI and scrolls down throughout the performance. The handset has LED backlighting and the screen has a black background and orange text to minimise glare. It could be quite annoying for other theatre users if the device was too bright. It costs just £6 to hire the device.

The translated subtitles are delivered manually to make sure the line hits the screen at the same time as it is delivered on stage.

It could be quite distracting to look at a device for the whole show rather than getting lost in what’s happening on stage, but it is a great tool for tourists and can only get better as the technology advances.

What Does Your Baby's Name Mean?

Years ago, people stuck, for the most part, with traditional names for their little ones. Now, perhaps inspired by the odd names celebrities tend to choose for their offspring (Moon Unit? Apple? Sparrow?  Moxie CrimeFighter?), many expectant parents spend a lot of time trying to find something unique and special to call their little bundle of joy.

However, a name that is merely “unique” in English could have a totally different, perhaps unwelcome, meaning in another culture. For example, “Suri,” the name of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ daughter, actually means “pickpocket” in Japanese and “soured” in French, according to British translation firm Today Translation. To help soon-to-be parents select an unusual name that travels well, the company is offering a new service: the baby name translation audit. For a one time fee of $1,700, the company will look up the meaning of potential baby names in 100 different languages.

Of course, this service won’t stop sadistic parents from giving their babies embarrassing names for kicks. Even before creating your own baby name from scratch became commonplace, you still had Mr. and Mrs. Head christening their baby boy “Richard,” or Governor Hogg of Texas naming his baby girl “Ima.”

For ordinary parents, $1,700 seems like a lot to pay; even it does help ensure that you aren’t accidentally naming your child “dung beetle” in some other language.

In the New York Daily News, Today Translation’s CEO Jurga Zilinskiene explained why she thinks parents will be willing to pay for the service:

“You’ll rest assured you are picking a good name,” Zilinskiene said. “At the end of the day, it’s something a person has to live with for the rest of their lives.”

What do you think? Would you pay for a baby name translation audit?

Translation-Glasses

Glasses that Translate Speech?

It might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but according to Reuters, a Japanese company is developing eyeglasses that can translate speech.

The Tele Scouter consists of a pair of eyeglass frames attached to a microphone and a small computer. A tiny display unit is mounted on to the frames. When someone talks to you in a foreign language, the microphone picks up the sound and sends it to be translated. Then, the translated text is sent back and projected into your peripheral vision, so you can read what the other person said while still maintaining eye contact.

Weird, huh? Kotaro Nagahama, a manager at NEC, the company that’s the developing the glasses, explained the potential advantages of the new technology to Reuters:
“With this you don’t have to think about having to translate your own words. All you have to do is speak and you don’t have to do any thinking. You just use your own language.”

Unfortunately, according to PinkTentacle.com, at this point the devices’ translation capabilities are “insufficient for real-world applications.” So, at least for now, the company is focusing on selling the device to businesses and factories, which can use as a hands-free data display device for workers.

Also, it should be noted that even if the devices’ translation capabilities were spot-on, in order for it to truly useful for travelers, both you and the person you are speaking to need to have a pair of these magic glasses. Unless the company plans to incorporate a way to display what you are saying to the other person in their own language, the Tele Scouter appears to only translate one side of the conversation.  According to Reuters, NEC plans to sell the Tele Scouter for a whopping $83,000, so it’s not likely to gain widespread adoption anytime soon.

What do you think-will this idea ever become more than science fiction?

Baby talk

When Do Babies Start Learning Language?

By now, almost everyone knows that infants begin to learn language long before they utter their first words. But did you know that babies start learning language before they are even born? At least, that’s the conclusion that German researchers from the University of Wurzburg came to in a new study, published in the journal “Current Biology.”

For the study, the researchers recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 different newborn babies. Some of the babies were born to French-speaking parents; others were born to German-speaking parents. You might think that that wouldn’t matter, that all babies sound the same when they cry. However, the babies were only 3 to 5 days old, and they were already crying in “accents” that mimicked the intonations of the adult’s language. So, the French babies’ cries had a rising inflection, and the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection.

According to the researchers, the babies were most likely imitating the speech they had heard while in the womb.  In this article from the BBC, researcher Kathleen Wermke said that  “The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their foetal life. Contrary to orthodox interpretations, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying for seeding language development.”

Wermke also theorized that the babies were trying to bond more closely with their mothers by mimicking them in the only way possible-through the intonation of their cries.

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

A French love letter was found near Falmouth, Cornwall last week.

The beer bottle was found by Martin Leslie, a coastguard manager, and his family as they walked on Praa Sands, near Falmouth.

The bottle was poking out of the sand; its top was sealed with red candle wax. Inside was a three A4 pages handwritten in French and dated September 28th.

Mr Leslie had a go at translating the letter using the internet but could only decipher words relating to love, death and missing someone.

He assumed that the letter must be a suicide note and handed the letter to Falmouth Coastguards to pass onto their counterparts in France.

According to the Telegraph Mr Leslie said the woman said she and her lover shared magical moments together but that she understood that he had to return to his wife. She finished by saying she hoped to find another man like him with whom she could live a beautiful life.

The letter said ”These magic moments are pure secret. The secret of life and pleasure without limits. In twenty years, it will still be here, the previous moments of happiness, when life will get dreary, we will be able to tap into these memories to remember what it is to live again.”

Mr Leslie plans to keep hold of the letter which is unsigned and has no contact address on it.

FBI Behind on Translating Intelligence

8 years after 9/11, the FBI is still behind when it comes to translating intelligence information.

According to a report issued by the US Justice Department’s inspector general, the FBI has lost approximately 3 percent of its linguists since 2005. Plus, they are taking longer than ever to hire new contract linguists.

There is a lot of work to be done. According to Reuters, between 2006 and 2008, the FBI collected 4.8 million foreign language documents and intercepts in terrorism and criminal cases and 46 million electronic files. To date, 31 percent of the electronic files have not been examined. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI collected 4.8 million audio hours worth of material via surveillance campaigns-25% of that material hasn’t been reviewed, either.

Part of the problem seems to stem from the length of time it takes to do the necessary background checks and other reconnaissance on potential translators. Apparently, it takes 14 months to do the necessary reviews and investigations to make sure that the applicants aren’t terrorists themselves.

According to Reuters’ Front Row Washington blog, some of that un-translated material was pertinent to a case against two Chicago men who planned to attack a newspaper in Denmark. Affidavits in the case state that:

“While translators have attempted to transcribe the foreign language conversations accurately, to the extent that quotations from these communications are included, these are preliminary, not final translations.”

So, what would it take to get the FBI caught up? 100 linguists working 40 hours a week for seven years, according to the inspector general’s report.

So, if you’re looking for a recession-proof job and you think you can pass an extremely detailed background check, here is my suggestion: Start learning Arabic!

Internet Regulator Approves Multilingual Web Addresses

The internet regulator Icann has voted at its annual meeting in Seoul to allow non-latin-script web addresses. This means that  you could have domain names in Arabic, Chinese and other scripts.

This move is set to transform the internet and will be the most complicated code change in over four decades.

Icann were set up by the US Government in 1998 to oversee the development of the internet. The US Government eased its control over the non profit body last month after years of intense criticism. They signed a new agreement which gives Icann independence for the first time since it was set up. The agreement came into effect on the 1st October and this puts it under the scrutiny of the global internet community.

In some countries they have already introduced solutions to the language barrier, setting up alternatives to the standard Latin-script. This allows users to enter web addresses in their own language. However, these are not internationally approved and do not work on all computers.

The BBC suggests that it will most likely be Chinese and Arabic script, followed by Russian that are the first non-Latin internet addresses.

Icann said it would accept the first applications for IDNs by 16 November, with the first up and running by “mid-2010”.

According to the BBC Icann president and CEO Rod Beckstrom said “Of the 1.6 billion internet users today worldwide, more than half use languages that have scripts that are not Latin-based. So this change is very much necessary for not only half the world’s internet users today but more than half, probably, of the future users as the internet continues to spread.”

Learning a Language? There's an App for That!

When you’re trying to learn a new language, practice makes perfect.  How many times have you said to yourself, “I would love to learn another language in my spare time?” Since many of us lead very busy lives, finding that spare time to practice and learn can be challenging. However, if you have a smartphone, there are plenty of apps available that give you the opportunity to practice on the go.

Here’s a list of some of the better apps available for the iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices:

•    WordPower (iPhone and Android): WordPower helps you learn new vocabulary in one of several   languages, teaching you the “core” 2000 words most important words you need to communicate. You can read foreign vocabulary, listen to native pronunciation, then give it a go yourself. You can also record yourself to see how your pronunciation measures up.
•    24/7 Tutor (iPhone): Learn Spanish, French, Italian or German with this collection of iPhone apps. Learn vocabulary, listen to native speakers and track your progress with quizzes.
•    Byki (iPhone): According to their website, Byki helps you learn a new language especially quickly because it “hacks” into your memory and fills it with foreign words and phrases.” Interesting…
•    GidRapid (Blackberry): GidRapid makes language learning apps for the Blackberry in a variety of different European languages, featuring flash cards, word lists and quizzes.
•    CardLingo Language Flash Cards (Android): This app lets you type in new words and phrases as you learn them, then turns them into flash cards that you can review anywhere.

There are so many apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry that this list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s available.

So, next time you’re waiting in line somewhere, why not find an app you like and start learning another language?

Desperately Seeking Glaswegian Interpreters

An advert has appeared in the Herald newspaper recruiting Glaswegian interpreters and translators. The successful candidates needed to understand general vocabulary, accent and nuances.

The firm told the BBC that so far 30 people had applied for the positions – some of them applied in Glaswegian.

The translation company who placed the advert recently had a number of requests for Glaswegian translators and interpreters and decided to recruit to meet demand.

Glaswegian English can be difficult for tourists and business professionals visiting the area to understand.

Here are a few examples of Glaswegian patter
Baltic (very cold)
Boost (head off)
Buckie (tonic wine favoured by youngsters)
Cludgie (toilet)
Eejit (idiot)
Hampden roar (score)
Hee haw (nothing)
Hen (term used to address a woman or girl)
Laldy (enthusiastic participation)
Maw (mother)
Midden (rubbish tip)
Pure (very)
Moroculous (drunk)
Messages (shopping)
Scooby (clue, rhyming slang – Scooby Doo)
Shoot the craw (leave in a hurry)
Stooky (plaster cast)
Swatch (look)
Toaty (small)
Ya dancer (fantastic)
Yersel (yourself)

Cloud Computing, C'est Quoi En Français ?

Cloud Computing, C’est Quoi En Français ?

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the French language to keep up with the pace of technology, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal. New buzzwords like “cloud computing,” “social media” and “web 2.0” are introduced frequently, and since new French translations for English words have to be created by a committee and approved by France’s General Commission of Terminology and Neology and other regulatory bodies, the French language often lags behind.

For example, the Wall Street Journal notes that it took a committee that specialises in coming up with French equivalents for English computing technology terms 18 months to come up with a translation for cloud computing. The result, “informatique en nuage,” which literally means “computing on a cloud,” was deemed unsatisfactory.

So, until the committee comes up with a new translation, the French language is left without a standard term to describe what Wikipedia defines as “a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualised resources are provided as a service over the Internet.”

In the Wall Street Journal article, Xavier North, the head of the General Delegation, defends the approval process, saying, “Rigor cannot be compromised.” However, at this rate, by the time they get a translation approved, “cloud computing” will be old news instead of the “next big thing.”

Each year, about 300 new French terms make it through the approval process to become part of the French language. Creating French alternatives to imported English phrases is an important part of keeping the French language healthy and relevant, but it seems like the process needs to move a little bit faster to keep up with the increased pace of technological change.

To ensure you get the best quality from your language project choose a trusted provider. Our French translation services are relied on by governments and businesses worldwide, contact us today to find out more