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A Bounty on Engrish

Visitors to South Korea, take note. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has set a bounty on the awkward, low-quality translations known as “Engrish.” These malapropisms are a prime source of amusement for tourists abroad in Asian countries (see The Top 10 Asian English Translation Failures for examples), but locals are generally somewhat embarrassed by their existence. Plus, when you’re a tourist trying to navigate a foreign country, mistranslations don’t help.

It’s understandable, then, that the KTO would make it a priority to improve the quality of translations available to tourists. What’s interesting is the way in which they are going about it. As CNNGo reports, from now until December 14th, you can go to the Visit Korea website and submit pictures of translation mistakes from any tourist site in South Korea. When you do, you’ll be entered to win the Korean equivalent of a $45 gift card, accepted anywhere credit cards are taken. Read more

Chomsy-on-language

Documentaries About Language

We’re so lucky that language is at the centre of everything we do at work. Let’s take a moment to stop the clock to appreciate how beautiful it is and maybe even look back at what inspired us at an early age to take a career in the language industry. To help here are my favourite documentaries of all time about language.

The Story of English

I am biased but it’s a fact that English is more influential than any other language. The first episode of this documentary sets out to provide evidence of that and to explore how the language has evolved. The story begins with an English language rock concert in Russia; the English influence was so strong that it even managed to break through the Iron Curtain. Further images show English as the universal language of air-traffic control, computer data, newspapers, telegrams, international trade and world news. American English is the original language of the movies, and the world of music is dominated by English-language songs.

The tour of the English language takes viewers from elite-Public-School English to the BBC wireless broadcasts that sent that very English over the airwaves and into the homes of people from all classes. For the first time, the Queen’s English was now considered by many to be the correct English.

Decolonisation removed Britain’s political influence from around the world, but the English language remained behind. India, Ghana and Nigeria are all countries that have English, or a form of English, as a link language. It’s the common thread in the midst of the diversity that comes with multi-language countries.

In all of the ex-colonies, English has evolved, and each country has its unique form. In fact, language is never static. As interviewees provide definitions of modern-American-slang terms, that fact becomes increasingly obvious. The idea of one correct form of English is set aside in favour of acknowledging the diversity. Read more

Top 5 Careers For Language Lovers

Since the dawn of time language has been fundamental to the way we interact with one another. When cultures expanded and populations grew, foreign languages were born out of a necessity for local, centralised communication. As time passed and humans became more abundant and advanced, so too did languages. While some languages have died and some are yet to be born, the demand for foreign language skills is only expanding in the modern era.

When contemplating foreign language related careers, the first choices we think of are most likely that of a translator, interpreter, foreign language teacher or even CEO of a Language Services Company :), but these jobs only scratch the surface of what you can achieve. Of course any one of these professions is a great option for a language lover, but what if you wanted to cultivate your passion for language doing something a bit more unique or intriguing?

These days talented linguists are not limited to such narrow career paths, and they often have interests beyond just learning, teaching and speaking new languages. Studying languages is known to develop core competencies that appeal to almost every type of professional field giving linguaphiles a plethora of valuable career opportunities that they may have never thought of. Read more

Language Learning Company Connects Students with Native Speakers

Fluency in a foreign language is an excellent, useful skill to have. Unfortunately, many teenagers see language learning as just another chore, especially if they are having difficulty grasping the concepts.

Studies have shown that listening to native speakers makes it easier for your brain to pick up a new language. However, it’s hard to get interested in a TV show when you don’t understand what’s going on.

Human interaction is one of the best ways to create interest in learning another language. After all, if you’re just learning the language to pass a test, or satisfy a school requirement, it’s easy to get bored with it. If you’re actually trying to use it to communicate with another person, learning a second language becomes much more satisfying.
Enter Learnosity, a company that produces language learning software.

The Journal reports that Learnosity is partnering with Voxbone, a company that provides toll-free numbers for international calls, to connect students from different countries.

Currently, students can call a Voxbone number and become part of a conference call with other students to practice speaking the language they are studying. Learnosity then provides teachers with an interface that tracks who is saying what and allows each student to be graded individually.

One of Learnosity’s goals, however, is to expand the concept so that students can call native speakers of the language they are studying and talk to them directly.

The idea is that students could use their own cell phones or phones provided by the school to call students in a different country and practice speaking the language. Each student would get a chance to practice speaking the other student’s language. Since Learnosity is partnering with Voxbone, the calls would be billed as local calls instead international long distance.

Learnosity’s CEO, Gavin Cooney, explained the value of the program to The Journal, saying “We can’t provide every student in a country with a laptop, broadband connection and headsets, but we can easily put a phone in the hands of every student. In fact, they already have one in most cases. Also, there is no learning curve for the student. And teachers don’t have to book computer facilities within the school; they just ask the students to take out their phones and dial in. This removes a significant barrier to entry.”
Of course, for this to work in countries like the US, schools would have to start allowing cell phones in class or provide special pre-paid phones specifically for these calls. Still, most teenagers love to talk on the phone, and this program would probably make language classes a little bit more exciting for the students involved.

Linguistic Divide in Belgium

Belgium’s European parliament election, which is due to take place on 7th June, has been riddled with feuds over the rights of Dutch and French speakers.

The BBC reports that francophone political parties have been denied billboard space for their election posters in two mainly Dutch speaking municipalities close to Brussels.

Belgian politics closely mirrors the countries deep linguistic divide. Around 60% of Belgium’s population speak Dutch, while 40% speak French. Approximately 100,000 French speakers live in the mainly Dutch speaking suburbs of the capital.

Political paralysis hit Belgium after last year’s general election. With its long running tensions over language rights effecting all parties, it took months for the political parties to form a new coalition.

This is a difficult and very complicated issue for any country to bear.  Can the Belgian politicians work together and learn to communicate despite the language barriers?

Google adds Hawaiian Language

Web giant Google have added a Hawaiian language version of its search engine.

It was done by Keola Donaghy of the Ka Haka Ula Oke’elikolani college of Hawaiian Language. Keola Donaghy campaigned for 3 years to get Google to produce a Hawaiian version of its search engine. He estimates that it took him 100 hours to complete the translation…. Perhaps he should have used a professional translation company.

The Hawaiian version provides instructions in Hawaiian on Google’s search engine, although you will still find that the results still come back in English.

In order to complete the translation Keola Donaghy provided translations of 2,500 strings, words, sentences and paragraphs used by the search engine.

It’s great to see Google expanding its language options and it’s important they don’t ignore other important languages (such as Welsh).

The Hawaiian version of Google’s search engine is now available on Apples safari browser; it can be accessed by selecting Olelo Hawaii or Hawaiian language inside the system preferences on Apple.

It should be available on all other browsers next week.

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

 

Mel Gibson’s Next Movie to Be Shot In Old Norse

Mel Gibson is making a Viking movie. The movie doesn’t have a title yet, but William Monahan is writing the script, and it will star Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh, and the movie will be shot entirely in period languages. That means Leonardo DiCaprio will most likely deliver his lines in Old Norse or perhaps Old English (depending on whether he’s playing a Viking or an inhabitant of a town that is being pillaged by them).

Apparently, for Gibson, the idea of making a Viking movie in Old Norse isn’t a new idea. He told Collider.com that “The very first idea I ever had about making a film…my first thought about ever being a filmmaker was when I was sixteen years old and I wanted to make a Viking movie.  And I wanted to make it in Old Norse.”

Meanwhile, on CHUD.com, he explains the rationale behind using the languages of the period for the movie:

“I want a Viking to scare you,’ he said gleefully.’I don’t want a Viking to say, [Tony Curtis style] “I’m going to die with a sword in my hand.”  I don’t want to hear that.  It pulls the rug out from under you.  I want to see somebody who I have never seen before speaking low guttural German who scares the living shit out of me coming up to my house.  What is that like?  What would that have been like?’

Some of the movie will no doubt be in Old English, but don’t expect to be able to understand any of it without subtitles. To give you an idea of how different Old English is from the language we speak today, here’s a sample from Beowulf (via Wikipedia):

Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum,
þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.

In the modern English we know and love, that translates to:

Listen! We have heard of the glory of the Spear-Danes, of the kings of the people, in the days of yore, [and] how those princes did deeds of glory.

It will be interesting to see these ancient languages on the big screen.

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 Isria.com. 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.”

Read more

Tunica Language Is Resurrected

Before Europeans began to explore what is now the United States, the Tunica people lived in the Mississippi River Valley. They grew maize for food, traded in salt, and built mounds to bury their dead.

However, by 1800’s, they were down to less than 100 members living in Marksville, Louisiana. They merged with a few friendly tribes, including the Biloxi, the Ofo and the Avoyel. These tribes all spoke languages from completely different families, so the Tunica communicated with their new brethren in French. The last fluent Tunica speaker died in the 1940’s.

Fast forward to 2010, when tribe member Brenda Lintinger contacted Judith Maxwell, a linguistics professor at Tulane University, in an effort to help revive the language of her ancestors. It was not an easy job. The last living speaker, Sesostrie Youchigant, worked with linguist Mary Haas to make a record of Tunica before he died. Still, it had been decades since anyone had spoken it, and the only recording available were old and of poor quality.

Professor Maxwell told the AssociatedPress…

“We would meet in group sessions and hash it out. I would say we still don’t have grasp on much of it.”

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