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Is it time we agreed on a gender-neutral singular pronoun?

Source: The Guardian
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Some argue we need one for socially progressive reasons. Others simply want one to perfect their writing. But so far more than a hundred attempts have failed

Language, like life, feels easier to deal with if we arrange it into binaries: Wrong/right; Gay/straight; Labour/Conservative. Terms lurking between the two poles are often unfairly maligned. We’re often wary of anything that is neither one nor the other: Justifiable homicide; Bisexual; The Liberal Democrats.

The same goes for him/her. We seem far more comfortable when people are either men or women. The reality is different. There are people who self­-define as neither, as gender-non­binary. To those who see gender as a construct, this makes perfect sense. But the English language fails to reflect it.

A universal gender­-neutral pronoun – something to capture everything between he and she – would resolve this, and other issues. For non-­atheist progressives, it would give them a gender-neutral God. It could describe androgynous robots. A third­ person pronoun would also help us hacks with our word counts and copy neatness; writing his/hers every time (for those of us who on principle refuse to default to ‘his’) feels untidy and inelegant.

For those now considering commenting to suggest that there’s a perfectly fine existing neutral pronoun – “they” – remember that pronouns must match both gender and number. So in the case of single individuals, it’s grammatically inaccurate. More.

See: The Guardian

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New exhibit features New York City accents and languages that are fading away

Source: WABC-TV
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

There are some people who think each borough has its own unique accent.

According to a new exhibit, the experts say “Forget about it!”

The city is a melting pot, a gorgeous mosaic of different races, descendants of immigrants, and those who are native born, all crowding the streets speaking many languages.

“Sometimes it’s aggressive, sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it sounds like trying to sell them something,” a city resident said.

“They pick me out right away, ‘You’re from New York,’” a city resident said.

In a rare exhibition at City Lore Gallery on East 1st Street, “Mother Tongues, Endangered Languages in New York City and Beyond” explores the estimated 800 languages spoken here.

“New York is something of a linguistic Noah’s ark. Where you have a ton of languages that might not survive this century,” said Daniel Kaufman, the executive director at City Lore Gallery. More.


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China approves first official translation guide for wine names

Source: Decanter China
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

An official guide listing standard Chinese translations of key wine terms, including the names of individual chateaux, will come into effect later this year.

The final version of the Norm of Terminology Translation of Imported Wines has been approved by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. It is due to be implemented in September 2015.

The regulation, categorised as a ‘recommended industrial standard’, is the first of its kind in the Chinese wine market. Previously, there were only translation guidelines released by trade bodies of some major wine regions. More.

See: Decanter China

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Translator Anthea Bell awarded Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit

Source: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany - London
Story flagged by: Thomas Pfann

Acclaimed English translator Anthea Bell was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of her work. In making German authors such as Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Cornelia Funke and many more “accessible to wider readerships by the means of translation” she makes “an invaluable contribution to furthering understanding between Germany and the UK”, said ambassador Peter Ammon at a reception at the German embassy in London on 29 January 2015.

Read the full article here:

See: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany – London

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Conference – Professionalization vs. Deprofessionalization: Building Standards for Legal Translators and Interpreters

Source: From Words to Deeds: translation & the law
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

An international conference “Professionalization vs. Deprofessionalization: Building Standards for Legal Translators and Interpreters” will be held from 20 – 21 March 2015 in Opatija, Croatia.

It is being organized jointly by: EULITA (the European Legal Interpreters and Translators Association); 
the Association of Court Interpreters and Translators of Croatia; and the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, Opatija, Croatia.

The very interesting and rich programme can be downloaded from here, as well as information on registration and accommodation.

See: From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

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Languages need translation to sustain themselves

Source: The Hindu
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

A two-day seminar on ‘Knowledge Text Translation in Kannada’ began at Mangalore University on Wednesday with an expert expressing fears that if a language did not open up itself for translation, it could face the threat of dying.

Inaugurating the seminar, Shivarama Padikkal, professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, University of Hyderabad, said that if there was no translation, languages would become stagnant. “Hence, there is a danger of such a language dying,” he said.

The professor said that a translator would have to transfer the power of the text and not merely its meaning. Translation is an active engagement and not merely a neutral act.

Ashok Patil M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Community Medicine in Ayurveda, DGM Ayurveda Medical College and Post-Graduate Research Institute, Gadag, said that a translator of Ayurveda texts should have the knowledge of Sanskrit. He regretted that many doctors were not coming forward to translate medical texts into Kannada. More.

See: The Hindu

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When Irish was still the greatest little language in the world

Source: The Irish Times
Story flagged by: Helena Koželj

Reports of the terminal decline of Irish in the nineteenth century were greatly exaggerated, argues the author of a new study

A widespread claim among speakers of Irish well into the nineteenth century held that the language possessed such a tremendous antiquity that it had been spoken by Adam and Eve. If the idea of the first humans of the biblical account of the world’s origins passing their days chatting in Irish in the Garden of Eden strikes us as incongruous, that only demonstrates the distance Ireland has traveled in the past 200 years in its relationship to the language.

For centuries Irish speakers accorded only Hebrew a greater claim to antiquity or fluency – one could not, after all, go so far as to dismiss the evidence of the Old Testament regarding Hebraic originalism – and were apt to ascribe even more considerable accomplishments to the Irish language: that its capabilities comprised the best features a language could possess, that evil forces could not speak Irish, that it was the lingua franca of heaven preferred by God, and that it was more pure because it predated other languages and thus could not have borrowed from them in any way. In other words, the popular perception among past Irish-speaking communities was that Irish was not the threatened minority language of today, but rather a first-rate world language that had a claim to originalism over many others – and certainly over English.

This is a far cry from how most contemporary scholars have portrayed the attitudes of past Irish speakers toward their language, the understanding being that if Irish was spoken by a shrinking percentage of the Irish population in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, then surely Irish speakers had come to see it in a predominantly negative light. More.

See: The Irish Times

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Video: translating for individual clients

Source: Thoughts On Translation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

I do a pretty brisk business translating for individual clients (anything from birth certificates through self-published books). It’s a niche that many agencies and freelancers avoid, so it can be a good niche to address if you’re interested. In this six-minute video, I give you some thoughts on what’s appealing about the individual-client market and how to dive in if you’d like to.

Watch the full video in Thoughts On Translation here:

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Language learning in the UK: ‘can’t, won’t, don’t’

Source: The Telegraph
Story flagged by: Thomas Pfann

In terms of language learning, we’re a nation of committed non-swimmers faced with a swimming pool – anxious about diving in and not convinced of the joys of taking the plunge, writes John Worne

Can’t, won’t, don’t, three words which sum up our national view on speaking foreign languages. Of course it’s not entirely true, but last week saw another day of disappointment for language lovers, as we saw the continued decline in UK students choosing to study foreign languages at university level.

I’m pretty much lost for words, having written and spoken on this topic many, many times in the last few years.

So for inspiration I turn to the writer and author Christopher de Bellaigue, who wrote to encourage me in my labours last autumn:

“It’s as well to remind ourselves that our ancestors thought nothing of picking up languages: one for the village, the other for the town, and perhaps another one entirely for the capital city, and that nowadays supposedly less educated people in other countries can end up knowing half a dozen. More.

See: The Telegraph

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Translating Korean literature: hard, but exciting

Source: The Inside Korea
Story flagged by: Helena Koželj

“The more you learn Korean, the more interesting it gets. It is not easy to catch and deliver the meaning and the right feeling when dealing with classical literary works, four-character Chinese idioms or unique, folk expressions. Very occasionally, however, I get it right and that makes me happy.”

So said Sophie Bowman with a shy smile.

She is the translator of “Let Me Linger as a Flower in Your Heart,” a recently published collection of more than 50 poems which were written by disabled writers, a collection originally introduced as “Sosdae Munhak” and published by the Korea Disabled Artist Association.

She happened to choose Korean as an exotic language to learn when she was doing her undergraduate degree in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Since making that decision, she has studied Korean at the Korean Cultural Centre U.K. and has even visited Korea to study Korean further at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute, falling ever deeper into the world of Korean studies.

Her interest in Korean language has widened to Korean society and Korean literature. She did her master’s degree in Korean studies as her interest in the country’s literature grew. Since 2012, she has been living in Korea, introducing Korean literary works overseas by translating them into English. sat down with her to talk about her life with the Korean language and about Korean literature in general.

Read the full interview in The Inside Korea here:

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Modern languages show no trace of our African origins

Source: Ars Technica
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

We can’t assume that human migration affects language and genes the same way.

[...] By conducting a large-scale analysis on global genetic and linguistic data, the researchers found that languages sometimes behave in ways very unlike genetics. For instance, isolated languages have more, not less, diversity, and languages don’t retain the echo of a migration out of Africa—unlike our genomes.

To conduct the analysis, the researchers focused on “phonemes,” which are the smallest linguistic units of sound that can distinguish meaning. For instance, English uses “p” and “b” to distinguish between the words “pat” and “bat,” which means “p” and “b” act as phonemes. Other languages may not use these particular sounds to distinguish words—or they may make finer distinctions, basing meaning differences on subtle changes like whether or not a puff of air follows the “p.”

Every language has a certain number of phonemes, and these phoneme inventories differ in size from language to language. The researchers compared information on global phoneme inventories with data on global genetics and geographic location in order to isolate how phonemic and genetic units track each other. More.

See: Ars Technica

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What does the world lose when a language dies? (video)

Source: PBS NewsHour
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

“Language Matters,” a new PBS documentary, explores how linguistic heritage and traditional cultures around the world are at risk of being lost forever. Jeffrey Brown talks to the show’s host, poet Bob Holman, about the fight to revive languages on the brink.

Watch the full video here:

See: PBS NewsHour

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Bilingual San Francisco police officers cannot always be found when needed

Source: The Examiner
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

When an elderly woman was fatally struck by a car in the heart of Chinatown in September, then-Supervisor David Chiu arrived to a disturbing scene.

Not only had 78-year-old Pui Fong Yim Lee been killed by a hit-and-run driver, but police were having trouble gathering any information from witnesses because no officers spoke Cantonese, the language of most neighborhood residents.

“There weren’t any bilingual officers on scene,” Chiu said late last year, months after the Sept. 22 incident, adding that staffers from his office rushed to find people who could translate for the Cantonese-speaking witnesses.

Despite those efforts, Chiu said, “there were many witnesses that walked away.”

The absence of bilingual officers extends far beyond Chinatown and remains an issue for the entire city, advocates say, despite the Police Department’s efforts to recruit and certify more bilingual cops. What’s more, union seniority rules prevent the department from assigning the handful of bilingual officers it has to the appropriate stations, making incidents like the Chinatown hit-and-run more common than not. More.

See: The Examiner

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Google takes on translation (video)

Source: Financial Times
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Google recently upgraded its Translate app, which allows translation of voice, text and visuals. But how well does it actually work? The FT’s technology editor Ravi Mattu finds out.

Watch the full video here:

See: Financial Times

See also: Testing Google Translate app with Financial Times in WantWords

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The language apocalypse is coming, and many tongues are already all but dead

Source: PRI
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Language is something many of us take for granted. We use it every day, and we can almost always find people who share the same languages as us. But that’s not true of everyone.

In some parts of the world, there are only a few dozen people who still speak a language — or even only one person.

​“There’s a very unusual situation in aboriginal Australia,” says poet Bob Holman, who hosts the new PBS documentary, Language Matters. “Charlie Mangulda is the last speaker of Amurdak … When he forgets a word, there’s nobody he can ask what that word is; it’s gone. When that language is gone, it’s gone forever.”

And Amurdak is not alone. Of the 6,000 languages humans speak, half of them will be extinct in the next 50 years. Language Matters, which premiered on January 25, looks at some of these dying languages and the things that may die along with them.

Mangulda has helped keep alive Amurdak, which Holman says is tens of thousands of years old, through poetry.

“They keep their language alive through various forms,” Holman says. “While we were busy making inventions, they were busy working on their languages. One of them is a spirit language that we don’t know how to translate. All we know is that he’s talking to his ancestors in a very special way. It’s part of the way the language has survived.” More.

See: PRI

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Twitter enables multiple language tweet translation

Source: Memeburn
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Twitter has introduced tweet translation with Bing Translator. The feature enables users to read tweets that is in another language. Twitter joins Google Translate, Skype, Facebook Translate in the quest to allow for communication across different languages.

Writing on its Help Center post, Twitter wrote, “With Tweet translation, you won’t miss any of the action unfolding on Twitter. You can choose when you want to see a translation for a Tweet, and you can also adjust your settings so the option to view Tweet translations is disabled”.

The translation is possible in more than 40 language pairs.

Though the feature works with more than 40 different languages, Twitter has warned that language searches will often fall below the accuracy and fluency of translations provided by a professional translator. This feature will be good enough for a loose understanding of the tweet a user is trying to translate. More.

See: Memeburn

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ATA56: the call for proposals is open

Source: Thoughts On Translation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

I’m excited to announce that ATA is now accepting session proposals for our 56th annual conference, to be held in Miami in November, 2015. Yes, you read that correctly: Miami in November…we’re expecting a large crowd!

ATA depends on volunteer presenters for the bulk of the conference sessions. You can submit a proposal for a three-hour preconference seminar or a one-hour session during the conference; there are some financial incentives for each of those options, and you can read about them on the proposal form. Especially needed are *advanced-level sessions* and topics that have not been covered at previous conferences. Here’s the online information. More.

See: Thoughts On Translation

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Merriam-Webster wants to reinvent the dictionary for the digital age. Should it bother?

Source: Slate
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Merriam-Webster is revising its most authoritative tome for the digital age. But in an era of twerking and trolling, what should a dictionary look like? (And do we even need one?)

[...] Now Merriam-Webster is pushing into the future by making an audacious nod to its past. More than half a century after it was published, the company’s landmark book—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, known in lexicographic circles as Webster’s Third, W3, the Unabridged, or the Third—is getting an overhaul. The Third is a behemoth—4 inches thick, 13½ pounds, 2,700 pages—that falls like a crashing wave when opened. A fourth edition, by contrast, might never exist as a physical object. This latest revision, a project Merriam-Webster hopes will secure its dominance in the tenuous business of commercial lexicography if not ensure its future survival, is happening entirely online.

On its face, this might sound like a terrible plan. Merriam has tasked the majority of its employees with rewriting a book that likely won’t generate revenue the old-fashioned way, through hardcover sales. The project involves the subscription-only Unabridged site, not Merriam’s free online dictionary, which is based on its smaller desktop book, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. So there’s no guarantee it will find enough customers willing to pay $29.95 a year to turn a profit. Plus, the work could take decades to complete. By the time the Third gets close to being a Fourth, it’s not clear how people will use a dictionary, or even what a dictionary will be. More.

See: Slate

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Africa, where translation can save lives

Source: TermCoord
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Imagine you are travelling to the other side of world, in a country whose language you don’t speak, nor understand at all. Imagine then that you may need to get medications, or a medical consultation.

How would you do it? What if there were no translators to help you?

Imagine. And think that this is what happens on a daily basis in most African countries. Except that in this case, when it comes to health, who has language problems is, ironically, the local population. But, you know, bad translations of food labels may not be such a big deal, however when it comes to health problems, language barriers may cost lives.

Western countries have done a lot in the past years to help Africa. Hospitals have been built, doctors have been trained, medications have been donated, sent and distributed all over the continent. But, unfortunately, that is still not enough. There is still one more step to take, and that is training translators and interpreters to help patients understand what doctors are telling them, to translate public health leaflets and, above all, to translate the instructions that come with medications. More.

See: TermCoord

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Investigating the gap between translator training and the real business of translation

Source: Spotlight on CPD
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Lucy Brooks and Marta Stelmaszak collaborated on a project to investigate what could be considered to be a neglected area. In this article they analyse the results of a survey and propose some solutions.

Today’s economic situation has meant that traditional routes into translation have become scarcer. Previously, many would-be translators left university with their degrees and sought employment in in-house translation departments where they would hone their skills. Others entered different careers and applied their language skills within their chosen career, thus acquiring an extensive background in their field.

But the market in the 21st century has changed beyond all recognition. There are very few in-house or supervised translation positions available, and the competition for those that remain is fierce. Graduates from an MA course in translating are therefore increasingly turning to freelancing as possibly the only practical option open to them. Figures obtained from the Office of National Statistics[1] indicate that, at 15% of all people in work in the UK, self-employment is currently higher than at any point in the past 40 years. And the outlook is for the trend to continue. Freelancers are the key driver for economic performance in the modern economy.[2]

Many graduates, whether they are just leaving the education system and entering the workplace for the first time, or career changers with a background in another profession, find that they are ill-prepared for running their own business. MA courses throughout the country teach the art of translation and that is what they should do of course. But should they also be providing in-depth business training? More.

See: Spotlight on CPD

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