The UN News Centre’s original series A Day in the Life profiles how an array of UN staff positions contribute to the greater goals of the Organization as a whole. UN interpreters Laurence Viguie and Anthony Mango demystify their magical role.
Second languages strengthen the brain’s executive control circuits, with benefits beyond words.
Speaking more than one language has some advantages beyond ordering food in the local tongue—psychologists believe that bilingualism has many other positive side effects. Now, researchers have evidence connecting bilinguals’ talents to stronger so-called executive control in the brain.
Much has been made recently about growing up learning more than one language, as about one in five do. There’s evidence that children who grow up speaking two languages may be more creative, that bilingualism might stave off demefntia, and that bilinguals are better at tasks that involve switching attention between different objects. That led some researchers to suspect that speaking two languages might improve our brains’ executive functions, the high-level circuits that control our ability to switch between tasks, among other things. More.
Since the panel asking “Where are the women in translation?” at this spring’s London Book Fair, I have been thinking about how to raise awareness of women writers in translation. Significantly more books by men get translated into English than books by women, and at International Translation Day we held a session to start doing something about that. You can read chair Sophie Mayer’s excellent briefing about it on the Free Word website.
There are lots of things we can do. We can review books written by women to help redress the imbalance in review coverage; reviewing books by women in translation will also, ideally, improve translator visibility. We can address funding issues so that translation grants are more evenly distributed, and a working group was formed to do just that. We can look at best practice and acknowledge those publishers who are doing it right. We can address gatekeepers – many of whom, as another working group established, are women: teachers, booksellers, translators, readers, editors. There are already grassroots initiatives promoting writing by women on Twitter, for instance.
What I wanted to do was to establish a prize for women’s books in translation. I’m pleased to say that the idea was popular and we formed a working group at the end of the session to try and make it a reality. So let me outline my idea in more detail here and share some of what we talked about on Friday. More.
The poet, translator, and essayist Alastair Reid died yesterday at the age of eighty-eight. Reid wrote more than a hundred pieces for The New Yorker, beginning in 1943, with an anecdote in the Talk of the Town, and ending in 2004, with a dispatch from a marathon reading by Paul Auster. In between, he wrote about the places and the people that had shaped him: his native Scotland, as well as Spain and Latin America, and the writers Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges, whose work he had translated. More.
About 350,000 people in the world speak Udmurt, a language native to eastern Russia. Nearly 50 percent of global languages are at risk of going extinct, and Udmurt is one of them—a so-called “endangered language.” Preserving these languages is hard; as communities age and disperse, and as globalization pushes younger generations to study English, the incentives to learn an obscure, local language diminish.
But for Udmurt speakers, there’s a new way to share the language: the movie Apocalypto. A team of translators has gone through the film and subtitled the whole thing in Udmurt. And it’s not just Apocalypto either—the translation is part of a wider push to take popular television shows and movies and leverage them in the fight against language extinction.
Aleksey Shklyaev is the leader of the group that translated Apocalypto. His team has a number of projects going, all aimed at keeping Udmurt alive—everything from movie translations to inventing new words to keep the tongue up to date. Together they’ve created words for “PR” and “retail” and “crowdsourcing,” among others—and an online forum for promoting and sharing Udmurt. More.
[...] ‘Balderdash’ is only one of the hundreds of words shared between English and Welsh.
It is often assumed that Welsh has borrowed and adapted several words from English, but in fact a large number of Welsh words, just like French and many other European languages, simply share a common ancestry with English.
Numerous Welsh words were borrowed from Latin into an early form of the language.
These words were usually ones that would have been unknown to the local people before the Romans arrived and are often associated with market terminology, new technology, food, the church and days of the week.
For example, taverna in Latin gave rise to the forms tavern (Eng), taverne (Fr) and tafarn (W), and the Latin word fructus developed into fruit (Eng), fruit (Fr) and ffrwyth (W). More.
But part of the problem is that although teenagers recognise the need to learn languages, few are doing so – and even fewer are studying non-traditional languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Russian and Turkish, which are only available in a handful of schools.
The UK’s poor reputation for languages is not surprising. A 2012 European survey found that only 39% of UK respondents felt able to hold a basic conversation in a language other than English. For those who could, this was most likely to be French (19%) or German (6%).
This may in time be tempered by the move to make languages compulsory for seven to 11-year-olds at Key Stage 2 from this September, plus £1.8m of funding offered by the government for school-centred training and support.
The introduction of the English Baccalaureate – a league table measure in which schools are rewarded for pupils who get a C grade or above in five key subjects, including a language – appears to have boosted language take-up at GCSE. Beyond that, there are early signs that the “Ebacc effect” has begun to increased the numbers studying French, Spanish and German at AS Level. More.
[...] What is the subjunctive, anyway? English verbs have “moods”. The usual mood is indicative, to talk about facts of the world: Mike is a lawyer. But the subjunctive, another “mood”, is used to express things like hopes, expectations, orders, hypothetical situations or something in the uncertain future. Mike’s father insisted that he be a lawyer. To give another contrast:
The tenant pays rent on the first of themonth (indicative)
The lease requires that the tenant pay rent on the first of the month (subjunctive)
One reason the subjunctive is tricky is that it almost always looks just like the indicative. Only with a third-person singular subject (he, she, it, Mike, the tenant…) does the subunctive have an unusual form. He eats becomes that he eat, with no final “-s”. (The exception is the verb to be, which always is be in the subjunctive: that I be, that you be, that he be.) So you just need to know that, as a rule, the subjunctive follows certain words: verbs like insist, request, require, demand and prefer, and adjectives like important and necessary. And in modern English it almost always appears in a clause beginning with that. More.
We live in an age of endless information, an age where knowledge can be preserved and accessed as never before. But with major global languages dominating the internet, smaller languages may be left out, or even pushed down a pathway towards extinction.
Indigenous communities such as the Yokoim and Panim peoples of Papua New Guinea (PNG), though they have little or no internet access, are eager to cross the digital divide and engage a global audience by sharing their languages on the world wide web.
A federal judge has ordered Alaska election officials to go further in offering translation assistance to native-language voters in a ruling that one civil rights lawyer said on Tuesday may have implications for non-English speakers in other states.
The decision, issued on Monday, gives the state the six weeks that remain before the Nov. 4 elections to comply with a list of remedies designed to accommodate Yup’ik- and Giwch’in-speaking voters in several rural Alaska Native villages.
The eight-page order by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason essentially puts into effect a ruling from early September in which she declared that the Alaska Division of Elections had violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
It stems from a lawsuit claiming the state failed to provide voters of limited English proficiency with clear and accurate information explaining a ballot that will include races for governor, U.S. House of Representatives and Senate seats, and various initiatives.
Under Gleason’s order, the state must now provide oral and written translations of election materials; public service announcements alerting voters of available translation assistance; posters advertising such assistance; election worker training; translated copies of the official election pamphlet; and a comprehensive report on compliance no later than Nov. 28. More.
It’s been interesting to read people’s reactions to my post about translator rants, and I always love a good and lively discussion. Here’s a followup: it seems to me that many translators look at “successful freelancers,” (with varying definitions of that), and think, “It’s easy to sit around and tell other, less successful freelancers what they’re doing wrong, without saying what you, the successful freelancer are doing right in order to be so successful.” So, since I’m into contentious topics lately, let’s have a go at this one: is freelance success mostly a matter of luck, connections, and external factors, or is it mostly a matter of working like a fiend until you make it?
Short answer: it’s a combination.
Longer answer: I like illustrative examples, so let me give you one. My husband and I are really frugal. As I wrote about in 2009 and again in 2013, our frugal lifestyle has netted some significant advantages, namely that are completely debt-free including our mortgage, despite the fact that a) we’ve only ever had “regular” jobs; b) we’ve lived in places (Boston, Boulder) with fairly high housing costs and c) we have a kid. When people ask us how we did this, we tell them: we bought a fixer-upper house and renovated it ourselves; the house didn’t have a shower for 3 months and we showered with the hose after the neighbors went to bed; we’ve never bought a brand new car; we use bicycles for the majority of our in-town transportation; we’ve never bought a brand new piece of furniture; we cook the vast majority of our meals from scratch; when we’re going to make a major purchase, we first comb Craigslist and eBay to see if we can get it used, and so on. At times when we’ve been really broke, we’ve gone ever further into blackbelt frugality territory: my husband cut my hair for a couple of years; when our daughter was little, I regularly worked for 3-4 hours every night, even on weekends, so we used very little childcare; most of our vacations involved camping. You get the picture. More.
Whatever your native language, you’ve probably noticed that city people speak it differently than do country folk. But so what? It’s also true that Chicagoans speak a bit differently than do Baltimoreans, and the French of Marseilles is not that of Paris. When it comes to differences in accent, grammar and vocabulary, you might expect that region, culture, social class and gender would count for more than the size of your town. So the people of, say, Caracas, should sound more like their fellow Venezuelans than like people in Miami. But according to this paper, you would be wrong. “The Spanish language,” its authors write, “is split into two superdialects”—a city dialect in which Caracas and Miami have a lot in common, versus a dialect of rural regions and small towns.
As novel as the finding is the method that Bruno Gonçalves and David Sánchez used to distinguish the dialects: They analyzed every tweet made in Spanish over two years for which geolocation data was also available (they don’t say which years). Breaking down these 50 million tweets according to different words used for “computer,” “car,” and other key concepts revealed the boundaries of the two dialects.
The researchers used Spanish because it is widely spoken and widely spread across several continents. Spanish also has plenty of Twitter users (unlike Chinese) to supply evidence. And written Spanish is logical—the letters you see represent the sounds you’d hear. On the other hand, in English (as noted here) the same letter combo can represent five different sounds (“Though I cough through the day, this rough bough comforts me”). Conversely, different sounds can be rendered by the same letters (“Archer, I bow to your bow, and I will lead you to the mines of lead”). That sort of thing, which has incensed sensible people for centuries, messes up textual analysis. More.
[...] The app, “Blue Cheese,” gives users a re-sizable scanning box so they can take a photo of the menu items they don’t understand.
Though typical translation apps provide only literal definitions, Min has discovered there is a market for people who want information that goes beyond that.The user is then provided with an immediate English to Chinese translation for all of the food items scanned.
His app provides photos and flavor descriptions aimed to help those unfamiliar with the language on a menu make ordering decisions based on what they would and would not enjoy eating, rather than just the words they recognize.
“We’ve discovered it is both a language barrier and a cultural barrier,” Min says. “For example, ‘blue’ and ‘cheese’ are very simple words – we all know them – but you would never know exactly what blue cheese looks like or tastes like until you try it.” More.
Digital Trends in (Applied) Linguistics, Literature and Translation Studies
Friday, 28 November 2014
University of Antwerp, South Campus (‘Campus Zuid’)
Keynote speaker: Prof. Véronique Hoste (Ghent University)
Like many researchers in the humanities at large, scholars focused on the study of English in the fields of (applied) linguistics, literature and translation studies are now making full use of digital applications and tools to carry out their research. This is evidenced in the multitude of instruments and approaches being adopted. For example, many applied linguists have taken to highlighting the pedagogical repercussions of using computers in language acquisition and language teaching processes. In the field of linguistics, the use of digital corpora as sources of empirical data on the basis of which (new) linguistic theories are tested and elaborated has found a large following in contemporary linguistic research. Likewise, literature scholars are turning to technology, for example, to develop digital editions that display the dynamics of the writing process in manuscripts. And in the field of translation studies, the digitisation of both translation practices and research methodologies has led to increased focus on both the use and the study of digital instruments in the field. More.
[...] UC Santa Cruz, however, has just been awarded a $261,255 grant from the National Science Foundation to undertake a new project titled “Collaborative Research: An Ultrasound Investigation of Irish Palatalization.”
The principal investigators for the project are Padgett and assistant professor Grant McGuire from the UC Santa Cruz Linguistics Department. They will work in collaboration with Ryan Bennett of Yale, a former student of the linguistics program at UC Santa Cruz and Máire Ní Chiosián of University College, Dublin.
Padgett and Bennett have both published research on the sound system of Irish. McGuire and Bennett have developed the ultrasound infrastructure at UC Santa Cruz. Ní Chiosáin’s primary research area is Irish language phonology, and she is a native speaker of Irish. More.
Zheni Bozhilova, translator of more than 60 novels and several collections of short stories from English into Bulgarian, has died on September 21 2014 at the age of 86.
Among the works that Bozhilova translated into Bulgarian were Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Robert Graves’ I, Claudius and The Divine Claudius, Virginia Woolf’s essay collection Death of a Moth and Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Death is a Lonely Business.
Bozhilova, born in Yambol, graduated in English from Sofia University. She was the spouse of well-known Bulgarian writer Nikolai Haitov, surviving him by 12 years. Bozhilova, apart from her translation work, was for many years editor of the publication National Culture and of the magazines Panorama and Contemporary.
If our most-used words are anything to go by, we spend too much time on Google and are obsessed with smartphones. Is language that transparent?
How zeitgeisty are you feeling today? If you’re not awe-struck, you may want to check your credentials.
The Spoken British National Corpus recently released initial findings from a small pilot of its study into the words most characteristic of the decade so far. The study, by Lancaster University’s faculty of arts and social sciences, pinpoints the digital revolution and the US as the two main influences on how British people speak. “Essentially”, “treadmill” and “awesome” are the only three in the top 10 most characteristic words of the early 2010s that don’t directly relate to the internet.
The report’s early findings can tell us a lot about how we communicate with each other, and what changes have occurred since the early 90s – the last time a study was completed to the same scale.
Here’s the question I’m going to answer: in 100 years, if people look back at the results of this study, what are they going to think about us? More.
From October 23 to 25, 2014, the Department of English and Comparative Literature of the University of the Philippines in Diliman will host the 6th Asian Translation Traditions International Conference (ATT6). The conference seeks to explore translation theories and methodologies arising from the specific historical and contemporary contexts of Asia.
ATT6 features eminent speakers and academics such as Resil Mojares of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Anis Nor of the University of Malaya, Harish Trivedi of the University of Delhi, Judy Wakabayashi of Kent State University, and Lawrence Wong of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The conference is open to teachers, students, academics, researchers, translators, and anyone interested in translation studies. For those who are interested in participating in the conference, the registration fee is P5,000, which covers a conference kit, one conference dinner, and morning snacks, lunch, and afternoon snacks for the duration of the conference.
The Asian Translation Traditions (ATT) conference series began in 2002 with the aim of challenging the Eurocentric emphasis of translation studies. The conferences have since been held in Hong Kong, India, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
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