SINCE THE BIRTH OF THE ALPHABET in the Near East around 2000 BC, endless writing systems from different languages and cultures have thrived and perished. The classic example is Egyptian, a highly developed civilization whose legacy remains the form of a famous hieroglyphic writing system…which we’ve never been able to fully decipher.
Over the last 2,500 years, the Latin alphabet has become so popular it’s swept away writing systems of peoples once dominated by the Romans. However, more than two billion people still write in other formats, and a few of them display an impressive handmade beauty.
Below are five of the most aesthetically attractive alphabets in the world, and the reasons why you’re probably never going to read them.
Could Microsoft’s Star Trek-inspired translation service ever replace professional human translation?
Swansea’s councillors must be painfully aware of the dangers of technology in the translation industry. When a translator’s email reply landed in their inbox in 2008, the Welsh sentences were duly printed on a road sign . It read: “I am not in the office at the moment.”
But recent advances in technology are now helping to break down language barriers and revolutionise the role of traditional translators.
When Google Translate was launched in 2006, basing translations on hundreds of millions of online texts, it raised a crucial question for the industry: will technology take over? Now, as Microsoft prepares to unveil its Star Trek translator – a Skype service that promises to understand spoken words and translate them into another language, speaking them back in real time – that question seems more relevant than ever.
But the hype surrounding new technology does not mean computers have all the answers, according to Andy Way, associate professor of computing at Dublin City University. “You’re more likely to have everything else in Star Trek before you ever get a universal translator,” he says. Although enhanced technology is changing our approach to translation, the traditional translation industry is safe for now, he adds.
Experts divide translation technology in two distinct categories: machine translation (MT) which relies solely on software, and computer-assisted translation (CAT) which is simply used as an aid for translators. And although both are developing rapidly, translators say that only the CAT method produces high quality results. More.
One University of Michigan professor is joining a rare class of creative individuals today: Khaled Mattawa is among 21 people from around the country named as 2014 MacArthur Foundation Fellows.
In the academic world, the award is known as the “genius grant.” A cartoonist, physicist, jazz composer and mathematician are among the other fellows.
Mattawa, a poet-translator of Arabic poetry, will receive a $625,000, no-strings-attached stipend paid out over the next five years. He said he plans to use the money to further his translations and take on larger projects.
He’s being recognized for the work he has done to broaden the public’s understanding of Arabic poetry. Mattawa was nominated anonymously for the award.
“It’s amazing news,” he said. “I was really surprised, delighted and stunned in a good way.” More.
When Arienne Dwyer identified an area in Chinese Inner Asia as a language convergence zone some 19 years ago, she discovered that the grammars of unrelated languages had grown to resemble one another. Moreover, when some speakers of these diverse languages come together in song contests, they would harmonize their melodies even faster than their languages.
Her acclaimed research is aimed at understanding the rise and fall of human languages—how they disappear under threat from other languages and how new languages emerge. In Chinese Inner Asia, conglomerations of unrelated languages are giving rise to new languages.
Dwyer studies the linguistic, ecological and social conditions under which languages and cultures can merge or split apart. Languages and cultures everywhere in the world converge and diverge; Chinese Inner Asia, however, is a hot spot for these processes.
“There’s no such thing as a pure language or a pure culture, but the degree to which they mix varies. I work in an area in Central Asia where they mix really heavily,” she said.
Beyond being able to research the universal processes of language emergence and disappearance, the many individual languages of Inner Asia— which are mostly unwritten and unknown— provide insights about speakers’ conceptual organization of the physical and abstract world, she said. More.
Cape Town – The constitution does not require the “simultaneous and equal use” of all 11 official languages for all purposes, according to findings by the Equality Court.
Judge Bennie Griesel handed down a judgment on Wednesday in which he dismissed an application to get all the legislation of Parliament published in all official languages.
The current practice is to publish national legislation in only two official languages.
The application was lodged by North West attorney Cerneels Lourens, who has also been described as a language activist, in his latest court bid for recognition of the “official status” of all 11 official languages.
He contended that the current practice undermined the official status of the other official languages and elevated English to the status of a “super official language”. More.
VERBING nouns annoys a lot of people. Traditional complaints include those against “to impact”, “to chair” and “to author”. And newly verbed nouns are continually entering the language: from “to login”, to “to Facebook”, and “to friend”. But we forget how many old nouned verbs are now totally unobjectionable. Shakespeare was a master noun verber (coining “to dog” among others). Fifty years ago, “to host” was derided as glib journalese, though it is centuries old. The Economist’s own style guide generally discourages vogue verbing.
Is there anything worse than fashionable verbed nouns? As it happens, there is: nouned verbs and nouned adjectives. Or rather, over-reliance on abstract, fancy-looking but vague nouns formed from with suffixes like –ation, -isation, -ment, -ship, -ance and so forth. They fill the worst kind of academic and bureaucratic prose, the kind a reader finishes and wonders why all those words just don’t seem to mean anything.
“Nominalisation”, the name for this phenomenon, is criticised by Steven Pinker, a Harvard psycholinguist, in his new book “The Sense of Style” (reviewed here). Nominalisations are common in scientific papers. Do mice avoid each other in an experiment? No, they exhibit socialavoidance. Do certain people drink too much? No, they presentoverconsumption. Mr Pinker, in turn, cites Helen Sword of the University of Auckland, who has memorably given nominalisations a less nominalised name. She calls them “zombie nouns ”, for their habit of ambling about in packs, eating the brains of readers. More.
In this video, Jost Zetzsche will talk about the major changes which have been brought to the translation industry over the past 15-20 years. Besides, he will share his experience as a translator and as an entrepreneur.
Jost Zetzsche is an ATA-accredited English-to-German translator, a consultant in the field of localization and translation, and a writer on technical solutions for the translation and localization industry. He joined the translation industry in 1997 as a translator and project manager for a localization and technical documentation provider. In 1999, Jost co-founded International Writers’ Group. He has also written some popular translation- related books as A Translator’s Tool Box—A Computer Primer for Translators.
Recent reports suggest that less than 5 percent of the world’s languages are online–and that for the other 95%, the Internet can be a path to extinction or revitalization. Viki, a popular video streaming site with primetime TV shows and movies from around the world, is hoping to reverse that trend with the help of its 33 million viewers. Viewers on Viki, a play on the words video and wiki, also happen to write or “crowdsource” the subtitles for the shows they watch.
Today, the company announced that it is launching an Endangered and Emerging Languages Program in partnership with Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages. Viki, a subsidiary of Rakuten, and Living Tongues will work to document endangered languages and assist communities with maintaining and revitalizing knowledge of their native tongues, like Quechua in Peru, Basque on the French-Spain border, or Cornish in the United Kingdom.
“Technology alone does not doom or save languages. But pride in a language, and willingness to creatively expand its use through technologies like Viki, can certainly help save it,” said Dr. K. David Harrison, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College and Director of Research for the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.
Linguists, scholars, technologists, students, and other members of the Viki community are already using the Viki platform to help make shows available in languages on the brink of extinction. To date, shows on Viki–including Korean dramas, Japanese anime, Bollywood and US films–have been subtitled into 29 endangered and threatened and 20 emerging languages, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the 200 languages available on the site.
“In the past two years, we’ve been contacted by nearly a dozen organizations whose mission is to preserve their languages, and by extension, their rich cultural histories. They wanted us to add their language to our subtitles list so that they could help the younger generation practice and learn,” said Razmig Hovaghimian, Viki CEO and co-founder. “We want to help ensure that these languages are not forgotten or lost, but live on in a tradition that has carried them for generations–through storytelling.”
Seeking medical attention can be difficult enough, but it’s even harder when you don’t speak the language.
A new program in medical translation at Tel Aviv University is training translators in order to help the sizable Eritrean refugee population in central Israel communicate when they end up in hospitals and clinics.
Michal Schuster, who is with the program, tells us exactly how it works and whether there are plans to expand.
We also speak to one of the students taking the course, Daniel, who works at a clinic for uninsured people in Tel Aviv.
“Translation requires a constant subjection and submission of the ego. Empathizing with work very different from one’s own has its own merits, expanding the boundaries of self.
As an experienced “adventure” traveler, I know the first expedition is a scouting mission, and the rewards are in returning to the places I’ve visited.
It is the spontaneity of creating, as with music, of making things come to life, which seems to me closest to meaning in life, that ‘oceanic feeling’.”
Alex Cigale is an American literary translator. He speaks English, mostly fluently, and Russian, with a stutter (and has almost forgotten his high school French, and the years he lived in Israel and spoke Hebrew). He decided to answer our questions in English.
As in previous years, ProZ.com will be hosting a two-day virtual conference to celebrate International Translation Day. The conference will take place on September 29 -30, 2014. September 29th will mainly be dedicated to Cat tools and software and September 30th will include sessions and panels about the following topics:
The event is free to attend and all those registered will be able to view all listings from agencies and LSPs that have recruitment needs. Listings will automatically be sorted based on your language pair. Once you find a recruitment listing in which you are interested, you will be able to express interest in that outsourcer and grant that outsourcer permission to contact you via ProZ.com. Language professionals will only be able to express interest in those recruitment needs where their skill set and language pair match the requirements set by the outsourcer.
The 2014 edition of the ProZ.com community choice awards is underway and it has entered the final week for voting, which will run until September 22nd, 2014. Winners will be announced on September 30th, International Translation Day.
Winners will be determined purely through numbers of votes cast by the ProZ.com community.
There are two main categories: Translation-related and Interpretation-related. Within these categories are various sub-categories such as Best Blog, Best Website, Best Mentor, Best Article, Best training session, etc.
The list of nominees and the links to vote can be found here.
(…) It’s often said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Actually this proverb is, for the most part, not true. For much of the history of modern neuroscience, the adult brain was believed to be a fixed structure that, once damaged, could not be repaired. But research published since the 1960s has challenged this assumption, showing that it is actually a highly dynamic structure, which changes itself in response to new experiences, and adapts to injuries – a phenomenon referred to as neuroplasticity.
Collectively, this body of research suggests that one can never be too old to learn something new, but that the older they are, the harder it is for them to do so. This is because neuroplasticity generally decreases as a person gets older, meaning the brain becomes less able to change itself in response to experiences.
Some aspects of language learning become progressively more difficult with age, others may get easier. “Older people have larger vocabularies than younger ones, so the chances are your vocabulary will be as large as a native,” says Albert Costa, a professor of neuroscience who studies bilingualism at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Picking up a new language’s vocabulary is much easier for adults than learning the rules that govern its grammar or syntax. (…)
The UK government is donating £1.5m for the translation of all William Shakespeare’s works into Mandarin for audiences in China.
Plans for cultural co-operation with China also include making 14 important Chinese plays available in English.
Culture secretary Sajid Javid also announced £300,000 for a Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) tour of China.
He said culture was a “brilliant” way of fostering closer UK-China ties.
“This funding means Western and Eastern cultures can learn from and be enriched by one another and what better way than using the works of Shakespeare,” said Mr Javid.
“The package marks a really important step for both China and the UK to grow a strong and progressive relationship.”
The RSC will undertake the first translation of the Bard’s complete works in Mandarin.
Artistic director Gregory Doran said: “I profoundly believe that we foster deeper understanding between cultures by sharing and telling each other our stories.
“Our plans to translate Shakespeare into Mandarin, to see translation and performance of more Chinese classics in the UK and to tour RSC productions to China will celebrate the arts and culture of both nations,” he added. More.
The American authors Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler are among the six writers selected for the shortlist of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, announced on Tuesday. Also on the shortlist are three British writers — Howard Jacobson, Neel Mukherjee and Ali Smith — and the Australian Richard Flanagan. The winner of the prize, worth around $80,000 and widely considered the most prestigious literary award in Britain, will be announced on Oct.14.
Mr. Ferris was nominated for “To Rise Again at a Decent Hour” (Viking); Ms. Fowler for “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” (Serpent’s Tail); Mr. Flanagan for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” (Chatto & Windus); Mr. Jacobson for “J” (Jonathan Cape); Mr. Mukherjee for “The Lives of Others” (Chatto & Windus); and Ms. Smith for “How to Be Both” (Hamish Hamilton).
This is the first year that writers from outside Ireland, the Commonwealth and former Commonwealth countries are eligible for the prize, provided they write in English and have been published in Britain. The longlist of 13, chosen from a pool of 154 novels and announced in July, also included the American writers Siri Hustvedt, Richard Powers and Joseph O’Neill. Six British novelists, including Mr. Jacobson, who won the prize in 2010, and the Irish writer Niall Williams and Mr. Flanagan completed the list. More.
What’s a childhood without nursery rhymes? And what’s a nursery rhyme without, well, rhyme? Rhyme and rhythm in language are important parts of storytelling, especially for children, but how would you go about making the last part of the word sound the same if your words don’t have sounds in them at all? In other words, can there be rhymes in ASL or other sign languages?
In the video below, Austin W. Andrews, an ASL storyteller also known as Awti, presents an engaging proposal for creating rhymes in ASL, using the example of “Hey Diddle Diddle.”
Awti points out that since rhyme is based on the repetition of portions of words, the portions of words that get repeated don’t necessarily have to be sounds. They could also be movement, handshape, location, palm orientation, or other components of signs. According to his website, Awti is hearing but was raised in a deaf family, so he’d be well-placed to draw these types of comparisons. More.
Had it not been for translators and their work, much of the world’s most important literature would only have been accessible to readers with specialized skills in foreign languages. Furthermore, without translations and the people who wrote them, a country would have been deprived of the contrasts, reflections and inspirations from other literatures that are so essential to the life and spirit of its national literature. Nonetheless, translators are severely underexposed in a country’s literary history.
This obvious but often glossed-over fact has now lead the Danish Association of Translators (DOF) to the initiative of making an online encyclopedia of Danish translators. In order to avoid the complete historical effacement of translators in the slipstream between cultural anonymity and linguistic transparency, between mere bibliography and pure theory, the online database will present men and women who have enabled Danish readers (and Danish writers) to engage with other literatures from near and far – the men and women who have actively conducted the exchanges that allow Danish literature to breathe.
This initiative is intended to work on several levels, both as a frame of reference for the history of translation in Denmark and as a qualification of translation criticism. The individual entries will present a translator and his or her bibliography and literary career. They will also contain details of the individual translator’s linguistic background, technical methods, apparent strategies, particular challenges and literary merits in a critical perspective, etc. The encyclopedia will be continually expanded.
TranslatorWiki! WikiTranslatorium? Whatever funny name you could come up with, this would be an interesting way of making visible the people who make visible the books we read from around the world.
Slaving over textbooks and spending hours in a classroom conjugating verbs could be a thing of the past if one scientist’s predictions come true.
Nicholas Negroponte of MIT predicted the demise of the computer mouse back in the 1980s and now thinks that it could be just 30 years until we can ‘ingest’ languages.
The founder of MIT’s Media Lab and One Laptop per Child Association, said in a TED talk that we will be able to swallow pills to learn languages and works of literature in the future.
He said that humans are adept at consuming information through our eyes, but this method may be inefficient compared with other alternatives.
Addressing the TED audience in Vancouver, Canada, Negroponte said: ‘My prediction is that we’ll be able to ingest information.
‘You’re going to swallow a pill and know English. You’re going to swallow a pill and know Shakespeare.’
‘And the way to do it is through the bloodstream. So once it’s [the information in the pill] in your bloodstream, it basically goes through and gets into the brain…and the different pieces get deposited in the right places.’
Negroponte said that he is not the only scientist to think such a feat of learning may be possible in the next 30 years. More.
Short literary works by young writers from European Union countries will be made available in Chinese translation via the Internet, the European Commissioner for Culture, Androulla Vassiliou, announced here Wednesday.
The initiative will showcase 140 works of fiction shorter than 500 words, written by writers 28 and under, she said.
The Flash Europa 28 project is set to begin Oct. 6 and will display a new work every weekday. Eventually, five authors from each of the 28 EU member countries will see their work appear in Chinese, with every country having a week dedicated to its writers.
“Flash Europa 28 offers a stupendous opportunity for the Chinese people to discover young European writers and their lives”, the commissioner said at the presentation of the project. More.
Sooner or later, every professional linguist will be confronted with a customer who doesn’t pay for services rendered. While this is highly annoying, it’s important to remember that it’s usually not personal, but it sure does feel personal when you aren’t compensated for your hard work, doesn’t it? Now, just like most of our colleagues, we have been very lucky that in more than a decade in business, we’ve only had a few non-payers.
We’ve had this great payment record because we ask for payment in advance when we work with non-corporate clients, only work with people we trust, and make sure that we have addresses and contact information for all new customers in case a dispute arises. In addition, every customer has to sign a contract agreeing to our price and terms, and that document would come in really handy if we had to go to court. In addition, in the rare case that we work with an agency for an interpreting case, we check their rating on the invaluable Payment Practices website. In spite of all these precautions, once in a while a customer hasn’t paid, and here are some of the steps we’ve taken to remedy the situation. More.
The translation news daily digest is my daily 'signal' to stop work and find out what's going on in the world of translation before heading back into the world at large! It provides a great overview that I could never get on my own.