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Singapore’s campaign against the creole Singlish

Source: Atlas Obscura
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

Singapore is an immigrant country with four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. Officially, English is the most commonly spoken language in Singaporean homes, having recently and just barely edged out Mandarin. Unofficially? That’s completely wrong. Because what’s likely the actual most common language spoken does not appear on the census. That language is called Singlish.

Singlish is spoken across all ethnic groups in Singapore, even across economic strata. But the government hates it. Since the year 2000, the Singaporean government has been conducting a campaign called the “Speak Good English Movement,” which is specifically designed to discourage the use of Singlish and encourage the use of standard English.

Interestingly, the Singaporean government does not have a firm definition of what “standard English” means; they aren’t strictly teaching British Received Pronunciation or New England Prep School English or Australian English or anything else. By “standard,” they seem to simply mean “English that can be readily understood by English speakers outside Singapore.”

Here’s one of a series of video clips from this “Speak Good English Movement”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l3nHHBJDAU . Tell me if you wouldn’t love to go out to lunch with that guy.

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Remembering Demetrio Túpac Yupanqui, who translated Don Quixote into Quechua

Source: Words without Borders
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

As we spoke, it soon became clear that Túpac Yupanqui’s mission was, if anything, even bolder and slightly more harebrained—dare I say quixotic?—than the one I had come to interview him about. His translation of Don Quixote was simply the best-known example of his decades-long effort to create a standardized literary Quechua and leave millions of Peruvian schoolchildren with an alternative to what he calls the “language of the invader.” That Spanish has been the definitive language of Peruvian law and literature since the mid-sixteenth century didn’t seem to strike him as a particularly onerous obstacle.

“No language spontaneously produces its own literature,” Túpac Yupanqui told me. “If you know how to read and write, it’s because someone taught you.”

Here’s a great write up about Túpac Yupanqui, who brought Don Quixote to the Quechua language, over on Words without Borders:

https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/the-ingenious-gentleman-of-the-andeson-translating-cervantess-classic


Judge rules Google translation is not consent for police searches

Source: Quartz
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

Imagine you’re driving in a foreign country and a police officer stops you on the road. You don’t speak the cop’s language and they don’t speak yours, so a halting exchange ensues using a laptop and Google Translate. You’re not always sure what the officer is asking, and you end up agreeing to something you didn’t quite understand, and are arrested.

That’s what happened to Omar Cruz-Zamora, a Mexican native in the US on a legal visa, in Kansas last September. Based on a typed exchange using Google Translate, he agreed to let police search his car—he wasn’t legally required to—and was arrested for possession of 14 pounds of cocaine and methamphetamines. On June 4, a Kansas court granted Cruz-Zamora’s motion to suppress the evidence, finding Google Translate isn’t good enough for constitutional search purposes.

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