Have you ever sat in a restaurant while you’re on holiday abroad and looked hopefully around for a copy of the menu in English? Slight panic sets in when you realize there isn’t one and you haven’t the faintest idea what any of the dishes are on the menu. Well panic no more, as some new technology is on its way to help!
The Japanese, known for their love of gadgets, have invented some spy-like translation glasses. Working in real time, the muddled letters of the foreign menu in front of you will suddenly be translated clearly into your own language.
Using an interactive ring that transmits hand movements back to the glasses, you can also manipulate virtual images projected on a flat surface by way of a simulated touchscreen and ‘touch’ tags that only you can see.
If that’s not enough to convince you to sign up at MI6, they even include a facial recognition feature. Yes, really. So if you want to know someone’s name, what they do for a living and a few other personal details, just don a pair of these spy-like specs to get your insider information.
Let’s get back to that menu though, before you get dizzy from hunger. These Intelligent Glasses will translate the text on the page right before your very eyes, as you read it. With the prototype being able to translate Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English languages, the researchers are looking to launch this translation technology in 2020. After completing their list of modifications, that should leave them with plenty of time to make the glasses look as cool as they sound!
Do you think this type of translation technology will take off and what other scenarios would these glasses be useful for other than being able to help you with ordering your next meal?
As globalization has changed the way we conduct business and interact socially, the need to understand other languages and cultures has increased. Why then, of the 6,000 existing languages in the world, are nearly half of them endangered?
To be precise, 43% of our world’s languages are currently at risk and about 200 of these are spoken by fewer than ten people. Languages are ‘safe’ when they are spoken by all generations but become vulnerable when, despite most children being able to speak a language, they are restricted with their use of it, such as in their homes. A language becomes classified as endangered when it is not taught to children as their mother tongue, when older generations speak it and parents understand it but do not talk to their children in it, and when grandparents are the youngest speakers of the language and they themselves barely use it. When no-one alive speaks a language, it becomes extinct, and approximately 230 languages have become extinct since 1950. It’s not just a loss of the language, but a loss of the culture that the language related to.
Launching a Linguistic Initiative
The UN is hoping to turn this declining trend around by launching an initiative called ‘Many Languages, One World’. University and college students have been set the challenge of writing an essay in a language other than their own – in one of the six official languages of the United Nations: Spanish, English, Russian, French, Chinese and Arabic. Based on the benefits and uses that multilingualism has in our globalized world, the aim of these essays is to highlight how important linguistics and communication are and to encourage the study of languages in the future, particularly the six official languages of the UN.
Would you learn an endangered language to ensure its survival and revival?
Studies have been conducted which prove the correlation between wealth and the ability for word comprehension in very young children, but how does that translate into adulthood? Do those who have been brought up in low income households find it harder to learn foreign languages than those who have grown up with wealthier families?
It’s certainly true that by school age, those who have been raised in low income families have a lower reading ability than their peers and can struggle from the outset. Their social background has not allowed them to reach their full potential for their age group leading to an increased risk of lack of cognitive and educational development.
Nowadays, however, educational institutions recognize these social situations and are able to ensure that pupils are taught accordingly. Teaching techniques and resources are such that pupils from any background are able to learn effectively and will quickly progress to reach their full potential.
A high percentage of low income families in the UK actually speak English as their second language, whilst speaking their native language at home and in their community. In this respect, many children are already familiar with the concept of learning foreign languages and, whilst they may need to apply themselves more than their peers to other academic subjects, they already have the capabilities of being able to grasp foreign languages. Bearing this in mind, for those particular pupils, learning foreign languages as an adult should not pose any issues.
Globalization, interactive social media and innovative teaching techniques with a focus on learning foreign languages means that adults, regardless of their background, educational level, or linguistic capability are more than able to learn foreign languages easily. What languages have you learned and do you think your background positively or negatively affected your ability to learn them?
If people find ‘back seat’ driving irritating, then ‘back seat’ interpreting is even worse. Costing taxpayers £250,000 each year, the use of interpreters or pre-recorded voice-overs in foreign languages during practical and theory tests has resulted in over 1,000 licences being revoked due to fraud and a number of convictions of interpreters.
The system allows people who speak foreign languages to learn how to drive by choosing from 19 foreign voice-over languages available for the test, or to use an interpreter where their language is not a pre-recorded option. This system, however, attracts fraudsters as learner drivers have been helped to cheat by being covertly coached in the foreign language.
The fraud scandal has led the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, to make the decision to scrap all driving tests conducted in foreign languages from early next year with the goal of stopping fraud, boosting safety, cutting costs and enhancing ‘social cohesion and integration’ as the tests will only be available in English or Welsh. He also stated that this requirement will ensure that, on passing their test, all new drivers will be able to understand any emergency information or traffic updates.
The Right Decision?
What are your views of the current language system used by foreign learner drivers in the UK and do you agree or disagree with the decision made for next year’s driving tests?
You have absolutely no idea what that person just said to you and your blank look says it all. They might as well be speaking to you in double Dutch!
The term ‘double Dutch’ originated after the Anglo-Dutch wars, a time when all things Dutch were spoken of in an unflattering light by the English. For example:
- Dutch courage – a brash form of bravery induced by alcohol.
- Dutch comfort – a cold comfort which is only a comfort at all because things could have been worse.
- Dutch treat – this doesn’t constitute a treat in the general sense as each person actually pays for their own expenses.
- Dutch defence – a term used for a legal defence whereby the defendant seeks clemency at the expense of those they deceitfully betray.
‘Dutch’ was also the original generic name for Germans, with High Dutch being spoken in southern Germany and Low Dutch being spoken in The Netherlands. As the dialect was so hard for the English to understand, they came to reference all incomprehensible phrases as ‘double Dutch’.
Nowadays, the phrase is still used, although with a much lighter note now that those bad relations between the countries have disappeared.
Do you find it hard to understand other dialects? When was the last time you used the phrase ‘double Dutch’, and can you think of any similar phrases?
Have you ever wondered what kids spend so much time doing on the Internet? Well it seems that they´ve been creating, learning and speaking a whole new language!
Born into the virtual world that´s still so ‘new’ to most of us, kids have grown up online with a fearless approach to the Internet and related technology. These tech savvy little people have even created their own form of online communication which is completely baffling to the rest of us.
So how are parents (or anyone else for that matter) supposed to understand what their kids are saying? Luckily, the ‘Digital Dictionary’ has been compiled to help solve the problem.
The Lingo Low-down
Savage means good
Sick means cool
Ill means amazing
Fetch means awesome
Derp means stupid
Jank means gross
Owned means embarrassed
Neg means annoying
The Digital Dictionary
Disney´s Club Penguin, an online virtual world for kids, compiled this dictionary after conducting research about parents´ holds over their children´s online activities. Of the 1,000 parents of 6-14 year olds who were surveyed, nearly two thirds confessed to not understanding their kids´ online language. In a bid to aid these bemused parents, the Digital Dictionary lists the 50 most popular words used by children online. 25 of these have positive meanings, although you wouldn´t know it at first glance, while the other 25 have negative meanings.
Are you struggling to make sense of this online vocabulary? Have you got a beef with this virtual language? The newly published dictionary will give you the tools you need to understand it, so be reem and learn the legit lingo.
As a reservations agent, Julie was used to speaking to people every day from different nationalities, from customers to hotels, to travel companies and tour operators. She had worked for an English-run company in Italy which operated a holiday club, offering discounted holidays and special offers to their customers. As the company wasn´t tied to specific travel agencies or resorts, this meant that Julie was able to act independently as a reservations agent and source the best travel deals that she could in an unbiased manner for her clients. She enjoyed putting together great travel packages for her customers that they wouldn´t be able to find anywhere else, especially at such a good price. She handled bookings for both Italian and English speaking clients which involved regular telephone calls and emails in both languages.
Due to the economy, however, the Italian office had closed down and Julie had relocated to the UK office. Back in the UK, almost seamlessly it seemed, she was able to continue dealing with the same customers as before, with no difference other than her own location. No longer living in Italy, Julie didn’t want to become unfamiliar with the language seeing as she wasn’t hearing it and speaking it fully on a daily basis, so invested in some local language courses to keep things fresh in her mind. She signed up for some advanced classes as she was fairly fluent but still wanted to be pushed as far as she could be.
With her Italian in check and her customers happy, Julie set about finding unbeatable travel deals that would provide the best holidays her clients could hope for!
Have you ever considered the origins of languages? How did they start, where did they begin, how have they changed and been influenced over the years?
Our modern day European languages belong to the Germanic family of languages which originated in Europe and include about 60 languages and dialects all originating from Proto-Germanic, which was spoken in Iron Age northern Europe. As the Germanic tribes moved southwards from northern Europe, different variations of Germanic sprang up.
Three main groups occurred: the West Germanic languages, North Germanic and East Germanic languages. The North Germanic branch consists of Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, amongst others. The East Germanic languages are now extinct. The West Germanic languages, however, are the most widely spoken of the Germanic family of languages and include the two most popular ones of English and German as well as other major languages, including Dutch and Afrikaans.
The English and German languages of today occurred due to shifts in speech patterns resulting from influences such as the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons which led to the demise of Old English grammar and the start of Middle English in the 12th century, and to the High German consonant shift which resulted in Upper German, Low Saxon and Central German strains.
Our languages are still evolving today with the integration of popular foreign words and phrases from other languages. Languages are intriguing, from their concept, to their development, their usage and their ever-changing form. So be intrigued: get back to your linguistic roots and learn a new language from the Germanic family tree!
Chris had spent a few years in his late teens and early twenties living in Germany, in the army barracks where he served. After his tour had ended, he moved back to the UK with his German wife to start a family. They had a beautiful baby boy called Sam and life in the UK was good for a while.
But, as sometimes happens, life changed course and Chris and his wife sadly decided to end their marriage. She moved back to Germany with their young son while Chris stayed in the UK. His ex-wife soon remarried and started a new family, and gradually it wasn’t just the distance which kept Chris apart from his son as she cut all forms of communication with him.
Years later, having never given up searching, Chris found his son again. Now a teenager, he still lived in Germany but with his girlfriend rather than his mother. Sam spoke good English but, having lived in Germany for so long, often lapsed into German without thinking. Chris still remembered bits of German but his memory of the language was vague since his army days. As an effort to show willing and an understanding for Sam´s life so far in Germany, Chris enrolled in a German language course to refresh his memory and to make quick progress so that he could speak to his son properly.
A year later, they are still catching up and getting to know each other, albeit by speaking in an amusing form of Denglish! The separation of time and distance may have been long, but the bond between father and son has been mended in no time at all.
Critics of the new national curriculum scheduled to begin in primary and some secondary schools in September 2014 say that it is too soon, that no one is prepared enough yet, and that it will cause chaos where schools and their teachers are not ready. Advocates of the changes state they are glad that the national curriculum is finally being given an overhaul which will put the UK back on track with the rest of Europe. The proposed changes will be taught to children aged between 5 and 14 years old, but secondary schools can opt out if they wish.
But what implications do these changes hold? Teachers have been used to teaching the set curriculum for years with little need for in-depth teaching. Many now have no choice but to go back to school themselves in order to revise the subjects before attempting to teach them to the children.
Among the subjects being given an overhaul is English, with a new focus on grammar, spelling and vocabulary. Rigorous spelling lists will be given to children in various age groups. It will be expected of children between the ages of 11 and 14 years old to have learned at least two Shakespeare plays. Younger children won´t get off lightly either as seven-year-olds will be taught about adverbs, conjunctions, subordinate clauses and prepositions while eight-year-olds will learn about fronted adverbials. Nine-year-olds will find out the uses of modal verbs and relative clauses and ten-year-olds will study using the subjunctive form of verbs as well as the relationship between subject and object, active and passive. Does this all sound like double Dutch to you?
To make sense of it all, take some refresher English courses in Leicester or a city near you to gain a better understanding of the complexities of the English language.