Archive for the ‘German’ Category

Subtitles aid language learning

Posted on December 10th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, German, Hints and Tips, Japanese, Language acquisition, Research, Spanish | Leave a Comment »

Yesterday I posted about a language, Na’vi, that was created for a movie.

Invented languages aren’t the only ones you can learn from films though – they’re a great way to improve your skills in your chosen language, be it Spanish, German or Japanese.

There’s a huge range of movies out there in every genre, so there’s something to interest everyone – from big budget Hollywood blockbusters to Japanese anime flicks. Sometimes the accents are a problem though, or perhaps the words are too unfamiliar to completely follow the plot.

That’s where subtitles become useful. A new study has shown that second-language listening ability can be improved by watching movies with subtitles in the second language. The research, published in the online science journal PLoS One, shows that foreign subtitles can help with speech perception, whilst native language subtitles may hinder this. The written word appears to help the learner perceive the speech more accurately as they can draw on previous knowledge of similar words.

So, next time you’re watching a foreign language movie, why not try switching the subtitles?

Dialect poetry

Posted on October 14th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, German, Scots, Translation | 1 Comment »

European dialects are apparently much more similar than we think.

Dialects are becoming increasingly rare in Europe, as borders are open and there’s more free movement between states. But dialects help preserve the local language and culture, so some Scottish and German poets have taken up the challenge of translating verse in these regional varieties.

Fitzgerald Kusz, a Franconian poet from Nuremberg, said that in translating Scots poems he was surprised to discover traces of that dialect’s Germanic roots. Kusz has spoken Franconian since childhood and regards his dialect as an intimate and comfortable form of communication.

“On one hand, globalization continues strengthen its hold,” he said, “High German, the unified language, can be heard on television in every village. But there is, in fact, a movement among the people to keep their languages alive.”

And that is one primary goal of dialect literature, he added.

Read the full article on dialect poetry here.

The survival of Yiddish

Posted on October 7th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, German, Yiddish | Leave a Comment »

A friend has brought to my notice an interesting programme on the BBC World Service (also available on the BBC website) about the Yiddish language.

Once a German dialect, Yiddish (literal translation “Jewish”) developed into a full language over the course of a millennium. Whilst the early history of the language is uncertain, it’s thought that it grew from a distinct Jewish culture called Ashkenazi in Germany in the 10th Century. At its height, more than ten million people spoke or understood the language.

Events in the 20th Century meant that many Yiddish speakers were killed and those remaining assimilated in to different cultures and languages. Today it’s estimated there are 3 million speakers worldwide.

In the first part of the programme:

Dennis Marks travels to New York to discover what has become of Yiddish and how much of the language survives today.

On the Lower East Side, where many Jewish migrants first came to live, he finds a musical and theatrical tradition which once supported a dozen Yiddish theatres on 2nd Avenue.

He hears from the publisher of The Forward, once the world’s most popular Yiddish newspaper, but which is now in seemingly terminal decline.

And he explores the enormous influence of Yiddish culture on American life, its literature and its comedic tradition. (Source: BBC World Service)

Languages at the UN

Posted on September 25th, 2009by Michelle
In Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Russian, Translation | Leave a Comment »

I posted recently about the European Union and the difficulties faced with translating their work in to the languages of its member countries.

So how does this work on a bigger scale, with more countries involved? Somewhere like the United Nations for example. This issue was recently highlighted by Colonel Gaddafi of Libya addressing the UN General Assembly in a regional dialect.

With 192 member states and a budget of around US$4 billion, the UN is made up of five main bodies, four of which are based on international territory at the UN headquarters in New York City, USA. The UN has six official languages – English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. When delivering a speech at the UN, speakers are supposed to talk in one of these languages.

…U.N. interpreters then translate the lecture into the other five languages. If the speaker doesn’t use an official language—either as a political statement or because he doesn’t know one—the speaker has to bring along his own interpreter. That interpreter then translates into one of the official languages—usually English or French—and the other interpreters translate from that interpretation. (Qaddafi brought his own interpreter.) Alternatively, the speaker can provide a written translation of his speech in one of the official languages, as long as he doesn’t deviate from the text in his remarks.

The United Nations uses simultaneous interpretation, which means translating on the fly without breaks (as opposed to consecutive interpretation, in which the speaker and translator alternate). At any given moment, the U.N. Interpretation Service has a dozen interpreters working six booths—one for every official language. The pair of interpreters in the English booth translates into English, the French booth translates into French, and so on. Attendees can then listen to the interpretations on headphones, clicking across channels for different languages. The job is exhausting, so interpreters will usually switch off every 20 minutes or so. They can also take breaks when the speech is in their language, since no translation is necessary. (Source: Slate Magazine)

To read more about interpreting at the UN, read the rest of the article at Slate Magazine here.

A pirate’s life for ye?

Posted on September 19th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Events, French, German, Mandarin, Pirate, Swedish | Leave a Comment »

Talk_Like_a_Pirate_DayAhoy, me hearties! Shiver me timbers, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Created in 1995, Talk Like A Pirate Day (TLAPD) started between two friends, and went nationwide in America (and then international) after being promoted by syndicated humour columnist Dave Barry, in 2002. From an idea between friends, the day has grown into a huge ‘holiday’, celebrated by pirate (and fun) loving people all over the world.

So why celebrate? Well, first and foremost, it’s very amusing to try and talk in pirate all day! Not only will you be learning a new language (albeit of limited use), you can raise money for charity by doing so. Check out some of the events here and here. As a truly international day, you can also learn how to talk like a pirate in Swedish, German, French, and Mandarin Chinese.

Aarrr! Want to celebrate but got a problem with your pirate-speak? Check out the video below of the founders of TLAPD to learn some of the basics of pirate lingo. And if you need a bit of a hand translating more difficult phrases, set your Google to Pirate and search away! You can also try out the Facebook English (Pirate) option, but sadly you can’t do the same on Twitter yet.

A-pirating we go!

Cogito, ergo sum

Posted on August 28th, 2009by Michelle
In English, French, German, Latin, Translation | 3 Comments »

EU languagesProbably the most famous of Latin phrases, Descartes philosophical musing (I think, therefore I am or I am thinking, therefore I exist), could perhaps be applied to the European Union.

These interesting articles consider the idea that Latin could be adopted as the official language of the European Union (EU). Comprising of 27 member countries, and working in 23 official languages, the EU currently spends an incredible €1,123 million a year (statistic from 2005) on translating and interpretation. This represents about 1% of the EU’s entire budget. Adding to the complexity is that different EU institutions conduct business in different languages – the European Commission in English, French and German, for example. (Source)

As one translator says:

“It’s not practical if you have to translate the name of an EU program into 23 languages, so if you have a Latin word that can be pronounced in all 23 and means something at the same time, it’s practical,” said Wolfgang Jenniges, a European Commission translator and classical linguist.

Jenniges is referencing is the use of Latin words for some projects and web domain names run by the EU, also mentioned in the article:

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has the domain name “curia” – Latin for “court.” The council of EU member states uses the domain name “consilium,” Latin for “council.”

Both those names are sub-addresses of the EU’s web domain, “europa” – the Latin name for Europe.

EU projects are also being given Latin names. A recent translation contest was called “juvenes translatores” (“young translators”), while the EU has a “Tempus” (“time”) project for upgrading universities outside the bloc.

Classical names are even coming back into fashion for EU military missions. In recent years, the bloc has run operations named Althea, Artemis, Themis and Concordia – the goddesses of healing, hunting, justice and reconciliation.

The Finnish showed their support of Latin during their EU presidency, with sections of the EU website being published in Latin.

So, will we one day see our MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) communicating in Latin? Well, probably not. As their website states, a single official language would cut off most EU citizens from their right to an understanding of what the EU is doing. Plus, the EU is committed to multilingualism, which a single official language would go against.

Another 5000 words to learn

Posted on July 24th, 2009by Michelle
In German, Language acquisition, Words | Leave a Comment »

duden-dictionaryInteresting news for German language learners this week – apparently 5,000 words have been added to the language.

How exactly can you add five thousand words to a language though? Well, apparently a lot of them are from English, including such gems as das It Girl and eine No Go Area.

The additions have been made by staff at Duden, a respected German dictionary now in its 25th edition. Containing 135,000 words, the current edition is around six times the size of the original, produced in 1880.

And my favourite of the new additions? Hüftgold, or as we say in English, “love handles”.

Read more about the additions here and here.