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?
Sporting personality, Gary Lineker, has been promoting the benefits of learning foreign languages. Having learned Spanish after he was assigned to play football for Barcelona FC in 1986, he understands only too well the importance that foreign languages have in people’s lives.
Last month was the European Day of Languages and, in celebration of this, 11 schools in England and Scotland were given the opportunity to improve their linguistic capabilities by being awarded new language training resources. Keen to get involved, Gary Lineker visited one of these secondary schools to interact with the kids and to take part in the discussions there which were based on the necessity for increased language learning in schools.
Most schools across the UK are multinational, with many pupils speaking different languages at home, so why not promote language learning in schools? Technology makes learning more fun and interesting for kids, and schools have many technological resources at their fingertips that their pupils can take advantage of. The new language software awarded to the schools will give the pupils the ability to study using devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Other sports personalities are also quick to highlight the benefits of being able to speak foreign languages. Olympic medalist, Tom Daly, studied Spanish to A-level and is able to conduct interviews in Spanish, just as Chris Froome conducts interviews for the Tour de France in French. Paula Radcliffe, the world marathon record holder, finds her fluency in French and German very useful for international events. Ellen MacArthur used her knowledge of French to help gain sponsorship for her round-the-world sailing trip. Having role models like these is a great way for pupils to be inspired to learn new languages and to understand the importance of languages for their futures.
Who or what inspired you to learn a language and how has it helped you in your career or lifestyle?
Busy, busy, busy! There’s always something to do, somewhere to go and never enough time to do everything you need to. Only the essentials get prioritized and hobbies or extras get left behind.
With language tuition nowadays, there’s no need to worry about how to fit it all in as the classes are designed to take away the stress and add flexibility and ease of use to your lessons. Whilst some of us might be grateful for an excuse not to have to learn something in our free time, for those of us that do want to, these pupil friendly courses will blend in seamlessly with our otherwise hectic schedules. Instead of attending an educational establishment, tutors will now happily conduct the classes at their pupils’ homes, workplaces or other convenient locations, and can fit the lessons in around their timetables, including weekends.
For those who travel regularly, online lessons are a great advantage. Pre-recorded lessons can be downloaded and emailed back to tutors from any location at any time with the use of a portable device such as an iPad or Android tablet. You can still speak directly to your tutor using the built in webcam and microphone. Conversations, messages, document sharing and the viewing of websites or videos can be conducted over free software, such as Skype or Google+. In fact, with this type of technology, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to learn a new language!
Do you struggle to fit everything into your daily routine? What timesaving tips have you got for others who are learning a new language? Make some space in your schedule where you can and enjoy the satisfaction of being able to speak in another language!
Are we alone in the universe? Who knows; but it would be naive of us to think so. And what would happen if we discovered we´re not alone? If we ever did encounter an alien species, the first stumbling block to overcome would be communication. We´d have to find a way to understand each other’s languages.
Two unmanned probes were launched by NASA over 30 years ago: Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were sent to investigate the larger planets of Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Saturn, beaming back images and data for us to analyse. They continued travelling further and Voyager 1 is now 10.5 billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 is 8.6 billion miles away. The mission has been successful so far…with one odd occurrence a few years ago.
Despite no previous disruptions, on 22nd April 2010, Voyage 2 suddenly started transmitting odd messages. The usual data streams which had been consistent for three decades were suddenly being transmitted in an unknown data format. The scientists at NASA´s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were unable to fathom out their meaning or the reason for this unexplained change as all of the other systems on the probe seemed to be functioning correctly. Hartwig Hausdorf, a German academic, concluded that alien life forms had taken over the probe in an attempt to make contact with us. Seem too far-fetched? Maybe not…
The space probes were never just intended for exploration. Both of them were fitted with a Golden Record, a phonograph record containing sounds and images of life on Earth in 55 languages, intended as greetings for extraterrestrial life forms or for humans in the future. So maybe the possibility of making contact with alien life isn´t such a stretch of the imagination after all. Whether you´re hoping for a future exchange of dialogue with an extraterrestrial, planning on striking up a conversation with a resident alien of the human kind, or simply interested in the challenge of learning a new language that´s alien to you, get out of your comfort zone and take a leap into the unknown!
Twitter knows how to create some good publicity with an advertising gimmick. Twitter is currently available in a variety of different languages from Arabic to Urdu. Twitter also caters for languages that are usually forgotten about like Basque and Catalan. Twitter has decided to also cater to internet addicts by creating a version of Twitter. LOLcats is an internet meme in which people combine pictures of adorable cats with a comical, capitalised, ill spelt caption.
Taking a trip to twitter.com/?lang=lolc transforms your timeline into a tribute, of sorts, to one of the internet’s most ensuring memes.
Twitter is replaced by TWITTR, while Home becomes HUM. COMPOZE NEW TWEET, VUW PHOTO and EXPAN.KTHX have also replaced the conventional commands on the site.
Whilst language purists may shiver at the sight of their Twitter page proudly proclaiming VIEW MAH PROILE PUJ, the gimmick is undeniably funny. It also raises an interesting point about ‘correct’ English usage. I’m all for the evolution of the English language, but imagine picking up your daily newspaper to find it written entirely in LOLcats. It is perhaps a good idea to have a common notion of ‘correct’ English.
A universal translator is like the holy grail for scientists and language learners alike. Imagine, the ability to be multilingual without having to lift a finger (other than to type in your pin number). Scientists claim to have finally grasped the holy grail by inventing U-Star a ‘universal speech translator’. The device is made up of a screen, a video camera, a microphone and translating software. It is currently able to translate ’10 languages, either one-on-one or a conversation involving several different languages. They include Thai, English, Japanese, Mandarin, Malay, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi and Vietnamese.’
The new speech-to-speech translation project is a collaboration of eight agencies in Asian countries, including Nectec in Thailand.
Before you throw away your language textbooks keep in mind the intended audience for this product. The device is being marketed to ‘managers, government officials and business people worried about how to communicate with the vastly increased foreign community’. There is currently no price tag attached to the product and as U-Star is a sophisticated electrical product I imagine the price tag will be hefty. There is also the issue of accuracy.
Overall translation accuracy varies between 60 to 90 per cent, depending on the speaking environment and style.
I imagine the people willing to part with money for U-Star hold pretty important positions. 60% accuracy is a little worrying for governments holding peace talks and businessmen closing multimillion pound deals. The quick fix holy grail has a long way to go, so dust off your course notes and get learning.
According to TechInAsia 24% of web content is now written in Chinese.
At the end of 2011, 27 percent of web content was in English, while 24 percent was in Chinese. Despite that, the graphic’s creators, the translation management platform Smartling, lament that the web is still too monolingual, with “56 percent of online content [being] English-only.” It calls for a more multilingual approach to the web.
Considering that North America and Europe account for 26% of web users whereas Asia accounts for 45% it is quite surprising that the statistic for Chinese web content is not higher. In the year 2000 39% of web content was written in English which shows a dramatic reduction to only 27% in 2011. In 2000 only 9% of web content was in Chinese now soaring to 24%. From these statistics it is quite likely that Chinese will become the majority language of the web, and it is quite likely to happen soon. The statistics offered in the article were complied by Smartling who also offer the astounding statistic that ‘China added more internet users in three years than exist in the U.S.’.
I wear glasses all the time, but they serve no purpose other than to correct my extreme short-sightedness.
For the money they cost, surely glasses could do more? Well, a British inventor has created a pair of specs that can do a rough translation during a conversation. Will Powell was inspired by Google’s Project Glass, which aims to create augmented reality glasses, and is still in development. At one point Google’s glasses were predicted to be on sale by the end of the year, but this now looks unlikely.
Take a look at the video of Will Powell’s glasses to see how they work.
We’ve all been caught up in the highs and lows of the Olympics for the past couple of weeks, but it turns out there are other things going on in the world!
Notably, NASA’s latest mission to Mars –which even sends out tweets! If you’re confused by the many acronyms surrounding the mission, the Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune has provided a handy guide. Here’s an extract:
For example: the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed in 2004 were known as MER-A and MER-B for the longest time (MER is shorthand for Mars Exploration Rover.)
MSL [Mars Science Laboratory] did not become Curiosity until 2009 when a sixth-grader from Kansas proposed the nickname. Still, there are some who continue to use the scientific moniker.
Curiosity is loaded with the most sophisticated instruments to study Mars’ environment — with convoluted names to match. “Mastcam” refers to the pair of 2-megapixel color cameras on the rover’s “head.” “SAM” — short for Sample Analysis at Mars — is the mobile chemistry lab designed to sniff for carbon compounds. “ChemCam” stands for Chemistry and Camera, otherwise known as the rock-zapping laser. And “RAD”? That’s the radiation detector. (Source: Star Tribune)
An interesting post and discussion over at the Guardian’s Teacher Network blog is on using social media for language learning.
The blog post is aimed at school teachers, but language learners can pick up some tips too. Their “five ways you can start to engage with your pupils on social media” are useful, particularly number 4, on Pinterest.
4. Create a Pinterest account. Take some pictures of prompt cards, post-it notes or even objects with their description in another language and ‘pin’ them on your boards. You could even look for photos of the country, or infographics about languages in general, to help your pupils understand more about why they should learn it. (Source: Guardian)
Pinterest is still relatively new – you can ‘pin’ web content to boards. Language learners could use it to create their own boards with visual hints and prompt cards. Have you tried this?