Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Automatic email translation

Posted on May 12th, 2012by Michelle
In Spanish, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Do you use Gmail for your email? They’ve just updated their service to include automatic message translation, meaning that any emails you receive in a different language will automatically be translated to the language of your choice!

Google have included a number of different options for this – you can choose to have messages auto-translated, pick which messages are translated, and also turn off the translation option for certain languages. So if you want to test your Spanish language skills, turn off the translation option for the language and see how far you can get through the email!

More information on these options is available over at the Gmail blog.

Twitter adds right-to-left languages

Posted on March 15th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Hints and Tips, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Twitter is now available in languages written right-to-left, including Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu.

Work began earlier this year via their Translation Center, which crowd-sources translations to make Twitter available to people around the world. Almost half a million people contribute to the Center, and have so far made 28 languages available.

Around 13,000 volunteers worked on the project to make right-to-left language available. Twitter had to create new tools to ensure Tweets, retweets and hashtags work properly for users who may send tweets with both right-to-left and left-to-right content.

To suggest a new language for Twitter, you can file a language request.

Heritage languages and technology

Posted on December 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Indigenous languages, Technology | Leave a Comment »

There’s been a lot written about endangered and indigenous languages, but I haven’t seen them referred to as “heritage” languages before, as they are in this interesting New York Times article.

The article describes N’Ko, the standardised writing system for Mande languages, which are mainly spoken in West African countries. Mande languages include Mandika, Marka and Jula. N’Ko was invented in the 1940’s to help native speakers read and write in their own language. This is particularly important as dominant languages like English are seen as the lingua franca of the world.

N’Ko is now available for people to use on their computer and mobile phone; Windows 8 apparently irons out the problems with the script from Windows 7, and it’s possible to download an app for phones and iPads. This could be the future of heritage languages – enabling them in new technologies to engage a younger audience. It’s also a literacy issue in Guinea, where the UN estimates only 39% of the adult population is literate.

For the full story, take a look at the New York Times article.

What’s trendy on Twitter?

Posted on December 13th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Technology, Words | Leave a Comment »

Still think Twitter’s just people saying what they have for breakfast?

Not any more – the microblogging site’s users tweet about a diverse range of topics, as shown by the top hashtags of the year. Hashtags (#) are used to identify the topic of tweets and can be used to see all the tweets about that particular topic.

Top of this year’s list was #egypt, referring to the unrest in the country in the spring of 2011. This was followed by #tigerblood, referring to the actor Charlie Sheen.

Other top hashtags were:

I wonder what tags will trend next year?

Chat robots

Posted on September 17th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Japanese, Language acquisition, Technology | Leave a Comment »

A Japanese company claims to have invented the first robots that can chat with people.

Specifically designed for English language learners, the “chatbots” are accessed online. The online characters use high-speed speech recognition technology which allows them to interact in real time with students. Students can also participate in the chatbots’ virtual world.
Interestingly, the level of conversation can be adjusted depending on the student’s needs, and dialogue also appears on screen in English.

According to the Telegraph:

The “chatbots” are currently targeting Japanese students learning English however the company is planning to expand internationally.
The concept was inspired by the lack of opportunity for many Japanese students unable to afford costly lessons to practice speaking native English, according to SpeakGlobal.

“The percentage of Japanese who can actually speak English freely is in the low single digits,” added the company.

“This is due to the lack of opportunities to practice speaking with native English speakers. While many English conversation schools and online schools exist, some simply cannot afford this luxury.” (Source: Telegraph)

I’m not sure how I’d feel about interacting with a “chatbot”, but I suppose it is less scary than practicing your language skills with a live person – robots can’t judge you after all (yet!).

What languages do you use online?

Posted on May 18th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Over half of EU internet users occasionally use a language online that is not their native tongue, according to research by Eurobarometer. However, the study also found the majority of users prefer to use the internet in their native language.

The survey, conducted by the public opinion research wing of the European Commission, polled a total of 13,500 people – 500 for each of the EU member states. It showed that many users thought they might be missing out on something because they could not understand the language used on a website.

English is the dominant language used online, with 48% of those interviewed saying they use it “occasionally”. Usage varied across the continent though, with countries such as Greece, Malta and Sweden (with either strong English education or ties to the language) having a much higher usage rate than Italy.

Enabling user to understand content is an issue the EU is addressing:

“If we are serious about making every European digital, we need to make sure that they can understand the web content they want,” wrote Neelie Kroes, the EU’s comissioner for the digital agenda, in a statement. “We are developing new technologies that can help people that cannot understand a foreign language.”

The European Commission is currently investing 67 million euros ($96 million) across 30 research projects that investigate improved techniques for translation of digital content, including 2 million euros to the iTranslate4 website, a relatively new site that provides machine translations of many European languages. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

What languages do you use online?

Why Qwerty?

Posted on August 11th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, Technology | 1 Comment »

A new series of Fry’s English Delight starts on BBC Radio 4 tonight, with the first episode looking at the origins of the Qwerty keyboard.

Fry asks how we became so reliant on this odd layout of letters, and wonders what impact Qwerty has had on languages.

But did Sholes really doctor the configuration of letters to slow the typist. Would an inventor really hobble his own brainchild?

If so, argues Fry, then the Qwerty keyboard and its inventor could be accused of “conspiracy to pervert the course of language and to limit the speed of creativity and language input, endangering billions with repetitive strain injury”.

Qwerty can be seen, he argues, as “a deliberate spanner in the works of language, metaphorically and technologically”. (Source: BBC News)

You can listen to Fry’s conclusions on Radio 4 at 2130 BST or afterwards using BBC iPlayer.

Google Goggles helps you translate

Posted on May 20th, 2010by Michelle
In English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

goggles_translationA cool new application from Google will soon be able to help you translate from written words.

Google Goggles users can point their phone at a word or phrase they wish to have translated, and then fine-tune their onscreen selection to a smaller area. Using the phone’s camera, the application will recognise the language and give you an option to translate it. This makes the application perfect for globetrotters – whether you need a menu or sign translated, you can do so without the hassle of searching through a guide book or dictionary.

The application can only translate languages based on the Latin alphabet such as English, French, Italian, German and Spanish at the moment, but once the text is captured it can be quickly translated to other languages. Google are apparently confident that other languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Hindi will soon be added to the app.

Whilst the app is free, you’ll need a mobile device running Android 1.6 or higher. I’ll definitely be giving this a try on my trip to Italy next month!

Internet language revolution is here!

Posted on May 18th, 2010by Michelle
In Arabic, English, Events, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Last November I posted about the internet regulator Icann approving the use of different alphabets, ending the dominance of Latin-based alphabets such as English. The new web addresses were expected in 2010, and at the start of May the new domains became available for use!

Previously web addresses could be written partly in different scripts, but the ‘country code’ (e.g. had to be written in a Latin script. The change means that the entire address can be written in, for example, Arabic, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates the first to do so.

Unfortunately, not all computer users will be able to use the new domain names immediately as they may not have the correct fonts installed.

“You may see a mangled string of letters and numbers, and perhaps some percent signs or a couple of “xn--”s mixed into the address bar,” said Mr Davies. “Or it may not work at all.”…

“Computers never come with the complete set of fonts that will allow it to show every possible IDN [internationalised domain names] in the world.

“Often this is fixed by downloading additional language packs for the missing languages, or specifically finding and installing fonts that support the wanted languages.” (Source: BBC News)

The country codes:
Egypt: مصر (Egypt)
Saudi Arabia: السعودية (AlSaudiah)
United Arab Emirates: امارات (Emarat)

Source: Icann


Posted on May 5th, 2010by Michelle
In Slang, Technology, Words | Leave a Comment »

If you’ve ever made up your own word and wished people all over the world would start saying it, perhaps this article will be of use.

It tracks the rise of ‘yaka-wow’, a mis-transcription of “yuck and wow” by a writer for the Times, a British newspaper. Apparently, within a day the word had gone viral and now has 95,000 hits on Google. Originating in an interview with the neuroscientist Baroness Greenfield, yaka-wow has spawned a Twitter stream and Facebook page. Why do people love the word so much?

“The main reason we’ve all been saying yaka-wow is simply because it is a cool word. It should be used more. Try saying it yourself out loud, yaka-wow, yaka-wow. Doesn’t it just make you mouth happy,” posted Alice Bell, a science communication lecturer at Imperial College London. (Source: The Times)

Honestly, I’m wondering how come so many people read an interview with a neuroscientist in the first place?