Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

Live translation event

Posted on June 9th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Events, French, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

Over at the LanguageHat blog I saw a post about a live translation event taking place as part of the London Review Bookshop’s World Literature Weekend.

The challenge has been set by the francophone novelist Alain Mabanckou – two translators will offer up their translation of his short text, and then discuss and debate the differences with the author and each other. The idea is to bring out aspects of the text that aren’t normally paid attention to as well as paying attention to the process of translation itself.

Audience members will receive a copy of the French text as well as the two English translations to help them follow along.

The event is being held at the British Museum in London on Saturday 19th June. Definitely looks well worth attending!

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!

Audio sharing on RhinoSpike

Posted on April 9th, 2010by Michelle
In Hints and Tips, Language acquisition, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

rhinospike_howto3I came across a new site that looks useful and thought I’d share. Called RhinoSpike, the site offers users the chance to record audio in their native language and upload it for others, but also request recordings in a wide variety of languages.

It can be difficult to find interesting audio content in the language you are studying, and RhinoSpike offers a solution to this – you can request the speaker to record any text you wish, from your favourite book to a conversation (probably best to make sure the book’s not too long though!).

The best thing about the site is it’s free. All the content is contributed by users of the site and the community is encouraged – if you contribute recordings you will move up the queue for the recordings you request. As the site says, “Give and you shall receive!”

Afghan languages

Posted on March 17th, 2010by Michelle
In Dari, Language acquisition, Pashto, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Cpl Taff EdwardsMost of what we hear and see about Afghanistan is war-related. The Taliban, the troops, roadside bombs, insurgents.

So it’s heartening to hear about someone who is trying to make a difference by connecting with Afghan culture.

Corporal “Taff” Edwards, a Welsh soldier, has learned to speak Dari, one of the languages spoken in Afghanistan, so he can help train men serving in their National Army.

A Welsh and English speaker, Edwards decided to start learning Dari as he wanted to learn a useful skill that would take him to the war.

Cpl Edwards underwent intensive training to prepare him for the demands of being a linguist in a war zone, and he said it was difficult to pick up.

“The training involved a lot of classroom time. All the teachers were trying their utmost but it is a very difficult language to learn,” he added.

“One of the reasons is that nothing is produced in the language – there is no Dari dictionary, there is no literature. These guys have been fighting for so long, producing books and things hasn’t been high on their list of priorities.

“So all the resources that we try and find all come from Iran as Parsi is very similar, but it is not exactly the same.”

Cpl Edwards now hopes to study Pashto. (Source: BBC)

Pashto and Dari are the two official languages of Afghanistan. Pashto was declared the National Language but Dari is probably more widely used, according to a UN estimate. There are a number of minority languages also spoken, including Nuristani and Pashai, and many Afghanis are bilingual.

Let’s hope people like Cpl Edwards can help connect with Afghan people and help them find peace and stability so they can write down their languages and encourage people to visit this incredible country.

YouTube subtitling

Posted on March 13th, 2010by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition, Technology, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Closed captioning (subtitles) have recently been introduced to some videos on YouTube, which could potentially be a great language learning resource. The service is in beta mode at the moment – and apparently it needs a lot of work. From

Engadget first spotted how weird Apple’s iPad launch video got when the feature was activated — sometimes the text is so different from what’s being said that you wonder if Google is just having a laugh. “A high-res color display” becomes “a high risk going to split,” and when one of the designers says he doesn’t have to change himself to use the iPad, the captions make it sound like he very clearly does. If you were relying on these captions, it would be a very different commercial.

The captioning is machine-generated, so it seems the software has a ways to go before this becomes a reliable means of translation!

Subtitles: not always accurate

Posted on February 23rd, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Subtitles. They’re there to help you out when you’re watching a foreign movie or TV show. They can be a useful tool when you’re learning a new language. But what happens when the subtitle writers get it horribly wrong? This is often the case when an English film is dubbed into another language and then subtitled back into English. Well, it seems that some hilarity ensues… Take a look at this slideshow.

Olympic-size language issues

Posted on February 16th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Events, French, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Winter OlympicsI’ve been having a lot of fun staying up late and watching the Winter Olympics coverage, especially as I used to live in beautiful Vancouver.

Away from curious events such as skeleton, however, controversy is brewing over the bilingual nature of the Games. Canada is officially bilingual, with one in four of the population identifying French as their mother tongue. In British Columbia though, where the Games are being held, there is a much lower rate of French spoken and scepticism about the country’s policy of two official languages.

Olympic organisers have made a huge effort to ensure the bilingualism of the Games, with bilingual signs in the Olympic zone, translation of official events including news conferences, and recruitment of French-speaking volunteers.

Yet all those efforts failed to avert controversy, as many residents of French-speaking Quebec – and the federal Cabinet minister with the language portfolio – complained that the opening ceremony had too little French content for a country where it’s the mother tongue of about 23 percent of the population.

“I was disappointed there wasn’t as much French as we were expecting, as we were told that there was going to be,” Heritage Minister James Moore told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.

Harsher criticism came from the president of the Montreal-based Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society, which advocates for Francophone rights.

“It was really pitiful,” Mario Beaulieu said. “It shows that official bilingualism in Canada is a farce. It’s only stated in theory to calm linguistic tides in Quebec, but the reality is it doesn’t work.” (Source: Washington Post)

The Olympics is a huge event, attracting people from all over the globe. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) retains French as one of its operating languages (the movement was founded by a Frenchman) despite the language becoming less globally dominant. It’s a shame that the focus is on a negative aspect of the Games, rather than what’s really important – the crazy sports!

You donut!

Posted on December 22nd, 2009by Michelle
In Events, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

Jelly DonutSo as we near the end of the year, there are a lot of awards and ‘top ten’ lists everywhere. We’ve already seen that the Word of the Year 2009 is either unfriend or Twitter depending on who you choose to believe, but more amusing (for me) is the recent announcement of the First Annual Jelly Donut Awards.

Never heard of them? Well, an American translation company has decided to award the donuts to the top 5 real translation and interpreting errors of the year. The name is in honour of John F. Kennedy’s pronouncement “Ich bin ein Berliner”, widely mistranslated as “I am a jelly donut”.

In first place, in a great example of being very careful about the words you choose, a high-level meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov became an international joke – all because of a button.

Look at the rest of the top 5 here.

Theatre translation

Posted on November 26th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition, Technology, Translation, Vietnamese | Leave a Comment »

Water puppetsA great way to experience local culture when travelling is to visit the theatre, particularly in countries with a strong theatrical tradition.

For example, when I visited Hanoi a few years ago, I made time to attend a water puppet performance. Water puppetry is a traditional art in this part of Vietnam. However, whilst it was interesting to watch, it was sometimes hard to follow the storyline as the songs were sung in Vietnamese.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in a language, but what if you want to enjoy the show in your native language?

A British company has come up with a solution – hand held translation devices called ‘AirScript’. These small screens provide a real time translation of what is happening on stage, in eight different languages including French, Russian and Japanese.

Whilst only available at The Shaftesbury Theatre in London at the moment, the devices could become popular with theatre-goers.

I guess using the device is a decision between becoming immersed in the visual aspects of the performance, and knowing precisely what is said. Which would you choose?


Posted on November 8th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Translation, UK vs US English | Leave a Comment »

Having spent a lot of time overseas listening to different versions of English, I’m always amused to note the differences and similarities to British English.

At the beach recently with an American friend, we discovered that we each had a different pronunciation for the floating device in the water known as a buoy. Whilst he said something like boo-ee, I laughed and responded boy.

I was delighted then, to receive a link to the style guide of The Economist, a weekly British publication concerned with international news and politics. The link led me to a very amusing section on Americanisms. Here’s a sample:

Try not to verb nouns or to adjective them. So do not access files, haemorrhage red ink (haemorrhage is a noun), let one event impact another, author books (still less co-author them), critique style sheets, host parties, pressure colleagues (press will do), progress reports, trial programmes or loan money. Gunned down means shot. And though it is sometimes necessary to use nouns as adjectives, there is no need to call an attempted coup a coup attempt or the Californian legislature the California legislature. Vilest of all is the habit of throwing together several nouns into one ghastly adjectival reticule: Texas millionaire real-estate developer and failed thrift entrepreneur Hiram Turnipseed…

I recommend reading the rest of the entry. Anyone got other Americanisms to add?