Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

NHS translation costs

Posted on February 7th, 2012by Michelle
In Translation | Leave a Comment »

There’s a bit of an uproar in the press this week about how much the NHS spends on translation services.

According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by a health think tank, the NHS spends £59,000 a day on translating documents and providing interpreters – over £23 million in the past year.

The think tank is outraged:

The think tank’s chief executive, Julia Manning, said: “The costs involved are truly staggering in an age of austerity.

“Urgent action must be taken by trusts to stem the flow of translation costs.

“The most glaring problem is that NHS trusts translate their own material rather than have access to a central pool of translated documents.”

The organisation suggested using free internet translation software and easier to understand English rather than medical jargon. (Source: BBC News)

As the Department for Health pointed out in response, the NHS has a duty to ensure patients and doctors can communicate with each other. It’s very important to give accurate information when it involves someone’s health; one mistranslated word from a free translation website could make a big difference. Some NHS trusts also have up to 120 languages to translate into, perhaps they’re not all covered by free software?

Google Translate updated

Posted on December 28th, 2011by Michelle
In Chinese, Japanese, Translation, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Google Translate recently got a fantastic new update: the ability to recognise handwriting!

Translate can now recognise written words in seven different languages, including English, Italian and German. This is great if you have an old-school pen pal who writes you letters rather than emails, or if you can’t quite figure out what the waiter wrote on your receipt.

Possibly the best part of this news though, is for Chinese and Japanese language learners, who can now use the app for characters that are not usually found on English keyboards. Perhaps it can also be used for checking that you are creating characters correctly when practicing your written language skills.

Can anyone think of other language learning uses for this new function?

(Source: Android Police)

The words of work

Posted on October 27th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Language acquisition, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

We all use slang terms for going to work and the things we do there – “the daily grind” for example.

These terms have been collected in a dictionary called The Wage Slave’s Glossary by Joshua Glenn, Mark Kingwell, and the cartoonist Seth. In the dictionary are words borrowed from other languages that reflect office life, new words appropriate for our current economic situation and historic words whose meaning has changed (career for example).

The Atlantic has a slideshow of words from each letter of the alphabet, I recommend you take a look. I’m off to take an inemuri.

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?

Schoolgirl interpreter

Posted on April 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Education, French, Mandarin, Spanish, Translation | Leave a Comment »

A girl aged just 10 has become an interpreter for the European Parliament… although just for a day.

Alexia Sloane has been blind since the age of two, and is fluent in four languages – English, French, Spanish and Mandarin. She is currently also learning German. Her mother is half French and half Spanish whilst her father is English, and Alexia has been trilingual since birth. By the age of four, she was reading and writing in Braille.

After winning a young achiever of the year award, Alexia chose to visit the European Parliament as her prize. East of England MEP Robert Sturdy invited her as his guest and Alexia worked with the head of interpreting to get hands-on experience of life as an interpreter.

She continues to harbour ambitions of becoming a full-time interpreter, revealing: “The trip was more than a dream come true. Unfortunately, I have to wake up to reality now.

“I am now more determined than ever to become an interpreter in the future and to return to Brussels in the not too distant future – to see all the wonderful people I met.” (Source: Digital Spy)

What incredible ambition from someone so young!

Language the key to military success?

Posted on March 26th, 2011by Michelle
In Research, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Interesting new research from The University of Reading shows that poorly organised language provision can “have a major effect on the success of military intervention”.

Languages at War examined two conflicts, Western Europe in 1944-1947 and Bosnia 1995-1998, and found that language was essential to how effective ground troops are. The researchers discovered that being able to understand local people and get accurate translations was vital and depended on properly trained and professionally respected interpreters. Often interpreters are used in other capacities and not seen as professionals with an essential skill.

Professor Hilary Footitt from the University of Reading’s Department of Modern Languages and European Studies led the project. She said: “From the First World War, on to the liberation of Europe in 1944, in Korea, in Afghanistan, soldiers have needed to talk to foreign allies and foreign civilians. Indeed General David Petraeus, Commander of US/NATO forces in Afghanistan has said the ‘human terrain is decisive’.

“Our research project has highlighted the need for the military to see languages as a vital part of their operations, and to plan for them accordingly. They need to respect locally recruited translators/interpreters, and make sure that these men and women have the professional structures to do their jobs properly. Languages are not an optional ‘add on’. They’re essential to winning hearts and minds.” (Source: University of Reading)

Language learners have long known that being able to communicate in another language is a great way of connecting with people – hopefully this research will help the military realise it also.

Language learning laziness?

Posted on January 21st, 2011by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Translation | Leave a Comment »

I don’t mind admitting I’m incredibly lazy when it comes to things I should do, but don’t have a strict deadline for. This even extends to language learning – if I hadn’t signed up for a class (which I feel obliged to go to), then my intention to learn Spanish would never come to anything.

So when I came across the Me No Speak series of books, it struck me as a great idea – but also one that means my latent lazy tendencies would come to the fore.

The Me No Speak books are filled with pictures and phrases that travellers can point to instead of trying to find the word in the local language. Their tagline is “When you can’t say it, point to it.” They cover a range of destinations, from France to China and Turkey to Thailand.

I’m glad to see that the creators of this series still think people should attempt the local language, but it seems to me that people would be more likely to put this in their bag and use it as a replacement for the local language. One of the things I enjoy overseas is all the nodding and smiling that happens when two people don’t speak each other’s language but are trying to communicate anyway. The surprise element also makes for good stories – you think you ask for a plate of noodles and instead a plate of something else appears, that turns out to be delicious anyway (or not).

Has anyone used one of these books? Did you find it helpful?

Favourite anti-tech words

Posted on January 16th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

New tech words are always in the news, but what about anti-tech words?

BBC News asked for submissions, and I really like some of the words the contributors came up with. Here’s the list:

1. Plugthug: someone who’d kill for access to recharging facilities.
Paul, Chester

2. Game-shame: The feeling of slight embarrassment that occurs when you realise what you thought was about half an hour of game play was actually about five hours, especially when you have inadvertently missed an event to which, under normal circumstances, you would have assigned a higher priority than game play.
Ray D, Turku, Finland

3. Spamnesia: failing to reply to e-mails from friends, because your computer thinks they’re spam.
Rob, Australia

4. Meanderthal: someone who tries to drive or walk while using a mobile phone.
Dave Case, Wokingham

5. Sheeple: people who have to go out and buy the latest gadget (usually one whose name starts with an “i”) just because they believe that everyone else is getting one, and they can’t bear the thought of being left out.
Mike Plunkett, Fleet, Hampshire

6. Memail: e-mail I send to myself to remind me to do things. Everyone else spends all day reading and sending e-mail to each other, I prefer mine to be private.
John Dolan, Cambridge

7. Nerds-nest: the tangle of cables behind your TV or desk.
John, Wellington

8. Faceless: what happens when you get either vindictive or drunk and post on Facebook, someone finds it offensive and your account is suspended.
Tim Ellam, Ashburton

9. Dot con: the process of making money from the internet.
Robert, Rochester

…and, to end on a more uplifting note…

10. My word isn’t exactly anti-tech, but it does fill a gap in the language. When I have a friendly conversation by e-mail with a new acquaintance, I finish the e-mail with “nice to have intermet you.” A smiley emoticon is optional. If the Oxford English Dictionary is interested, please give them my number.
Kaylie, Runcorn

My favourite of these is memail – I’m always sending myself reminder emails! I also mail myself interesting news items that could interesting for this blog (I emailed this story to myself for instance!). Can you think of any other anti-tech words?

Language and comedy

Posted on August 18th, 2010by Michelle
In Language acquisition, Translation, Words | Leave a Comment »

Listening to the radio in the car earlier, I heard about a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival called Bilingual Comedian.

The show is by Becky Donohue, and in it she apparently “attempts to ‘teach’ the audience and herself Spanish using nothing but ‘borrowed’ language tapes”. The show is based on the genius Eddie Izzard’s ‘Bring Bilingual’ (see video).

Coincidentally, I also read an article today about comics from overseas performing at the festival. The article explores the idea that comedy is different in different languages – for example a joke that works in Italian because it uses Italian wordplay would not have the same effect in English.

Being able to laugh and joke in a different language seems to be quite difficult to achieve – not only do you need to know the language, you need to know the cultural background. If you enjoy comedy, make it part of your language learning by finding comedy routines in your target language and listening until you can understand – or at least raise a chuckle.

A Dickens of a job*

Posted on June 18th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Slang, Translation | Leave a Comment »

Dickens has been translated into street slang, by the author who re-wrote Shakepeare’s plays in text-speak.

The ‘translator’ Martin Baum, has modified 16 Dickens novels into stories nine or ten pages long, including changing the immortal line from Oliver Twist – “Please Sir, I want some more” – into “Oi mate, gimme some more”.

He said:

“There are many people who love and understand great literature but many more who don’t. My book is the bait to draw them in and get them interested in some wonderful stories.” ( Source: The Australian)

Hmm, seems like a gimmick to me. Perhaps I’m biased though, as I have an aversion to Dickens’ work!

* I’m not quite sure where this phrase comes from, but my mum uses it a lot. It seems to mean that the required outcome of a task will be hard to achieve – “I had a dickens of job trying to pull up those roots.” Anyone know the origin?