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The Olympics is a boon to translators. Much of the reporting, interpretation and documentation for the massively international event is handled by humans, human translators with the right skills can be scarce. “Between some pairs of languages, there are very few people who are experts in both,” said Sanford Cohen, founder of message translation firm SpeakLike. But it’s not just the languages needed, either. New forms of communication like IM, email, voicemail and the web demand different approaches, and computers can help with both challenges.

Machine translation is nothing new: Systran, founded in 1968 to help translate Cold War communications, powered the 1997 launch of the Babelfish service that popularized online translation, and until recently, it was behind Google’s translation systems. Humorous results aside, machine translation works well when software has access to sample text or past translations. “There has been a significant improvement in translation quality because of computing power,” Dimitris Sabatakakis, Systran’s CEO, said.

But relying on previous translations and large samples doesn’t work as well for IM because short messages lack context. And in translation, context is everything. “If you’re trying to translate ‘serveur’ and you know it’s about food, you’ll probably choose ‘waiter,’” Sabatakakis said. “If it’s about computers, you’ll probably choose ‘server.’”

To compensate for context, IM translation company Speaklike uses a combination of software and people and requires that subscribers use its own IM client. Speaklike currently offers four languages — English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese — and the system “daisy chains” languages to get from, say, Portuguese to Chinese by going through English. While having two interpreters might be awkward in person, the only impact in an IM context is a slightly increased delay.

Competitor Meglobe, which launched its translation client on Tuesday, is machine-only, meaning it can offer speed, privacy and more languages but lacks the benefit of humans checking translations. Meglobe, which uses Jabber instead of its own client, hopes the wisdom of the crowds can help make its translations better over time by suggesting better interpretations.

VoIP service provider JAJAH is also getting into the interpreter game, starting with English-to-Mandarin Chinese. Their new JAJAH Babel service, developed in conjunction with IBM, lets users dial their local JAJAH number, say an English phrase, and hear it played back in Chinese or vice-versa. The software combines voice recognition and translation, but getting it to understand what you’re saying can be a challenge even on a clear phone line.

SpeakLike’s Cohen sees significant opportunity for alternative ways of communicating. “The Chinese government trained a hundred thousand people to speak English. Typically that’s two or three designated speakers in each company,” he said. “If an engineer in the U.S. is talking to his counterpart in China, everything goes through a point person. This technology breaks down the barriers for direct communications across the organization.”

Source: http://gigaom.com

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18th FIT World Congress opens

1,500 translators and scholars from 76 countries and regions attended the opening ceremony of the eighteenth International Federation of Translators (FIT) World Congress today at the Shanghai International Convention Center. The theme of the congress is translation and cultural diversity.

Mr. Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office and director of the congress organizing committee, and Mr. Peter W. Krawutschke, outgoing president of FIT, addressed the opening ceremony. Mr. Cai Mingzhao, vice minister of the State Council Information Office and vice director of the congress organizing committee, and Mr. Zhou Mingwei, executive vice president of China International Publishing Group (CIPG) attended the ceremony. Also present were Mr. Liu Xiliang, Chairman of the Translation Association of China (TAC), Mr. Guo Xiaoyong, vice Chairman of TAC, Dondrup Wangboin, vice director of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and other senior translators, including Tang Wensheng, and Shi Xiaoyan.

There will be four keynote speeches and the congress will organize 88 sub-forums covering a comprehensive range of topics. Concurrently with the FIT World Congress, the China International Translation Industry Exhibition organized by TAC and the Shanghai Oriental Translation Center will be held at the Shanghai International Convention Center from August 4 to 7.

Source: http://www.china.org.cn

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Infos Idiomes

Infos Idiomes, “c’est comme une grande famille dont les enfants viendraient des quatre coins de la terre“, s’enthousiasme Ivette Bundó, coordinatrice du programme. C’est elle qui organise en régie l’enregistrement des 19 journaux toutes les deux semaines. Elle souligne “la mentalité très actuelle et très novatrice de l’émission“, alors même “que c’est un vieux programme“.
Depuis 4 ans, lepetitjournal réalise et présente la version française
Allemand, arabe, japonais, français, occitan, danois… Ce programme d’information de la chaîne catalane est décliné en 19 langues et dialectes. La majorité est sous-titrée en catalan. Le programme en français est réalisé et présenté depuis 4 ans, par lepetitjournal.com, en collaboration avec l’Institut Français de Barcelone.
Pour ses 10 ans, le programme va se voir remettre le Prix National de la Culture pour l’audiovisuel pour récompenser “la forme exemplaire” du programme et “la manière qu’il a de se servir de la télévision comme service publique et comme outil d’intégration social, culturel et linguistique“.

Un objectif : montrer comment vivent les communautés étrangères à Barcelone
Bouba Gassama est le présentateur sénégalais des informations en mandingue depuis 4 ans. Pour lui, l’intégration permise par Infos Idiomes est bien réelle : “Ici, je n’ai jamais entendu parler une langue africaine à la télévision, explique-t-il. Voir un noir présenter un journal, c’est un grand pas.” Même son de cloche du côté des informations roumaines. Le présentateur Florin Bojor, veut “montrer aux Catalans, aux Européens, que les Roumains ne sont pas tous des voleurs comme certains le pensent… Je veux montrer comment vit la communauté roumaine ici à Barcelone“.
Comme le rappelle le directeur général de Barcelona TV, Ricardo Domingo, tous les présentateurs sont en majorité “des volontaires”. Ils sont la voix des différentes communautés étrangères de la ville et donnent un aperçu de sa grande diversité culturelle. Pour Nuria Coll, une fidèle téléspectatrice, le programme permet de “mieux connaître sa ville et les gens qui l’habitent“. “Je teste aussi mon niveau de langue en italien“, ajoute-t-elle en riant, avant de conclure plus sérieusement : “ce programme est l’une des facettes de la Catalogne“.

Source: http://www.lepetitjournal.com

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Google Maori helps te reo go places

Google Maori is set to start next week – just in time for Maori Language Week. Potaua Biasiny-Tule and wife Nikolasa decided last year that as Googlers could search in Elmer Fudd and Klingon lingo, then someone had to do the work for a te reo Maori version.

While Google is simple to use, translating technical phrases into Maori had its difficulties, which is why it took a year to do the job with more than 40 people involved, Mr Biasiny-Tule said.

“It occasionally did our heads in. There were a few controversial ones, especially with dialects, so we had to come to common agreement.” Mr Biasiny-Tule, of Tuhoe and Ngati Pikiao descent, is learning Maori. His wife is Puerto Rican and runs their online Maori media business.

“We had her half, knowledge of technology, and my half, knowledge of te reo, and we just went from there.” Mrs Biasiny-Tule, 35, said making sure the language went new places was important. “Our oldest boy Atutahi is in kohanga at the moment. He’s almost four and using the computer. We’ve been feeling like unless our kids take up the reo, it’ll be lost.

“But it [the language] needs to connect with him and it needs to reflect him. Technology is one of the ways to connect our kids to the language.”

Over the past year Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori (the Maori Language Commission), who have also worked on translations for Microsoft, provided specialist advice and help.

“We’re setting all the kupu hou [new words] for technology,” said chief executive Huhana Rokx.

“It’s not as easy as people think. You have to think technology but at the same time you have to think traditional in terms of the words.

“In many cases, what we’re doing is using old words in new ways.”

One example, she said was rorohiko, or computer, which is made up of roro, the brain and lightning, hiko.

Google spokesman David Griswold thanked the volunteers who worked on the project.

Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz

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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Area Health Education Center-Southwest is conducting a medical interpreter training program this week.

The purpose of the training is to teach bilingual individuals the skills and techniques of providing medical interpretation in the health care setting. The curriculum being used is a pilot project of UAMS Regional Program in Little Rock called “Beyond Communications Limits.”

BCL is a combination of other medical interpreter training programs and materials. It is being developed by a group of staff from several UAMS AHECs…

Source: http://www.texarkanagazette.com

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Expertos piden a empresas europeas que promuevan idiomas distintos al inglés

Un grupo de expertos lingüísticos convocado por la Comisión Europea recomendó hoy a las empresas europeas que promuevan “de forma activa” la enseñanza de idiomas complementarios al inglés, para garantizar la competitividad ante otras economías emergentes. “En el mundo globalizado y en la Europa de las 22 lenguas oficiales, ya no basta con saber inglés para ser competitivo”, afirmó el antiguo vicepresidente de la Comisión Europea, Étienne Davignon, director del equipo de “embajadores culturales y empresariales” designado por Bruselas.

Los expertos advierten de que existe una “laguna educativa” en casi todos los países miembros de la UE en la enseñanza de idiomas diferentes al inglés, ya que las escuelas suelen ofrecer pocas posibilidades para combinar la enseñanza de dicho idioma con otros. En el informe, solicitado por la Comisión, los especialistas alertan a las empresas de los Veintisiete del riesgo “de perder su competitividad frente a las economías emergentes, principalmente de Asia y de América Latina”, pues éstas se están dotando rápidamente de “sólidas competencias lingüísticas”.

Para evitarlo, los expertos recomiendan que sean las compañías de la UE, además de los propios Estados, las que promuevan de forma activa el aprendizaje de “una vasta gama de lenguas comunitarias y de otras no comunitarias”. Asimismo, el informe prevé que las empresas necesitarán una mano de obra “cada vez más diversificada”, y destaca que las competencias lingüísticas son determinantes “para que los trabajadores del mañana se sientan como en casa en toda Europa”.

A partir del informe presentado hoy, Bruselas perfilará una nueva estrategia sobre multilingüismo, que será debatida en septiembre en la Eurocámara y en los Consejos de ministros europeos, según anunció el comisario europeo de Multilingüismo, el rumano Leonard Orban.

Fuente: http://www.finanzas.com

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Russia to “Cyrillicize” the internet

The Russian government recently announced that it will be able to produce and register Web sites in Cyrillic. Is this an attempt at controlling the internet or preserving Russia’s lanaguage?

The Russian government recently announced that it will be able to produce and register web addresses in Cyrillic. The announcement was made during the 10th World Congress of the Russian press. President Medvedev was quoted as saying that “we should do everything possible to get domain names assigned in Cyrillic characters in the future. This is a serious matter.” The serious matter is the protection and preservation of Russian culture and language. Russian is the sixth most widely spoken language, and the number of speakers is declining due to mass immigration out of Russia, the early assimilation of Russian children in other countries, the demand for English classes in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries, and the high level of Chinese and English language influence.

The registration and the creation of the .rf domain signify the need to “Russify” information. The idea of Cyrillic-based domain names is not new. According to a 2001 Moscow Times article, it has been possible to register Cyrillic script with .com, .net, and .org domains. Medvedev’s intentions are to implement this on a much wider scale offering Russian users a Russian-friendly internet separating it from all the others who do not have Russia’s national pride and its interests as their first priority.

Already, many Web sites that are printed or displayed in Russian do not offer an English translation. Some Web sites, such as Turkmenistan.ru, offer both a Russian and an English version. However, on the Turkmenistan.ru Web site, the English version differs greatly from the Russian version, lacking important articles and offering different and less content. Although not owned by the Russian government, and operated by Media-Service-TM, Turkmenistan.ru symbolizes the symptomatic “Russification” of information and an attempt to limit information available to non-speaking Russian people.

The Cyrillic domain names – along with Turkmenistan.ru – are merely a way to stop the penetration of outside influence into Russian media, particularly English and Chinese linguistic influence. It would eliminate the Western influence on the internet since all of the domain names use the Latin alphabet. It also limits the amount of Russian information coming in and out. This prevents independent journalists and pro-Western critics from releasing their information. Likewise, it is a way to stop foreigners from accessing Russian information since many non-Russian speaking users are unable to type, read, and write in Russian or lack a Russian keyboard layout.

This leads to the belief that with the new domain, the Russian government is strengthening its controls on the Internet and the media. Russia’s internet is not yet controlled or fully regulated by the federal government. Former President Putin received mass criticism when his Administration merged two regulatory commissions together: the Federal Service for Media Law Compliance and Cultural Heritage and the Federal Information Technologies Agency. This sounded the alarm among independent media outlets and journalists because one agency regulates, while the other issues licenses. Failure to comply meant the closure of media outlets or the punishment of journalists. Amidst criticism, the Kremlin claimed that it was a way to improve efficiency by centralizing tasks and not having them spread throughout different government institutions. To outsiders, it was apparent that the move was a smokescreen to cover up the real intentions of the Russian government: to quell dissent and regulate the media. Many Web sites that had criticized Putin prior to the 2008 presidential election had been shut down, forced to find a new web server, or forced to comply with stricter guidelines making their independent view basically non-existent.

This switch to Cyrillic web addresses sends a signal to the West and Europe that the Russian government is clamping down on freedom of press and expression. The move to “Russify” the Internet has the potential to alienate the West and European Union member-states. The Kremlin, facing scrutiny because of Putin’s crackdown on media oligarchs, claims that the new domain is simply a way to preserve Russia’s linguistic identity. Western critics are not buying it. Many hoped that once Putin’s latest presidential term expired, and there was a new Russian President things would change.

The West and its European allies have been openly against the Russian government and its inter-governmental policies of centralization and the rollback on democratic reforms – mainly free speech – that were embraced and implemented by Gorbachev and the West. Medvedev’s plan is going to increase criticism, isolating Russia more. Russia believes that West does not understand the democracy in Russia, and views Western involvement as bullying and an attempt to impose Western-style democracy on a country whose democracy is young developing. Part of this development, maintains Russia, is to create Cyrillic domain names to preserve Russian culture and language. But, this can be detrimental: the internet has the power to bridge millions of people from hundreds of countries; having a Cyrillic domain limits the power, isolating Russian users from the global and virtual community.

Russia’s new internet can be also used as a tool to keep former Soviet republics in check. The loss of the Russian language’s dominance in the republics has been viewed as a loss of Soviet national pride which many still have and long for. On 30 June, Lithuanian Web sites were hacked into and defaced two weeks after Lithuania had prohibited Soviet symbols. A similar act occurred in Estonia last year after a statue of Stalin was removed from the Tallinn, the capital. Both Soviet republics have a notable Russian minority, and seek integration and better relations with the West. The debasing of Web sites can be viewed as punishment for abandoning Russian culture and language, and befriending the West. The Kremlin has made a series of attempts to strengthen their stronghold on the Baltic republics and support these minorities lending credence to the claims of critics who accuse Russia of trying to restore Soviet Union territorial integrity and meddling in other country’s affairs.

The move to “Cyrillicize” Russia’s internet will worry the West as it is a sign to reassert Russia’s language dominance and overall restore Russian nationalism, which often has been a driving force in Russian society. With the growing nationalist movements, both peaceful and non-peaceful, Russia’s new domain encourages people to be proud to be Russian once again. The overall nationalist sentiment will inevitably lead to isolation from the West and Europe.

The plan to create a Russian internet is not expected to be implemented soon, so its effects are unknown. It is hard to tell whether or not the Cyrillic domain .rf will help preserve and restore Russia’s linguistic integrity and uniqueness. And, it is highly unlikely that the domain will increase the number of Russian-speaking peoples and help expand Russian in the former Soviet Republics where Russian is no longer an official language. However, it may reinstate a cultural identity that has been dwindling ever since the Soviet Union collapsed, empowering Russia and making it more distinguished in its own right.

Source: http://www.isn.ethz.ch

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