If you're of the opinion that the existence of Google Translate – and a dozen other online translation applications – means that you never have to bother becoming bilingual, guess again. While online translation apps are good for getting a sense of what's been typed out in a foreign language, it turns out that they're rather useless if you want to use them to hold a conversation with anyone.

In his latest video YouTuber Tom Scott takes us through the some of the problems that occur with online translation and points out that while Google Translation is certainly capable of matching words and concepts provided it has the contexts to work with, it misses out a lot of the subtle nuances of conversational language. Our favourite example in the video is when Scott points out that an American and an English person saying "that's a brave idea!" don't mean the same thing.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Read more...

Private Eye, N 1392, 15th -28th May 2015, p. 31

Private Eye 1392

Copyright: Private Eye

Read more...

German comedian and broadcaster Henning Wehn explores the fast-growing use of ELF - English as a lingua franca. Around the world there are an estimated 800m non-native speakers of English and the number is growing all the time.

Through talking to French, German, Brazilian and even American expats based in the UK, Henning discovers that just having the English vocabulary and grasping of grammar doesn't really help foreigners understand the nuanced, elliptical way that the British speak their own language.

From Japanese estate agents to French web entrepreneurs, non-native English speakers are baffled by the way the natives communicate using humour, obscure idioms based on cricket or rugby, and the understated codes of class and status.

Henning talks to academics and consultants in the fast-growing field of ELF and learns that it is rapidly developing a grammar and structure of its own - often not understood by those who have grown up speaking English.

LISTEN TO THE PROGRAMME HERE

Producer: Keith Wheatley
A Terrier production for BBC Radio 4.

Read more...

In a recent speech outlining Britain’s anti-extremism strategy entitled A Stronger Britain, Built On Our Values, the home secretary, Theresa May, identified five “British values” that “are the means by which we have made our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious society succeed”.

It is telling that nowhere in the speech did she acknowledge that Britain is, always has been and is likely to remain a multilingual society.

May returned to a well-rehearsed trope for politicians from across the political spectrum that to be British is to speak English. She now joins former Labour home secretary David Blunkett – who famously equated not speaking English at home with “the schizophrenia which bedevils generational relationships” – in putting language at the centre of the debate about the role of language in modern Britain.

Read more...

In the last couple of years public services in the UK have been under an increasing pressure to review their procedures for language support they offer to speakers of other languages. A few organisations have limited their use of translators and interpreters and some organisations have even gone as far as translating their website with machine translation tools. This year Google has also launched its electronic image translator on mobile phones. Does it work or does it present more risks than advantages to both public sector and commercial companies who endeavour to use it in their work? Is there still a market for professional language services?

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE 

Read more...