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Language in the News

The Berlin Wall of Code

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Too soon?

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Hardly. I took that photograph at the Google Developer Day in Berlin in November 2011. Google runs these events globally. The event itself was very well attended with some excellent presentations on Android, Google TV, App Engine, and a tonne more. Coloured me excited by those Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich user experience guidance sessions aimed at developers, too.

All serious tech players run such events and a lot of them are free to attend provided that you apply in time and your credentials are even reasonably credible. So, why not add some of these events to your conference calendar?

The point of all this is that as language industry professionals you can steal a march on localizing emerging technology and new interactions by attending such events. Start your research into terminology, style, cultural differences, and so on, before anyone even thinks about approaching you for your services.

Watch out for sessions on user experience and design guidance in particular. You could even influence matters in the right direction before it’s too late.

Remember this: In the global mobile app development space it’s increasingly likely that it’s just going to be you, the translator, and the app developer sitting at his or her kitchen table. Understanding this tech stuff and how it’s developed is important.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

Related News:

My Wishlist for Language Industry Conversation in 2012

Language in Business, Language in the News, Language Industry News and Events

Here’s what I would like to see as the key conversation topics in 2012:

Even the coffee is gamified. Acknowledgement @noelruane. Check out the Guardian article Dublin's Frothing with Tech Fever: www.guardian.co.uk

Even the coffee is gamified. Acknowledgement @noelruane. Check out the Guardian article Dublin's Frothing with Tech Fever: www.guardian.co.uk


In general, I would like to see language–and language technology, especially–move towards realistic end user and economic considerations, be they understanding motivation, usage, or interacting with individuals to part with their time or cash. Anything I can do to help make that happen, I will.

Don’t mind where–or how–these topics are discussed, provided the conversation reaches new ears. How disappointing to see how the energy around language issues (however broadly or narrowly you define it) continues to be mostly clustered around a relatively small set of conferences and publications (industry and academic) with basically the same highfalutin audience. Let’s see some traction at places such as SxSWi, Next Berlin, CHI, the Gamification Summit, and so on.

You may know of others outlets or opportunities for engagement, or have your own wishes. Find the comments.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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Google Translate on Android: Mobile Translation Comes of Age

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Really taken by this little tidbit from the Android folks, released as part of the 10th billionth Android app download celebration, giving us insight into how those apps are used:

100 million words are translated every week in 200 different countries on Google Translate.

You cannot but be impressed. Again, the mobile platform is leading change. And of the top 10 download countries, the US is number four. The rest are in Asia and EMEA.

Google Translate conversation mode on Android. Czech shown. Author's own.

I wonder how much Google Translate is used in those countries and how often English is the target language rather than the source?

Worth considering for your mobile app development and localization plans.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

Register Now

World library for kids

Blogos, Language in the News

I just ran across the International Children’s Digital Library, whose lofty mission is “to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community.” Who can be against that?

The site lists books from all over the world, in many languages. Some of the books reside in digital form on the website, while with others you might be directed to a list of libraries where the not-so-digital copies can be found.

Many of the books are available in more than one language, and they are working on more translations. In fact, even if you are monolingual, you can help:

You can indicate if a particular sentence sounds right to you as a native speaker. If it does not, you can suggest a better word flow. Interesting concept! Though, if something is mistranslated to begin with, the best outcome would be a well-worded mistranslation.

At any rate, it’s a great cause, and a wonderful resource for children of the world and for those of us who are still children at heart.

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Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

Teach them grammar at a young age

Blogos, Language in the News

For future generations of translators, the youthful period of linguistic “plasticity” may be crucial. Apparently, the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is somewhat true… at least, if you replace “dog” with “human” and “tricks” with “grammar.” “The brain is innately designed to be open to experience, but only during a certain period,” writes author Matt Ridley. This raises any number of questions, of course, and my first one was directed at my physician-scientist father, and if he knew of any studies that had used GABA supplements in second-language acquisition. He did not, and said “It is definitely worth exploring, but fine-tuning it would be delicate and hard to verify with objective testing.” Myself, I had already envisioned a double-blind secluded language-acquisition utopia complete with identical twins in polyester track suits and those rows of “vitamins” in paper cups, but this was probably my flare for literature more than my flare for real-world science.

The language industry, of course, is full of individuals who have mastered (or nearly mastered) second languages in adulthood, grammar and all. I asked my dad why, in his opinion, if this article were true, I had been able to learn French grammar beginning at age 19 and a half. My father pointed out that “the grammatical platform you learned as a toddler was not far removed from Romantic constructions and concepts, and served as a launch point. And a healthy childhood, I suspect, keeps some windows partly open.” Fair enough. Also, whether this is relevant or not, like many a nerd, I was slow to reach physical adulthood. Even at 19 and a half, I suspect it was easier to absorb new linguistic constructions than it would be now, at 30. In fact, when, in grad school, I tried learning a third language, I did find it more difficult, in spite of the fact that I was studying linguistics.

In any case, questions about why adult learners of second (or third) languages usually hit a grammatical wall are not new. They’ve been puzzling pedagogues for awhile now.

Whether you’re a multilingual child prodigy or one of those adults who can master language late in life, your knowledge is crucial to the way the world functions. Happy International Translation Day!

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

Ich Bin Ein Taoschnó

Language in the News

Yes, taoschnó. That’s the answer to the Twitter question (asked by @patricox) “How do you say donut in Irish? Some Irish cops want to know.

Thanks to @aonghusoha for the translation into Irish (Gaeilge).

The question was prompted by the news that members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland are lining up to learn Irish.

Two points arise:

  • Such a development would have been unthinkable not so long ago. It’s good news. It’s also a reminder of how the fortunes of a language can be closely tied to political, as well as social and cultural events.
  • It’s also further evidence there is little danger of the Irish language dying out soon, though not everyone speaking it can actually understand each other.

Yes, I know about the urban myth.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.