The Week in Review: July 28, 2023

Mali just got a new official language — well, thirteen of them, actually.

After adopting a new constitution last month, French will no longer be the country’s official language. Instead, 13 Indigenous languages will take on the role. Read below to learn more about the country’s new official languages.

And while you’re reading up on that, don’t miss press releases and blog posts from Acolad, BLEND, SeproTec, and PoliLingua — just to name a few.

Got news you’d like to share in next week’s Week in Review? Send it over to our editorial team here

Will Translation Apps Make Learning Foreign Languages Obsolete? (via The New York Times)

John McWhorter is no stranger to controversial questions.

The Columbia University linguistics professor and New York Times columnist recently presented a pretty big one, about the obsolescence of language learning in the current era of rapid technological advancement. Though he argues that language learning will never be completely obsolete, he does conduct a pretty interesting exploration of the ways in which our motivations for language learning will change as technology advances.

“Even if it may fail at genuine, nuanced conversation — for now, at least — technology is eliminating most of the need to learn foreign languages for more utilitarian purposes,” he writes. “The old-school language textbook scenarios, of people reserving hotel rooms or ordering meals in the language of the country they are visiting … will now be obsolete. ”

Mali drops French as official language (via Africa News)

The west African nation of Mali recently adopted a new constitution — and it looks like the country’s demoted the French language’s status a bit. French, introduced to Mali as a colonial language, has been the official language of the country since its independence in 1960. But few Malians speak it as a primary language.

French will remain a working language for the government, as it is a sort of lingua franca for people from different linguistic backgrounds to communicate with one another. However, 13 Indigenous languages are now recognized as the country’s official languages — among these are languages like Bambara, Kassonke, and Tamasheq, which have far more native speakers within the country than French.

Indigenous language interpreters unite to fill gaps (via Stateline)

Lawmakers in Oregon are setting aside a hefty sum of money to create a program that would make it easier for interpreters of Indigenous languages to receive evaluations and certification for their work. 

If signed into law by the state’s governor, $2 million will be budgeted for evaluation programs, while another $500,000 will be set aside for the state to pay the interpreters. Stateline spoke with Indigenous interpreters and activists in the state to do a fascinating deep dive into the legislation.

“It’s also, of course, a fundamental human right and essential for social inclusion and regular participation and experiencing the benefits of living in this country,” one advocate told Stateline.

Welsh translation error sends Cardiff drivers opposite ways (via BBC News)

Folks driving down Pendyris Street in Cardiff may have been a little confused by a sign leading them in the wrong direction due to a translation error that received media attention earlier this week. The bilingual sign featured Welsh- and English-language writing — in Welsh, drivers were told the road only went west, while in English, drivers were told it only went east. Either way, the sign was accompanied by a “no entry” sign, so drivers could probably get the message — but Cardiff officials will be replacing the sign soon.

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