Archive for December, 2011

Glad Tidings

From all of us in the SpeakLike team, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season! We have had a very busy year and are looking forward to exciting and great things in 2012.

Mea Culpa

Did you know that The New York Times has a blog on grammar, usage, and style. In a world of text-speak and changing educational standards on writing and grammar, it’s heartening for me to see one of the primary papers of records (and yes, my paper of record) scrutinize not only their facts but also the structure and style of their articles. Two days ago they published some of their errata related to foreign words in articles. It astounded me that their error rate can be as high as 50% for non-English words.

Part of the reason I’m having a problem getting my head around this is, there are so many “foreign” words that have burrowed their way into the English language. New York in particular is a hotbed of linguistic mashup. I’m also shocked that spellchecking did not pick up mistakes in spelling or accentuation.

In any event, it’s easy to lose something in translation even when you speak the same language. It’s so important, in my humble opinion, to ensure that people young and old are equipped with the right tools and training to write clearly and understandably so that the message does not get clouded by the delivery.

Twitter’s Gone Global

There’s no doubt that Twitter has become an international icon in social media, providing a way for people around the world to spread information far and fast. Although English remains Twitter’s first language, Yahoo news reported on a recent study by social media monitor Semiocast which suggests that the popular social website is becoming more global.
In the past year, tweets in Arabic have jumped from 99,000 per day to over two million per day. Other languages have also made incredible gains, such as Thai, which grew by 470 percent during the same time period. The estimated 5.6 billion tweets used in the study included sixty-one languages!
Getting your company’s message out through social media like Twitter can be more effective through tailored localization. Speaklike can help you reach a broader and more global audience by offering business-quality translation for your company’s online presence. From translating websites to blog posts, and even tweets, Speaklike’s services let you communicate more accurately to more people
faster than traditional translation services.

Found in Translation

As the world gets smaller and even the most isolated cultures open up, more works of literature are being translated to reach new audiences.

The Chinese government is supporting China Publishing Group’s effort to translate 500 classics of social science literature, one of the largest projects of its kind in modern China. China’s biggest publishing house is adding to its existing collection of foreign works to further academic and cultural development. In light of the inconsistencies in English language education, the translations could serve an important role in exposing Chinese students to social science writings from other places and times.

Meanwhile, in Cairo Humphrey T. Davies is hard at work translating Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s
Al-Saq ‘ala al-Saq
. The award-winning translator is tackling this complex book, fraught with archaic language and obscure references, to increase accessibility and exposure to a masterpiece that many in the Arab world have heard of but few outside of academia have actually read. Al-Shidyaq, one of the first Arab novelists and a modernist ahead of his time, has never been translated into English, like of the literature in the Arab world. Many of his ideas on freedom of expression and human rights will resonate with participants and observers of the Arab Spring; this project could not have come at a better time.

Finding talented translators who can bring works to life in other languages help spread art and thinking, which makes the world a more interesting, and more educated, place. It can be a small(er) world, after all.

Life or Death?

Adam Gopnik commented on a recent article in The New Yorker that there are no dead languages. Treating languages like they are dead, he explains, is akin to “studying biology today purely in terms of species living now.” Yes, most students learn that there are animals and plants that no longer walk the earth. I would disagree, though, that most biology classes not focused on evolution keep the extinct in mind. Following that logic, there are very few language classes out there for languages that are spoken in limited context, let alone not spoken at all, with the notable exception of Latin and classical Greek.

In fact, there are many efforts to keep endangered languages alive. Mark Abley chronicled many of these efforts in his 2003 book Spoken Here. Even in India, there is some concern that their competitive advantage in English language fluency could stifle the other existing languages and dialects. Here in New York, there is a great example of a “regular guy” contributing greatly to grassroots language revival of Irish Gaelic.

A world where everyone understands each other is a lofty ideal. However, this should not necessarily come at the expense of local cultural and linguistic diversity. Losing the different abilities to express one’s self would make the world smaller, but also a more boring and less vibrant place.

Who’s Tweeting What, Where?

At SpeakLike, we love new ways of looking at how people communicate. That’s why we think
the map of Twitter users by language is so cool. Eric Fischer, the map’s creator, used data collected by Google Chrome to illustrate Twitter’s global nature. The images are striking.
English, shown in gray, is densely packed into the Anglophone world, with some Spanish and French
noticeable in the United States and Canada. The attached article points out some other surprising
information, as well. Despite the Chinese government’s official ban on Twitter leading up to the
20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 2009 and the existence of an alternative, state-run microblogging service, people there are still managing to tweet, as can be seen in the substantial green glow (Chinese) along the country’s urbanized eastern seaboard.
While at first glance, the map suggests that many users are divided along national lines, the high
resolution version with tiny, multicolored points in metropolises indicates cosmopolitan, multilingual
cities across the world. It’s clear that having a Twitter presence in only one language limits businesses’ ability to reach as many potential customers. SpeakLike can help companies reach their audiences around the world by providing Twitter translation. Just choose the language and which tweets should be translated and begin expanding your group’s reach today!
Here’s another map of where SpeakLike’s Twitter followers are located.