This week in languages: April 15, 2016

by on April 15, 2016



A step forward in the field of translation services: Two University of Washington undergraduates created gloves—called SoundAloud—that can translate American Sign Language into text or speech! In reward, sophomores Navid Azodi (business administration student) and Thomas Pryor (aeronautics and astronautics engineering student) won a US$10,000 national Lamelson–MIT Student Prize that recognises improved, technology-based inventions for consumer devices, reported

A new Maori Language Bill, which aims to revitalise the Maori language in New Zealand, has just been passed by the country’s parliament. Written in both Maori and English, the bill lays out strategies and institutions to protect and encourage the use of Maori, both on the local and national level. In a first, the Maori version of the bill will take precedence over the English version in the event that there is a conflict in interpretation.

Learning a First Nations language? A new Blackfoot Siksika mobile application has been launched by Thornton Media, which has helped to develop content for several other First Nations languages. The app includes more than 500 words and phrases in Blackfoot Siksika, as well as information on Siksika culture and tradition.

Academic Lorena Fontaine and lawyer David Leitch are preparing to challenge Section 35 of Canada’s constitution, which enshrines aboriginal treaties and “has also been interpreted to protect customs, practices and traditions integral to aboriginal culture.” Fontaine and Leitch argue that indigenous languages should be given the same emphasis as French and English, and that the section should include granting “aboriginal people in Canada the right to schooling and public services in their ancestral languages.” Of the 63 indigenous languages spoken in Canada, it is predicted that only three will survive the end of this century.

Commentaries and Features

Vanguard Nigeria profiled ongoing efforts to promote Yoruba within Nigeria, and highlighted the numerous stereotypes many Nigerian parents have about their children learning the language, as well as the “systemic neglect” that the language is subject to in many Yoruban communities.

Dyslexic people have been known to have problems with spelling and language learning. But what about a language without spelling? How do dyslexics cope with a language like Chinese in China, for example. South China Morning Post reports on the newly launched China Dyslexia Foundation charity, which aims to reduce the social stigma of dyslexic people and “raise awareness, build capacity for a service industry (by training teachers and social workers), and support pilot training programmes for dyslexia in greater China.”

Ever notice how Facebook can automatically translate foreign text from your news feed? The translation work isn’t solely the labour of human translators, but also that of artificial intelligence algorithms that track your posts and comments and decide if you’re a proficient user of a language before deciding to translate foreign language text. You’re free to change these language settings and turn off the auto-translators though!

In a wonderful narrative blend of her three tongues, Sara Novic shares what its like knowing English, Croatian, and American Sign Language for Literary Hub, and how the last gave rise to the story-teller in her. “What does it mean to be a writer whose language negates the possibility of the written word? On one hand, perhaps this is part of its pull—I exist in the present in ASL because the anxieties of my work are bound up in another language. On the other, writing, books, the things I have loved most since I was small, are at odds with my body.”

2 Responses to “This week in languages: April 15, 2016”

  1. Reading your article helped me a lot and I agree with you. But I still have some doubts, can you clarify for me? I’ll keep an eye out for your answers.

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