This week in languages: December 16, 2016

by on December 17, 2016



A sign of the times? A global, London-based translation firm called Today Translations is hiring what would be the first “emoji translator” in order to cater to a phenomenon that has revolutionised communication in this digital age, but may still face hurdles translating across different cultures. Interested parties can apply here.

The new Microsoft Translator app may soon eliminate the need for language-specific guides at popular tourist destinations among other things. With the ability to “help up to 100 people hold live conversation in nine different languages,” and designed to work “based on real-world speech, not rules programmed in advance,” this may well be the translation technology of the future. The app supports Android, iOS, Windows, and Amazon Fire, while Skype now has real-time translation features.

Meet Indus OS. The India-based smartphone operating system has overtaken apple’s iOS to become the country’s 2nd most popular system running on smartphones. It’s secret? Indus OS is “available in 12 Indian languages” and covers 90% of India’s population—including a large group of consumers who don’t understand English.

Commentaries and Features

Cyprus’s Maronite minority who speak Sanna, an Arabic dialect influenced by Aramaic, say they may have a chance of saving their severely endangered language if the island is reunited under peace talks between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders. Turkish forces occupied the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, causing most of the Maronite community living there to seek shelter with Greek-Cypriot communities in the south. It is hoped that reunification will lead more young Maronites to return to living in northern villages where Sanna is spoken daily and adopt the language again.

Perspectives of a situation change depending on the language in which you read a Wikipedia page. Wikiwhere is a new website that “lets you uncover geographical biases in Wikipedia articles by tracking down where editors of different languages source their information”. It finds, for example, that the English version of an article on Russia’s annexation of Crimea has more Ukrainian news sources than a German version of the same article.

Cracking Arrival-like alien languages is gaming’s new frontier,” writes Douglas Heaven for The New Scientist. Recent developments in the world of gaming have included video games that involve deciphering inter-species languages—much like the movie Arrival that features a linguist decoding alien languages to communicate with said aliens. In the game Sethian, for example, you have to learn an alien language in order to work out why the planet you’re on was abandoned.

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