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The UX design case of closed captions for everyone // Sebastian Greger
"Are video subtitles really chiefly for users who cannot hear or lack an audio device? A recent Twitter thread on “closed captions for the hearing” triggered a brief qualitative exploration and thought experiment – there may well be a growing group of users being forgotten in the design of closed captions.

Most commonly perceived as an auxiliary means for the hearing impaired, video subtitles, a.k.a. closed captions (CC), have only recently started to be widely considered as an affordance for users in situations with no audio available/possible (think mobile devices in public settings, libraries, shared office spaces); the latter to the extend that contemporary “social media marketing guidelines” strongly recommend subtitling video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter et al.

So: subtitles are for those who cannot hear, or with muted devices?

Who else uses closed captions?

I’m personally a great fan of closed captions, for various reasons unrelated to either of the above, and have often noticed certain limitations in their design. Hence, the user researcher inside me just did a somersault as I randomly encountered a Twitter thread [https://twitter.com/jkottke/status/1091338252475396097 ] following Jason Kottke asking his 247.000 followers:
After seeing several photos my (English-speaking, non-deaf) friends have taken of their TV screens over the past week, I’m realizing that many of you watch TV with closed captions (or subtitles) on?! Is this a thing? And if so, why?

The 150+ replies (I guess this qualifies as a reasonable sample for a qualitative analysis of sorts?) are a wonderful example of “accessibility features” benefiting everybody (I wrote about another instance recently [https://sebastiangreger.net/2018/11/twitter-alt-texts-on-db-trains/ ]). The reasons why people watch TV with closed captions on, despite having good hearing abilities and not being constrained by having to watch muted video, are manifold and go far beyond those two most commonly anticipated use cases.

[image: Close-up image of a video with subtitles (caption: "Closed captions are used by people with good hearing and audio playback turned on. An overseen use case?")]

Even applying a rather shallow, ex-tempore categorisation exercise based on the replies on Twitter, I end up with an impressive list to start with:

• Permanent difficulties with audio content
◦ audio processing disorders
◦ short attention span (incl., but not limited to clinical conditions)
◦ hard of hearing, irrespective of age
• Temporary impairments of hearing or perception
◦ watching under the influence of alcohol
◦ noise from eating chips while watching
• Environmental/contextual factors
◦ environment noise from others in the room (or a snoring dog)
◦ distractions and multitasking (working out, child care, web browsing, working, phone calls)
• Reasons related to the media itself
◦ bad audio levels of voice vs. music
• Enabler for improved understanding
◦ easier to follow dialogue
◦ annoyance with missing dialogue
◦ avoidance of misinterpretations
◦ better appreciation of dialogue
• Better access to details
◦ able to take note of titles of songs played
◦ ability to understand song lyrics
◦ re-watching to catch missed details
• Language-related reasons
◦ strong accents
◦ fast talking, mumbling
◦ unable to understand foreign language
◦ insecurity with non-native language
• Educational goals, learning and understanding
◦ language learning
◦ literacy development for children
◦ seeing the spelling of unknown words/names
◦ easier memorability of content read (retainability)
• Social reasons
◦ courtesy to others, either in need for silence or with a need/preference for subtitles
◦ presence of pets or sleeping children
◦ avoiding social conflict over sound level or distractions (“CC = family peace”)
• Media habits
◦ ability to share screen photos with text online
• Personal preferences
◦ preference for reading
◦ acquired habit
• Limitations of technology skills
◦ lack of knowledge of how to turn them off

An attempt at designerly analysis

The reasons range from common sense to surprising, such as the examples of closed captions used to avoid family conflict or the two respondents explicitly mentioning “eating chips” as a source of disturbing noise. Motivations mentioned repeatedly refer to learning and/or understanding, but also such apparently banal reasons like not knowing how to turn them off (a usability issue?). Most importantly, though, it becomes apparent that using CC is more often than not related to choice/preference, rather than to impairment or restraints from using audio.

At the same time, it becomes very clear that not everybody likes them, especially when forced to watch with subtitles by another person. The desire/need of some may negatively affect the experience of others present. A repeat complaint that, particularly with comedy, CC can kill the jokes may also hint at the fact that subtitles and their timing could perhaps be improved by considering them as more than an accessibility aid for those who would not hear the audio? (It appears as if the scenario of audio and CC consumed simultaneously is not something considered when subtitles are created and implemented; are we looking at another case for “exclusive design”?)

And while perceived as distracting when new – this was the starting point of Kottke’s Tweet – many of the comments share the view that it becomes less obtrusive over time; people from countries where TV is not dubbed in particular are so used to it they barely notice it (“becomes second nature”). Yet, there are even such interesting behaviours like people skipping back to re-read a dialogue they only listened to at first, as well as that of skipping back to be able to pay better attention to the picture at second view (e.g. details of expression) after reading the subtitles initially.

Last but not least, it is interesting how people may even feel shame over using CC. Only a conversation like the cited Twitter thread may help them realise that it is much more common than they thought. And most importantly that it has nothing to do with a perceived stigmatisation of being “hard of hearing”.

CC as part of video content design

The phenomenon is obviously not new. Some articles on the topic suggest that it is a generational habit [https://medium.com/s/the-upgrade/why-gen-z-loves-closed-captioning-ec4e44b8d02f ] of generation Z (though Kottke’s little survey proves the contrary), or even sees [https://www.wired.com/story/closed-captions-everywhere/ ] it as paranoid and obsessive-compulsive behaviour of “postmodern completists” as facilitated by new technological possibilities. Research on the benefits of CC for language learning, on the other hand, reaches back [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19388078909557984 ] several decades.

No matter what – the phenomenon in itself is interesting enough to make this a theme for deeper consideration in any design project that contains video material. Because, after all, one thing is for sure: closed captions are not for those with hearing impairments or with muted devices alone – and to deliver great UX, these users should be considered as well."
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  sebastiangreger  literacy  language  languages  ux  ui  television  ocd  attention  adhd  languagelearning  learning  howwelearn  processing  hearing  sound  environment  parenting  media  multimedia  clarity  accents  memory  memorization  children  distractions  technology  classideas 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Language Is Migrant - South Magazine Issue #8 [documenta 14 #3] - documenta 14
"Language is migrant. Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.

What is then this talk against migrants? It can only be talk against ourselves, against life itself.

Twenty years ago, I opened up the word “migrant,” seeing in it a dangerous mix of Latin and Germanic roots. I imagined “migrant” was probably composed of mei, Latin for “to change or move,” and gra, “heart” from the Germanic kerd. Thus, “migrant” became “changed heart,”
a heart in pain,
changing the heart of the earth.

The word “immigrant” says, “grant me life.”

“Grant” means “to allow, to have,” and is related to an ancient Proto-Indo-European root: dhe, the mother of “deed” and “law.” So too, sacerdos, performer of sacred rites.

What is the rite performed by millions of people displaced and seeking safe haven around the world? Letting us see our own indifference, our complicity in the ongoing wars?

Is their pain powerful enough to allow us to change our hearts? To see our part in it?

I “wounder,” said Margarita, my immigrant friend, mixing up wondering and wounding, a perfect embodiment of our true condition!

Vicente Huidobro said, “Open your mouth to receive the host of the wounded word.”

The wound is an eye. Can we look into its eyes?
my specialty is not feeling, just
looking, so I say:
(the word is a hard look.)
—Rosario Castellanos

I don’t see with my eyes: words
are my eyes.
—Octavio Paz

In l980, I was in exile in Bogotá, where I was working on my “Palabrarmas” project, a way of opening words to see what they have to say. My early life as a poet was guided by a line from Novalis: “Poetry is the original religion of mankind.” Living in the violent city of Bogotá, I wanted to see if anybody shared this view, so I set out with a camera and a team of volunteers to interview people in the street. I asked everybody I met, “What is Poetry to you?” and I got great answers from beggars, prostitutes, and policemen alike. But the best was, “Que prosiga,” “That it may go on”—how can I translate the subjunctive, the most beautiful tiempo verbal (time inside the verb) of the Spanish language? “Subjunctive” means “next to” but under the power of the unknown. It is a future potential subjected to unforeseen conditions, and that matches exactly the quantum definition of emergent properties.

If you google the subjunctive you will find it described as a “mood,” as if a verbal tense could feel: “The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.” Or “the ‘present’ subjunctive is the bare form of a verb (that is, a verb with no ending).”

I loved that! A never-ending image of a naked verb! The man who passed by as a shadow in my film saying “Que prosiga” was on camera only for a second, yet he expressed in two words the utter precision of Indigenous oral culture.

People watching the film today can’t believe it was not scripted, because in thirty-six years we seem to have forgotten the art of complex conversation. In the film people in the street improvise responses on the spot, displaying an awareness of language that seems to be missing today. I wounder, how did it change? And my heart says it must be fear, the ocean of lies we live in, under a continuous stream of doublespeak by the violent powers that rule us. Living under dictatorship, the first thing that disappears is playful speech, the fun and freedom of saying what you really think. Complex public conversation goes extinct, and along with it, the many species we are causing to disappear as we speak.

The word “species” comes from the Latin speciēs, “a seeing.” Maybe we are losing species and languages, our joy, because we don’t wish to see what we are doing.

Not seeing the seeing in words, we numb our senses.

I hear a “low continuous humming sound” of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” the drones we send out into the world carrying our killing thoughts.

Drones are the ultimate expression of our disconnect with words, our ability to speak without feeling the effect or consequences of our words.

“Words are acts,” said Paz.

Our words are becoming drones, flying robots. Are we becoming desensitized by not feeling them as acts? I am thinking not just of the victims but also of the perpetrators, the drone operators. Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the film Drone, speaks of how children are being trained to kill by video games: “War is made to look fun, killing is made to look cool. ... I think this ‘militainment’ has a huge cost,” not just for the young soldiers who operate them but for society as a whole. Her trailer opens with these words by a former aide to Colin Powell in the Bush/Cheney administration:
OUR POTENTIAL COLLECTIVE FUTURE. WATCH IT AND WEEP FOR US. OR WATCH IT AND DETERMINE TO CHANGE THAT FUTURE
—Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel U.S. Army (retired)


In Astro Noise, the exhibition by Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the language of surveillance migrates into poetry and art. We lie in a collective bed watching the night sky crisscrossed by drones. The search for matching patterns, the algorithms used to liquidate humanity with drones, is turned around to reveal the workings of the system. And, we are being surveyed as we survey the show! A new kind of visual poetry connecting our bodies to the real fight for the soul of this Earth emerges, and we come out woundering: Are we going to dehumanize ourselves to the point where Earth itself will dream our end?

The fight is on everywhere, and this may be the only beauty of our times. The Quechua speakers of Peru say, “beauty is the struggle.”

Maybe darkness will become the source of light. (Life regenerates in the dark.)

I see the poet/translator as the person who goes into the dark, seeking the “other” in him/herself, what we don’t wish to see, as if this act could reveal what the world keeps hidden.

Eduardo Kohn, in his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human notes the creation of a new verb by the Quichua speakers of Ecuador: riparana means “darse cuenta,” “to realize or to be aware.” The verb is a Quichuan transfiguration of the Spanish reparar, “to observe, sense, and repair.” As if awareness itself, the simple act of observing, had the power to heal.

I see the invention of such verbs as true poetry, as a possible path or a way out of the destruction we are causing.

When I am asked about the role of the poet in our times, I only question: Are we a “listening post,” composing an impossible “survival guide,” as Paul Chan has said? Or are we going silent in the face of our own destruction?

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista guerrilla, transcribes the words of El Viejo Antonio, an Indian sage: “The gods went looking for silence to reorient themselves, but found it nowhere.” That nowhere is our place now, that’s why we need to translate language into itself so that IT sees our awareness.

Language is the translator. Could it translate us to a place within where we cease to tolerate injustice and the destruction of life?

Life is language. “When we speak, life speaks,” says the Kaushitaki Upanishad.

Awareness creates itself looking at itself.

It is transient and eternal at the same time.

Todo migra. Let’s migrate to the “wounderment” of our lives, to poetry itself."
ceciliavicuña  language  languages  words  migration  immigration  life  subcomandantemarcos  elviejoantonio  lawrencewilkerson  octaviopaz  exile  rosariocastellanos  poetry  spanish  español  subjunctive  oral  orality  conversation  complexity  seeing  species  joy  tonjehessenschei  war  colinpowell  laurapoitras  art  visual  translation  eduoardokohn  quechua  quichua  healing  repair  verbs  invention  listening  kaushitakiupanishad  awareness  noticing  wondering  vicentehuidobro  wounds  woundering  migrants  unknown  future  potential  unpredictability  emergent  drones  morethanhuman  multispecies  paulchan  destruction  displacement  refugees  extinction  others  tolerance  injustice  justice  transience  ephemerality  ephemeral  canon  eternal  surveillance  patterns  algorithms  earth  sustainability  environment  indifference  complicity  dictatorship  documenta14  2017  classideas 
28 days ago by robertogreco
An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Between Two Languages: An Interview with Yoko Tawada
"Among the finest of Tawada’s works are short stories about adapting to new cultures, both physically and linguistically. The daughter of a nonfiction translator and academic bookseller, Tawada learned to read in over five languages; she speaks English, but doesn’t write it. “I feel in between two languages, and that’s big enough,” she told me. Her stories often turn on feeling outside the culture, as an immigrant, as a citizen witnessing great national change, or even as a tourist."



"I look like a person who cannot think when I wake up, because I’m still quite between the sleep and the dream and the waking, and that’s the best time for business."



"Being multilingual is tricky. I feel more as though I am between two languages, and that feels like enough. To study that in-between space has given me so much poetry. I don’t feel like one of those international people who juggles many tongues."
yokotawada  language  languages  bilingualism  2018  interviews  japan  japanese  howwewrite  dreams  sleep  liminality  betweenness  littoralzone  liminalspaces  multilingualism  dualism  srg 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Translation Blogs We Think You Should Be Reading | Center for the Art of Translation | Two Lines Press
"Here are some of our favorite translation blogs (listed alphabetically). And we need your help! Which ones are we missing?

• Arablit was founded by M. Lynx Qualey and covers Arabic literature in (and not yet in) translation. There you can find roundups of forthcoming books translated from Arabic, book reviews, resources for teachers of Arabic literature in translation, and so much more. Plus, it’s the home of the ArabLit Story Prize.
https://arablit.org/

• Asymptote’s blog has a regular circulation of reviews, essays, and translations, as well as a weekly roundup of world literature news.
https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/
https://arablit.org/category/teaching-with-arabic-literature-in-translation/
https://arablit.org/2018/02/11/sunday-submissions-announcing-the-2018-arablit-story-prize/

• Biblibio is the blog of Meytal Radzinski, the founder of the Women in Translation movement and WITMonth. As Radzinski herself describes: “Biblibio is not a review blog. What does that mean? It means that the humble figure behind the veil sees the purpose of this blog as discussing a life in books in general, not only through reviews (though obviously somewhat). Bibli – book. Bio – life. This is a life in letters.”
https://biblibio.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Read_WIT

• The Complete Review and its accompanying blog, The Literary Saloon, are run by M. A. Orthofer. Go here for reviews of books both popular and obscure, as well as international literary news that is rarely covered elsewhere. A great resource!
http://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html
http://www.complete-review.com/saloon/index.htm

• Conversational Reading is the blog of our own Publicity Director and Senior Editor, Veronica Scott Esposito. While not exclusively translation, the blog is largely translation-focused, including lists of interesting new and forthcoming books, Q&As with translators and authors, essays, and other related news in the field.
http://conversationalreading.com/
http://conversationalreading.com/category/interviews/

• Lizok’s Bookshelf is the blog of award-winning Russian translator Lisa Hayden. This is the go-to place for those interested in Russian literature. Lisa will let you know what is going on in the world of Russian literary prizes, tell you about interesting books coming out in Russia, books she’s reading, and, of course, books she’s translating.
https://lizoksbooks.blogspot.com/

• Reader@Large is the blog of Tara Cheesman-Olmsted, a freelance book critic, National Book Critic Circle member, and 2018 Best Translated Book Award fiction judge. The blog began as a general book review blog, but Tara currently only reviews books by international authors and translations, with a preference for small presses!
https://readeratlarge.com/

• Three Percent is the translation blog of the University of Rochester. Chad Post delights us with in-depth blog posts on a wide range of topics within the translation field. Home to book reviews, the Best Translation Book Award, and updates on trends in the translation field (including graphs and all kinds of fancy data analysis)!
https://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/

• Tony’s Reading List is the blog of a true international literature aficionado. Dive into the expansive book review archives (spanning back to 2009) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, dig into something a little different.
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/something-a-little-different/

• Translationista is the blog of Susan Bernofsky, German-language translator extraordinaire. She’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest literary prizes, as well as other news in the field. Make sure you check out: “Getting the Rights to Translate a Work: A How-To Guide” and “Tips for Beginning Translators.”
http://translationista.com/
http://translationista.com/2017/02/getting-rights-translate-work.html
http://translationista.com/2017/08/tips-beginning-translators.html

• WWB Daily, the blog of Words Without Borders, features a monthly watchlist of books coming out that month, in-depth essays by translators, excerpts from forthcoming books in translation.
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/tarsila-do-amaral-translating-modernism-in-brazil-elisa-wouk-almino
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/first-read-from-lion-cross-point-masatsugu-ono-angus-turvill "
blogs  translation  writing  language  languages  books  arabic  srg 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Studying Humpback Whales to Better Communicate with Aliens
"In this video, a pair of scientists talk about their work in studying the communication patterns of humpback whales to learn more about how we might someday communicate with a possible extraterrestrial intelligence. No, this isn’t Star Trek IV. For one thing, whales have tailored their communication style to long distances, when it may take hours to received a reply, an analog of the length of possible interplanetary & interstellar communications. The scientists are also using Claude Shannon’s information theory to study the complexity of the whales’ language and eventually hope to use their findings to better detect the level of intelligence in alien messages and perhaps even the social structure of the alien civilization itself."

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CIcIZzz8B4 ]
animals  biology  communication  whales  2018  multispecies  morethanhuman  sound  audio  via:lukeneff  intelligence  informationtheory  seti  complexity  language  languages  structure  anthropology  social 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The National Book Awards Haul Translators Out of Obscurity - The Atlantic
"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America."



"Some of the first stories you remember reading or hearing read aloud were probably translations, though chances are you didn’t realize it. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? That was from the Danish. “Sleeping Beauty”? French. One Thousand and One Nights? Arabic. “Hansel and Gretel”? German. “Pinocchio”? Italian. “Cinderella”? French—or, depending how far you back you want to go, German, Italian, or even Greek. As you grew up, if you read The Swiss Family Robinson or The Count of Monte Cristo, did you notice who translated it?

Not so long ago, it was rare for a translator’s name to appear on a book’s title page, let alone a cover, or for a review of a foreign novel to mention its translator. With a handful of exceptions (Robert Fitzgerald’s Aeneid, anyone’s Proust), if a book originated in a language other than English, that fact was downplayed. Behind this disappearing act lay an assumption that readers would recoil from a book if they realized it was translated, fearing it would be “tricky or complicated or inaccessible,” as Samantha Schnee, the founding editor of the translation journal Words Without Borders, put it.

This is changing. In the span of about 15 years, foreign provenance, once treated almost like a guilty secret, has become a source of allure. As blockbusters from foreign lands invaded American best-seller charts in the first decade of the 21st century—Suite Française, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—independent and nonprofit presses that specialized in translated literature sprang up from coast to coast; among them Archipelago Books (2003), Europa Editions (2005), Open Letter (2008), New Vessel Press (2012), and Restless Books (2013) in New York; Deep Vellum (2013) in Texas; and Transit Books (2015) in California. On November 14, the National Book Foundation, recognizing this shift in relevance, will award a Translated Literature prize—the first category added to the National Book Awards in more than two decades.

Lisa Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, sees the prize as “a lens. It’s a spotlight … It’s not about a distillation of all the works that are meritorious; the point is that you’re celebrating.”

There are a few possible explanations for this metamorphosis from near-invisibility to celebration. One is that in the late-20th century, a craze arose for retranslating the classics. Critics, always fascinated by what’s difficult and eager to spot a trend, took note, raising the profile of translators in the process. Perhaps the most prominent in this cohort are Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband-and-wife team who embarked in the 1980s on the audacious project of retranslating much of the Russian canon—which they are still doing, three decades on. Every time they let fly a new Slavic doorstop, a critical explosion ensues. Today the release of any new translation of a famous work—by Homer, Proust, Kafka, Flaubert—tends to elicit a passionate reaction from the literary elite, even if the translator is relatively unknown.

A complementary trend at the turn of the century heightened interest in the lived experience of people in or from other nations. A generation of American writers born outside of this country were coming of age: Chang-Rae Lee and Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri and Gary Shteyngart, Khaled Hosseini and Junot Díaz. In their books, they reached into other lands—Korea, Haiti, India, England, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Dominican Republic—braiding imported history, attitudes, and priorities into American narratives. Although they wrote in English, they were translating foreign cultures through their fiction. In the process, they created a flourishing literary hybrid that broadened domestic reading tastes.

Even as the identity of American fiction took on an international flavor, technological advances in machine translation demystified foreign languages for monolingual Americans, making the outside world more legible. Cellphones can translate street signs, notice boards, and menus into English (or German, or Chinese, or French) with the click of a button; internet translation engines can convert foreign-language news stories into readable English in seconds. Philipp Koehn, a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University who wrote the book on machine translation (literally, it’s called Statistical Machine Translation), recalls that when he started out in this field, 20 years ago, “all that these machines produced was gibberish. We were amazed when something came out that you could almost read.” Now, however, “if you find a newspaper article in good languages—by which I mean the ones we have enough data on, like French or English—and run it through Google Translate, you actually have to look for errors.”"



"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America. It means literature that, wherever it comes from, whatever nation it describes, American readers recognize as relevant to them, as familiar. Foreign is no longer foreign.

That said, the question of how “foreign” a translation should “feel” provokes fierce disagreement. When you open a translated novel from overseas, do you want to sense its author’s French, German, Swedish, Spanish, or Italian sensibility, even if that breaks the spell of your reading experience? Or do you want to feel as if the book has magically converted itself into flawless, easeful English, attuned to your own idiom? (This is called the “foreignization versus domestication” debate.) And should a translation hew closely to the language and structure of the original, or should it re-craft the language to appeal to the target audience? (This is the “faithfulness” question.) Hardly anyone agrees—not editors, not scholars, not translators, and not readers. This makes it difficult even for experts to reach a consensus on which translated new books by unfamiliar authors and translators should be singled out for praise. Another difficulty is that few have read the translated books in the original language, which means that most base their assessments on their opinion of the English, not knowing to what extent it reflects the urtext.

That’s why Lucas prefers to avoid using the word best when she discusses the prize contenders. “There are always going to be people who object to which books are chosen,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘This should have been on the long list, this should have been on the finalists list, this or that book should have won.’” To her mind, all the books win because the act of nominating them “generates energy, conversation, and critique.” The prize is not a competition, but an affirmation.

Collectively, the five titles on the National Book Foundation’s shortlist for the Translated Literature prize demonstrate the transformation and continuity of America’s investment in international voices. Three of the books come from two houses that formed only in the past 15 years—Archipelago, with Love, by Hanne Orstavik, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken; and Europa, with Disoriental, translated from the French by Tina Kover, and Trick, by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri. A fourth title, The Emissary, by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, comes from the venerable independent house New Directions. Only one of the books, Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, comes from one of New York’s “big five” houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). It was published by Riverhead, a division of Penguin Random House.

Still, there is room for progress. All five of the shortlisted books feature the translator’s name on the title page, but only two put it on the cover. One of these, Trick, presumably does so because its translator, Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, is better known in the United States than its author. Imagine that: reading for the translator."
2018  literature  translation  us  language  languages  chang-raelee  edwidgedanticat  jhumpalahiri  garyshteyngart  khaledhosseini  junotdíazphilippkoehn  lieslschillinger  machinetranslation  karloveknausgaard 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Christi Belcourt on Twitter: "Education in schools is not the only form of education. The land has been my teacher for 25 years. I will never graduate and will always be an apprentice to her. The animals educate. The stars educate. Not everything can be t
"Education in schools is not the only form of education. The land has been my teacher for 25 years. I will never graduate and will always be an apprentice to her. The animals educate. The stars educate. Not everything can be taught in a brick box. Not everything should be.

Education from and on the land is needed for children. We need the next generation to be free thinkers. Unintentionally, the structures within the current education system are contributing in assimilating all children into a form of thinking that teaches them to conform.

Education in schools is affecting Indigenous nations. It’s not all positive. Hardly any of our kids knows the lands like the back of their hands any more. Hardly any knows animal traditional laws, protocols. Hardly any can survive on the land. And almost all are taught in English

Without intending it, by sending ALL our children to school, we are creating a society of dependence. Because unable to survive on the land means a dependence on goods and services. It also means a continued decline in our languages as the day is spent in English.

Even communities once entirely fluent not long ago are noticing their young people conversing in English. I was just in a community where the teenagers were fluent. But pre-teens weren’t. How can communities compete w/ English when their children are emmersed in it all day?

I don’t want to offend educators. Educators are some of the most selfless and kind people I’ve met. They go above and beyond for kids every day. My observations are about some of the long term boarder effects re: institution of education and its detrimental effects on our nations

The late Elder Wilfred Peltier once wrote that the education system harms children in a few ways. He was speaking specifically about Indigenous kids but his thoughts could be applied to all I suppose. He said it sets kids up with a skewed sense of self. (Con’t)

Elder Wilfred Peltier said children are taught early in school to be graded. He said the harm isn’t only in the child who gets low grades and is made to feel less than. The worse harm is to kids who get higher grades and are made to feel better than others.

He also said the structure of the classroom is problematic. It implies the teacher knows everything and the student knows nothing. In Indigenous communities we talk about how children are teachers and each one has unique gifts. But schools don’t nurture those gifts.

A child might be gifted in reading the stars or knowing traditional medicines. Schools eliminate that as a possibility to be apprenticed in those things. And they take up so much time in a child’s life there is no time left over for language and apprenticing in their gifts.

We will need scientists and people who have gone through school. But we also need medicine apprentices, land knowledge, language keepers and star readers. We need experts of the lakes and animals. This come from apprentiships w/ kokums and moshoms. It comes from the land itself.

In this time of climate change the world needs Indigenous knowledge more than ever. It’s in our lands and langusges. It can’t come from school. So we have to question this. And really look at it to suss out the good and the bad in a non emotional and non judgemental way.

Is there a way to have half of all Indigenous kids apprenticed full time with kokums or moshoms in land/water based education? Is there a way to identify what gifts kids will have early on and give them the life long training to nurture those gifts?

My concluding thought is the tendency will be towards “improving” or “fixing” schools to allow for more Indigenous languages or teachings etc without fundamentally changing anything. My point is the kind of education I’m talking about cannot be within the school system."
education  unschooling  deschooling  indigeneity  schooling  wilfredpeltier  christibelcourt  2018  inequality  children  authority  experience  apprenticeships  kokums  moshoms  multispecies  land  morethanhuman  canon  climatechange  experientiallearning  gifted  language  languages  landscape  colonialism  heterogeneity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? – Raiot
"Text of The W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation by Arundhati Roy
5 June 2018, The British Library, London."

[more excerpts coming soon]

"Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, I finished writing my second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but if a novel can have an enemy, then the enemy of this novel is the idea of “One nation, one religion, one language.” As I composed the cover page of my manuscript, in place of the author’s name, I was tempted to write: “Translated from the original(s) by Arundhati Roy.” The Ministry is a novel written in English but imagined in several languages. Translation as a primary form of creation was central to the writing of it (and here I don’t mean the translation of the inchoate and the prelingual into words). Regardless of which language (and in whose mother tongue) The Ministry was written in, this particular narrative about these particular people in this particular universe would had to be imagined in several languages. It is a story that emerges out of an ocean of languages, in which a teeming ecosystem of living creatures—official-language fish, unofficial-dialect mollusks, and flashing shoals of word-fish—swim around, some friendly with each other, some openly hostile, and some outright carnivorous. But they are all nourished by what the ocean provides. And all of them, like the people in The Ministry, have no choice but to coexist, to survive, and to try to understand each other. For them, translation is not a high-end literary art performed by sophisticated polyglots. Translation is daily life, it is street activity, and it’s increasingly a necessary part of ordinary folks’ survival kit. And so, in this novel of many languages, it is not only the author, but the characters themselves who swim around in an ocean of exquisite imperfection, who constantly translate for and to each other, who constantly speak across languages, and who constantly realize that people who speak the same language are not necessarily the ones who understand each other best.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has been—is being—translated into forty-eight languages. Each of those translators has to grapple with a language that is infused with many languages including, if I may coin a word, many kinds of Englishes (sociolects is perhaps the correct word, but I’ll stay with Englishes because it is deliciously worse) and translate it into another language that is infused with many languages. I use the word infused advisedly, because I am not speaking merely of a text that contains a smattering of quotations or words in other languages as a gimmick or a trope, or one that plays the Peter Sellers game of mocking Indian English, but of an attempt to actually create a companionship of languages.

Of the forty-eight translations, two are Urdu and Hindi. As we will soon see, the very fact of having to name Hindi and Urdu as separate languages, and publish them as separate books with separate scripts, contains a history that is folded into the story of The Ministry. Given the setting of the novel, the Hindi and Urdu translations are, in part, a sort of homecoming. I soon learned that this did nothing to ease the task of the translators. To give you an example: The human body and its organs play an important part in The Ministry. We found that Urdu, that most exquisite of languages, which has more words for love than perhaps any other language in the world, has no word for vagina. There are words like the Arabic furj, which is considered to be archaic and more or less obsolete, and there are euphemisms that range in meaning from “hidden part,” “breathing hole,” “vent,” and “path to the uterus.” The most commonly used one is aurat ki sharamgah. A woman’s place of shame. As you can see, we had trouble on our hands. Before we rush to judgment, we must remember that pudenda in Latin means “that whereof one should feel shame.” In Danish, I was told by my translator, the phrase is “lips of shame.” So, Adam and Eve are alive and well, their fig leaves firmly in place.

Although I am tempted to say more about witnessing the pleasures and difficulties of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness being translated into other languages, more than the “post-writing” translations, it is the “pre-writing” translation that I want to talk about today. None of it came from an elaborate, pre-existing plan. I worked purely by instinct. It is only while preparing for this lecture that I began to really see how much it mattered to me to persuade languages to shift around, to make room for each other. Before we dive into the Ocean of Imperfection and get caught up in the eddies and whirlpools of our historic blood feuds and language wars, in order to give you a rough idea of the terrain, I will quickly chart the route by which I arrived at my particular patch of the shoreline."



"So, how shall we answer Pablo Neruda’s question that is the title of this lecture?

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?7

I’d say, without hesitation, in the Language of Translation."
arundhatiroy  language  languages  translation  literature  2018  india  colonialism  nationalism  authenticity  elitism  caste  nativism  identity  culture  society  inbetween  betweenness  multilingual  polyglot  everyday  communication  english  hindi  nationstates  imperialism  urdu  persian  tamil  sinhala  bangladesh  pakistan  srilanka  canon 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Nick Farmer
"Nick Farmer is a writer and linguist based in Oakland, CA. He created the Belter conlang for Syfy’s The Expanse, contributed to the best-selling introductory linguistics textbook published by MIT Press, and works to support endangered and indigenous languages. Raised by his MIT trained linguist mother, and inspired by his godfather, Ken Hale, Nick has long been fascinated by languages and the cultures of those who speak them. When he’s not writing or studying, he loves spending time outdoors, lifting weights, listening to music, puttering around in his mess of a garden, and watching baseball."

[See also:

"How to Teach Yourself a Language (Part 1)"
https://medium.com/@nfarmerlinguist/how-to-teach-yourself-a-language-part-1-484da99cb76b

"How to Teach Yourself a Language (Part 2)"
https://medium.com/@nfarmerlinguist/how-to-teach-yourself-a-language-part-2-f6ae3b0d4777

"Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication"
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/linguistics

"The Expanse’s Belter Language Has Real-World Roots: That Cool Dialect on The Expanse Mashes Up 6 Languages"
https://www.wired.com/2017/04/the-expanse-belter-language/

Belter Creole
http://expanse.wikia.com/wiki/Belter_Creole ]
nickfarmer  linguistics  theexpanse  language  languages  sciencefiction  scifi  srg 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The surprising pattern behind color names around the world - YouTube
"In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.

Read more on the research mentioned in this video:

Cook, Kay, and Regier on the World Color Survey: goo.gl/MTUi9C
Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms: goo.gl/CYDfvw
John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms: goo.gl/okcyC3
Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations: goo.gl/rALO1S

To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: goo.gl/WxYi1q "
color  classideas  perception  language  languages  paulkay  brentberlin  anthropology  linguistics  red  yellow  blue  green 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Why Nouns Slow Us Down, and Why Linguistics Might Be in a Bubble | The New Yorker
"Writers and language geeks inherit a ranking system of sorts: verbs good, adjectives bad, nouns sadly unavoidable. Verbs are action, verve! “I ate the day / Deliberately, that its tang / Might quicken me into verb, pure verb,” Seamus Heaney writes, in “Oysters.” A sentence can be a sentence without nouns or adjectives, but never without a verb. For the most part.

But nouns deserve more cognitive credit. A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that nouns actually take longer to spit out than verbs do, presumably because they require more thought to produce. In the study, researchers led by Frank Seifart, a linguist at the University of Amsterdam, and Balthasar Bickel, of the University of Zurich, analyzed hundreds of recordings of spontaneous speech from nine very different languages from around the world: English and Dutch, as well as several others from as far afield as Amazonia, Siberia, the Kalahari, and Tibet. They picked out and compared the spoken renditions of the nouns and verbs, focussing not on how long it took for each word to be spoken but on what was happening in the half-second preceding each word. That tiny window is informative: cognitive scientists have concluded that it takes the brain about that long to formulate its next word, which happens even as a current word or phrase is being spoken.

Which is to say, the future word casts a shadow over the present one. And that shadow is measurable: the researchers found that, in all nine languages, the speech immediately preceding a noun is three-and-a-half-per-cent slower than the speech preceding a verb. And in eight of nine languages, the speaker was about twice as likely to introduce a pause before a noun than before a verb—either a brief silence or a filler, such as “uh” or “um” or their non-English equivalents. That future word, when it’s a noun, is more of a footfall than a shadow, creating a hole in the phrase right before it.

Seifart and Bickel think that this has to do with the different roles that nouns and verbs play in language. Nouns require more planning to say because they more often convey novel information, Seifart told me—that’s one reason why we quickly transition from nouns to pronouns when speaking. Listeners are sensitive to those tiny pauses before a noun, and interpret them as indicating that what follows will be something new or important.

Unlike nouns and pronouns, verbs don’t have “proverbs” to pick up the pace, although we cheat a little with sentences such as, “Susan drank wine and Mary did, too.” Verbs are grammatically more complex than nouns but have less to reveal. When you’re about to say a verb, you’re less likely to be saying something new, so your brain doesn’t have to slow down what it’s already doing to plan for it.

Oddly enough, the one language that doesn’t seem to pre-think its nouns as thoroughly as its verbs is English, Seifart and Bickel found. Although English speakers do slow down their speech immediately before a noun, they use fewer pauses beforehand, not more, when compared to verbs.

“English is peculiar,” Seifart said. English is less useful than we might imagine for understanding what our speech has to say about how we think: “It can never be representative of human language in general,” he said. “To make claims about human language in general, we need to look at much broader array of them.”

In recent years, scientists have grown concerned that much of the literature on human psychology and behavior is derived from studies carried out in Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic countries. These results aren’t necessarily indicative of how humans as a whole actually function. Linguistics may face a similar challenge—the science is in a bubble, talking to itself. “This is what makes people like me realize the unique value of small, often endangered languages and documenting them for as long as they can still be observed,” Seifart said. “In a few generations, they will not be spoken anymore.” In the years to come, as society grows more complex, the number of nouns available to us may grow exponentially. The diversity of its speakers, not so much."
language  languages  weird  nouns  verbs  communication  linguistics  2018  alanburdick  action  frankseifart  balthasarbickel  future  present  speed  speaking  english 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Kilauea: A Beginner’s Guide to Hawaii’s Sublime Lava - The Atlantic
"But Western scientists were not the first people to encounter Hawaii’s volcanoes. Native Hawaiians have lived on the islands, and among the volcanoes, for more than 900 years. And their history, literature, and culture all recognize the reality of living near such a powerful phenomenon.

(A brief language note: Everyone who lives in the archipelago is called a “Hawaii resident.” The term “Hawaiian” is reserved for someone with native Hawaiian ancestry. This distinction is regularly made on the islands, including in the state constitution.)

“There’s aʻa or pahoehoe, the rough lava or the smooth lava,” said Kuʻualoha Hoʻomanawanui, a professor of literature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “But the word for both of them is Pele.”

Pele is the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes, lava, and fire—but deity in its Western sense doesn’t quite describe the scope of Pele’s power. Many Hawaiian families trace their lineage back to Pele, meaning they count her as an ancestor.

“Pele is not just the goddess of lava. Lava is Pele,” Hoʻomanawanui told me. “The lava flows basically reaffirm what our literature tells us—that the land is alive, that Pele is alive. When we talk about the lava being alive, it’s a metaphor for the earth itself being alive. The lava is Pele, the magma is Pele, the lava flow and then when the lava hardens—each you can just replace the word with Pele.”

Even the site of the new eruption makes sense within Hawaiian culture. The current eruption has focused primarily on a subdivision called Leilani Estates. But Leilani Estates is a new name, and the subdivision sits within a larger area that Hawaiians traditionally called Keahialaka, which means “the fire of Laka.” Laka is the goddess of hula and one of Pele’s daughters.

“The Hawaiians watching are looking at the names of these places and saying, ‘Oh yeah!’” said Noelani M. Arista, a professor of Hawaiian history at the University of Hawaii. “It’s like, sometimes people are amazed that a flood will hit a flood zone. But we’ve got place names that say flood zone.”

“Anyone can come and slap a new name on any thing: ‘Let’s call it Leilani Estates!’ And Leilani is a generic name. But that won’t take away from the mana, the spiritual power and characteristics of that place, that the old place name embodies,” agreed Hoʻomanawanui.

These new names “lull people into a sense of complacency,” she said. “[They think,] I’m not actually buying property and building a house in an active lava rift zone, but I’m buying a piece of paradise.”

But sometimes these new names can be ironic. Kilauea is surrounded by rainforest, and people in Hawaii customarily link its lava flows to the Kool-Aid-red lehua flowers that grow around it. So when Hoʻomanawanui read that one of the first lava fissures in Leilani Estates opened up on Mohala Street, she laughed. “Well, of course!” she said. “Mohala means ‘to blossom,’ or ‘to bloom.’ In a way, it’s all interconnected.”

Pele’s story takes many forms—Hoʻomanawanui has studied 14 different serialized newspaper versions of it, all of which first appeared in the 19th century. But many describe a similar journey: how Pele and her family came up from an island in the South Pacific, how they found the Hawaii archipelago, and how Pele traveled to every island, looking for a place to keep her fire. She visited every island, and dug a hole in every island, until she eventually found Hawaii Island and placed her fire in Kilauea. (Hoʻomanawanui recommended that mainland Americans watch Holo Mai Pele, a PBS-filmed hula about Pele, for a credible summary of her story.)

“The story of Pele is a poetic, literary telling of what scientists would maybe call the Ring of Fire, and how volcanic activity gets to the Hawaiian islands from other parts of the Pacific,” said Hoʻomanawanui. “It’s an ideological explanation for why we don’t have volcanic activity occurring now on the other islands.”

But it’s more than a just-so story. Arista, the Hawaiian historian, contrasts how non-native Hawaii residents and native Hawaiians have discussed the recent lava flow. Much of the national media attention has focused on an American-centric understanding of the destruction, she said—for instance, by talking about the extent of property loss.

“But then you’ve got Hawaii residents saying, how amazing is the presence of this in my life,” she said. “Native people who live in the subdivision are largely saying, ‘Yes, I knew I was living in this space where volcanic activity is a huge factor, because I’ve lived my life here. And because we have this respect for Pele, I wanted to live here.’”

Hoʻomanawanui said she saw many native Hawaiians greeting the lava flow not with dread, but with acceptance. “When the flows start, you clean the house, you open the door, and you say: ‘Tūtū Pele, this is your land, take it,’” she said.

(Since Hoʻomanawanui’s family tracks its lineage back to Pele, they call her Tūtū, or grandmother. But other Hawaiians and non-Natives will call her Tūtū Pele out of respect, even if she is not an ancestor to them. “They acknowledge she’s a special force of nature—literally,” she said. Others, including non-Natives, may call her Madame Pele for the same reason.)

Hoʻomanawanui and Arista told me that seeing the lava as Pele didn’t detract from the scientific understanding of it. Instead, Pele anchors the experience of the lava, envelops it, and connects it to the lives of people who came before.

“Through dance, through costuming, through specific flowers—there’s layers of representation that I think really evoke a sensory experience beyond just knowledge, beyond just understanding as a Western scientific geological process,” Hoʻomanawanui said. “It’s a complete experience that is inclusive of that [scientific] knowledge but goes way beyond it.”

“We don’t have the words for belief or faith in this stuff,” she said. Instead, she said, Westerners should see Hawaiian customary belief as a practice and as a way of understanding the world."
hawaii  lava  science  names  naming  knowledge  volcanoes  complacency  indigeneity  2018  culture  language  languages  morethanhuman  geography  local  classideas  placenames 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Vadik Marmeladov
"I design the most beautiful products. Before scrolling down to the pictures, please read our Codes of Practice:

1. Wear the uniform
2. Think long term (like 30 years from now)
3. Build stories and languages, not things
4. Create your own universe (or join ours)
5. Collect samples
6. Be a sample for somebody else 
7. Look for loyalty, not for a skill set
8. Do not build utilitarian products. However, use them as a medium to express yourself
9. Do not exploit introverts — doesn't work long term. Learn to be an introvert yourself 
10. Travel more
11. Do not work for corporations. Old corporations were meaningful when their founders were alive, but now, they have outlived their relevancy. They exist only to keep their numbers growing
12. New corporations are no better. They have scaled up features, and today’s founders want hyper-growth for growth’s sake (it seems like every line of code, every feature deserves its own corporation — it sure doesn't)
13. So, fuck the corporations
14. Tell the truth (bullshit never works long term)
15. Study and research fashion
16. Your phone is a temporary feature — don’t spend your life on it (like you wouldn’t spend it on a fax machine)
17. Fuck likes, followers, fake lives, fake friends
18. Remake your environment. Build it for yourself, and people will come 
19. Only trust those who make things you love
20. Move to LA 
21. Don’t buy property
22. Don’t go to Mars (just yet)
23. Use only one font, just a few colors, and just a few shapes
24. Use spreadsheets, but only to map out 30 cells — one for each year of the rest of your life
25. The next three are the most important
26. The past doesn’t exist — don’t get stuck in it
27. Don’t go to Silicon Valley (it’s not for you if you’re still reading this)
28. Remind yourself daily: you and everyone you know will die
29. We must build the most beautiful things
30. We are 2046 kids"

[via Warren Ellis's Orbital Operations newsletter, 8 April 2018:

"LOT 2046 [https://www.lot2046.com/ ] continues to be magnificent. This is actually a really strong duffel bag. You just never know what you're going to get.

Incidentally, culture watchers, keep an eye on this - the LOT 2046 user-in-residence programme [https://www.lot2046.com/360/11/875c4f ]. This feels like a small start to a significant idea. Vadik thinks long-term. He once had the following Codes Of Practise list from his previous business on his personal website, preserved by the sainted Wayback Machine:"]
vadikmarmeladov  codesofpractice  uniforms  longterm  stories  language  languages  worldbuilding  loyalty  skills  samples  examples  corporations  corporatism  losangeles  property  2046  beauty  part  present  siliconvalley  fonts  mars  trust  love  environment  like  follows  followers  fakeness  relevancy  features  numbers  scale  scalability  fashion  research  attention 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Who Is Reality Winner?
"Those who criticize whistle-blowers often suggest that the offender ought to have followed a more “responsible” course — what Obama once called in his criticism of Snowden the “procedures and practices of the intelligence community.” There are reasons notorious leakers have stopped doing so, and those reasons involve a man named Thomas Drake. In 2002, Drake had concerns about a wasteful and unconstitutional $1 billion warrantless-wiretapping program later revealed to be among the worst and most expensive failures in the history of U.S. intelligence. He alerted the NSA’s general counsel, informed Diane Roark, a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee in charge of NSA oversight, and, anonymously, informed congressional committees investigating the mistakes that led to 9/11. He alerted the inspector general of the Department of Defense, which launched an investigation. Colleagues warned him that he ought to stop. Eventually, the FBI raided Drake’s home and the Justice Department charged him with “willful retention of national defense information.” An assistant inspector general later claimed that the Pentagon was punishing Drake for whistle-blowing and had improperly destroyed material related to his defense. Drake lost his job, his pension, and his savings. His marriage fell apart. He now works at the Apple store in Bethesda, Maryland.

William Binney, a longtime NSA technical director, went to both the inspector general of the Department of Defense and Roark, with complaints about massive amounts of wasteful spending; the FBI raided his home, pointed a gun at him while he was in the shower, and revoked his security clearance. He was 63. (For good measure, they raided Roark’s house, too.)

Drake and Binney, among others, had attempted to work through the system, only to be retaliated against. But something shifted in 2010, when a 22-year-old private named Bradley Manning sent a trove of secrets straight to WikiLeaks. Snowden, 29, went to particular journalists he trusted (one of whom was Greenwald). These whistle-blowers spent far less time at their respective agencies or contractors and had considerably less faith that their superiors might be sensitive to their concerns. They were in their 20s, a time of great ideological foment for many intelligent people, and an age at which many are at their most ideologically rigid. Snowden and Manning were not career service people who had grown concerned with the way some work being done by colleagues violated the values of the institution in which they still believed, but newcomers — an IT contractor and a soldier — suddenly face-to-face with the whole system of American surveillance. And Snowden, in particular, knew exactly what happened to people who followed proper channels.

“The disclosure system, the whistle-blower system, the ability to bring wrongdoing and questions about policy, is fraught with corruption,” says Drake, who speaks mostly in a kind of outraged abstraction. “It does not protect the whistle-blower, the truth-teller. It’s designed to ferret them out and hammer them from within.”

For those inside the web of secrecy, that makes a bad mood on a bad day, a snap decision in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, potentially catastrophic."



"I didn’t want to see the river and think about satellites, just as I didn’t want to think about intimate conversations in Iran violated by linguists in Georgia, or sisterly banter on Facebook probed by prosecutors in Washington, so I thought about a story the family had told me, about a vacation to SeaWorld when Reality and Brittany were just girls. The Winners took in a show, watched sleek gray dolphins leap in unison, their sweet-sounding squeals elicited on command. Brittany was loving it. At which point her little sister — ever the explainer, ever the scold — declared that in captivity, the dolphins’ signals bounce crazily off the walls; their capacity for echolocation drives them mad. For Brittany, the show was ruined. It had been easier not to know what was hidden below the visible, beneath the bright surface of the cage."
realitywinner  2017  us  nsa  whistleblowers  chelseamanning  edwardsnoden  kerryhowley  military  airforce  languages  theintercept  glenngreenwald  corruption  surveillance 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How the Appetite for Emojis Complicates the Effort to Standardize the World’s Alphabets - The New York Times
"nshuman Pandey was intrigued. A graduate student in history at the University of Michigan, he was searching online for forgotten alphabets of South Asia when an image of a mysterious writing system popped up. In eight years of digging through British colonial archives both real and digital, he has found almost 200 alphabets across Asia that were previously undescribed in the West, but this one, which he came across in early 2011, stumped him. Its sinuous letters, connected to one another in cursive fashion and sometimes bearing dots and slashes above or below, resembled those of Arabic.

Pandey eventually identified the script as an alphabet for Rohingya, the language spoken by the stateless and persecuted Muslim people whose greatest numbers live in western Myanmar, where they’ve been the victims of brutal ethnic cleansing. Pandey wasn’t sure if the alphabet itself was in use anymore, until he lucked upon contemporary pictures of printed textbooks for children. That meant it wasn’t a historical footnote; it was alive.

An email query from Pandey bounced from expert to expert until it landed with Muhammad Noor, a Rohingya activist and television host who was living in Malaysia. He told Pandey the short history of this alphabet, which was developed in the 1980s by a group of scholars that included a man named Mohammed Hanif. It spread slowly through the 1990s in handwritten, photocopied books. After 2001, thanks to two computer fonts designed by Noor, it became possible to type the script in word-processing programs. But no email, text messages or (later) tweets could be sent or received in it, no Google searches conducted in it. The Rohingya had no digital alphabet of their own through which they could connect with one another.

Billions of people around the world no longer face this plight. Whether on computers or smartphones, they can write as they write, expressing themselves in their own linguistic culture. What makes this possible is a 26-year-old international industrial standard for text data called the Unicode standard, which prescribes the digital letters, numbers and punctuation marks of more than 100 different writing systems: Greek, Cherokee, Arabic, Latin, Devanagari — a world-spanning storehouse of languages. But the alphabet that Noor described wasn’t among them, and neither are more than 100 other scripts, just over half of them historical and the rest alphabets that could still be used by as many as 400 million people today.

Now a computational linguist and motivated by a desire to put his historical knowledge to use, Pandey knows how to get obscure alphabets into the Unicode standard. Since 2005, he has done so for 19 writing systems (and he’s currently working to add another eight). With Noor’s help, and some financial support from a research center at the University of California, Berkeley, he drew up the basic set of letters and defined how they combine, what rules govern punctuation and whether spaces exist between words, then submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the organization that maintains the standards for digital scripts. In 2018, seven years after Pandey’s discovery, what came to be called Hanifi Rohingya will be rolled out in Unicode’s 11th version. The Rohingya will be able to communicate online with one another, using their own alphabet."



"Unicode’s history is full of attacks by governments, activists and eccentrics. In the early 1990s, the Chinese government objected to the encoding of Tibetan. About five years ago, Hungarian nationalists tried to sabotage the encoding for Old Hungarian because they wanted it to be called “Szekley-Hungarian Rovas” instead. An encoding for an alphabet used to write Nepal Bhasa and Sanskrit was delayed a few years ago by ethnonationalists who mistrusted the proposal because they objected to the author’s surname. Over and over, the Unicode Consortium has protected its standard from such political attacks.

The standard’s effectiveness helped. “If standards work, they’re invisible and can be ignored by the public,” Busch says. Twenty years after its first version, Unicode had become the default text-data standard, adopted by device manufacturers and software companies all over the world. Each version of the standard ushered more users into a seamless digital world of text. “We used to ask ourselves, ‘How many years do you think the consortium will need to be in place before we can publish the last version?’ ” Whistler recalls. The end was finally in sight — at one point the consortium had barely more than 50 writing systems to add.

All that changed in October 2010, when that year’s version of the Unicode standard included its first set of emojis."



"Not everyone thinks that Unicode should be in the emoji business at all. I met several people at Emojicon promoting apps that treat emojis like pictures, not text, and I heard an idea floated for a separate standards body for emojis run by people with nontechnical backgrounds. “Normal people can have an opinion about why there isn’t a cupcake emoji,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, an entrepreneur and a film producer whose advocacy on behalf of a dumpling emoji inspired her to organize Emojicon. The issue isn’t space — Unicode has about 800,000 unused numerical identifiers — but about whose expertise and worldview shapes the standard and prioritizes its projects.

“Emoji has had a tendency to subtract attention from the other important things the consortium needs to be working on,” Ken Whistler says. He believes that Unicode was right to take responsibility for emoji, because it has the technical expertise to deal with character chaos (and has dealt with it before). But emoji is an unwanted distraction. “We can spend hours arguing for an emoji for chopsticks, and then have nobody in the room pay any attention to details for what’s required for Nepal, which the people in Nepal use to write their language. That’s my main concern: emoji eats the attention span both in the committee and for key people with other responsibilities.”

Emoji has nonetheless provided a boost to Unicode. Companies frequently used to implement partial versions of the standard, but the spread of emoji now forces them to adopt more complete versions of it. As a result, smartphones that can manage emoji will be more likely to have Hanifi Rohingya on them too. The stream of proposals also makes the standard seem alive, attracting new volunteers to Unicode’s mission. It’s not unusual for people who come to the organization through an interest in emoji to end up embracing its priorities. “Working on characters used in a small province of China, even if it’s 20,000 people who are going to use it, that’s a more important use of their time than deliberating over whether the hand of my yoga emoji is in the right position,” Mark Bramhill told me.

Since its creation was announced in 2015, the “Adopt a Character” program, through which individuals and organizations can sponsor any characters, including emojis, has raised more than $200,000. A percentage of the proceeds goes to support the Script Encoding Initiative, a research project based at Berkeley, which is headed by the linguistics researcher Deborah Anderson, who is devoted to making Unicode truly universal. One the consortium recently accepted is called Nyiakeng Puachue Hmong, devised for the Hmong language by a minister in California whose parishioners have been using it for more than 25 years. Still in the proposal stage is Tigalari, once used to write Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

One way to read the story of Unicode in the time of emoji is to see a privileged generation of tech consumers confronting the fact that they can’t communicate in ways they want to on their devices: through emoji. They get involved in standards-making, which yields them some satisfaction but slows down the speed with which millions of others around the world get access to the most basic of online linguistic powers. “There are always winners and losers in standards,” Lawrence Busch says. “You might want to say, ultimately we’d like everyone to win and nobody to lose too much, but we’re stuck with the fact that we have to make decisions, and when we make them, those decisions are going to be less acceptable to some than to others.”"
unicode  language  languages  internet  international  standards  emoji  2017  priorities  web  online  anshumanpandey  rohingya  arabic  markbramhill  hmong  tigalari  nyiakengpuachuehmong  muhammadnoor  mohammedhanif  kenwhistler  history  1980  2011  1990s  1980s  mobile  phones  google  apple  ascii  facebook  emojicon  michaelaerard  technology  communication  tibet 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Radio Garden
"About Radio Garden

By bringing distant voices close, radio connects people and places. Radio Garden allows listeners to explore processes of broadcasting and hearing identities across the entire globe. From its very beginning, radio signals have crossed borders. Radio makers and listeners have imagined both connecting with distant cultures, as well as re-connecting with people from ‘home’ from thousands of miles away – or using local community radio to make and enrich new homes.

In the section Live, you can explore a world or radio as it is happening right now. Tune into any place on the globe: what sounds familiar? What sounds foreign? Where would you like to travel and what sounds like ‘home’?

In the section on History you can tune into clips from throughout radio history that show how radio has tried to cross borders. How have people tried to translate their nations into the airwaves? What did they say to the world? How do they engage in conversation across linguistic and geographical barriers?

Click over to Jingles for a world-wide crash course in station identification. How do stations signal within a fraction of a second what kind of programmes you are likely to hear? How do they project being joyful, trustworthy, or up to the minute?

Then stop and listen to radio Stories where listeners past and present tell how they listen beyond their walls. How do they imagine the voices and sounds from around the globe? How do they use radio to make themselves at home in the world?

Radio Garden incorporates results from the international research project Transnational Radio Encounters directed by Golo Föllmer at Martin-Luther University Halle, in co-operation with the Universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark, London Metropolitan and the University of Sunderland in the UK, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The project was funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) from 2013-2016.

Concept & Production by Studio Puckey in collaboration with Moniker.

Technology & live section by Studio Puckey.

Design, UI & UX by Studio Puckey in collaboration with Phillip Bührer.

Radio Garden is developed in co-ordination with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

Enquiries:
Mail contact@puckey.studio
Twitter @studiopuckey

If you want to submit your radio station to Radio Garden, please fill in the station submission form.

If you to make a change to an existing station on Radio Garden, please contact us at submissions@radio.garden."
radio  classideas  music  maps  mapping  via:davidtedu  languages  studiopuckey  sound  audio 
january 2017 by robertogreco
K.T. Billey: Utmost Import: Instagram & the Future of the Icelandic Language - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
[about: https://www.instagram.com/everysinglewordinicelandic/

"Futbol vikings, moonbeams, Björk—Iceland has long-since captured the global imagination, often capitalizing on foreign fascination. Tourism has been essential to the country’s post-crash economic recovery and guerrilla activities in the form of social media have emerged as a complement to ad campaigns and travel initiatives. Put simply, the posted image is the new word of mouth and Iceland is Instagrammer heaven. When cabin porn is a noun-ed phenomenon, Grade-A bragging visuals have brought hordes of visitors and money to the Nordic island. However, the influx has not been without anxiety. One Instagram account embodies the bane and boon of tourism for contemporary Icelandic identity.

Every Single Word in Icelandic, @everysinglewordinicelandic, is one of the most charming mini-galleries around. The concept is simple: pictographs break down the etymology of Icelandic words, illustrating cultural personality and the magic of language while teaching interested followers a thing or two.

Created by Eunsan Huh, a graphic designer who began learning Icelandic in New York City, many Every Single Word entries are Icelandic symbology: wool sweater, hot dog, whale (peysa, pylsa, hvalur). Others reflect Iceland’s absorption of new practices. In a shepherding country, chopsticks are called matprjónar or “food knitting needles.” Idioms also pop up—in Icelandic a tough cookie could be called a harðjaxl, a “hard molar.” The ranks of the account’s followers has steadily grown. Particularly in terms of nature and ‘folk’ attitudes, we seem collectively predisposed to being amused by Iceland the way audiences at comedy shows come ready to laugh.

The interest in Icelandic is certainly welcome. A language spoken by about 300 000 people must work to preserve itself. Reliance on importation and a history of Danish rule make Iceland no stranger to fears of foreign influence. A vital function of the Icelandic Language Council is to establish Icelandic words for new inventions. Drawing on Old Norse and Icelandic roots, the goal is to prevent an influx of loanwords—once Danish, now English—from taking over. Some borrowed words have taken hold—the use of banani far surpasses bjúgaldin “sausage fruit”—but preservation efforts have paid off in terms of language survival and intrigue. The word for television is a popular example that reminds us of how strange tv was upon its invention, as well as of the beauty of the English word. Sjónvarp breaks down into “vision caster.” Tele-vision. It may seem obvious, augljós, (auga<, eye, + ljós, light), but is there anything we take more for granted?

Perhaps one thing. The internet, whose here-to-eternity English poses an unprecedented threat to Iceland’s notoriously difficult, poetic, and odd tongue. Icelandic schooling has long included English, Danish, Latin, and various other languages, but English is particularly alluring for young people looking to participate in global arenas. Not just the online, but in technology use in general. As the Icelandic writer Sjón put it in an interview I conducted with him for Asymptote International Literary Journal,“When the day comes that we have to speak to our refrigerators in English (which I believe is not far in the future), Icelandic will retreat very fast.”

Former President of Iceland Vigdis Finnbogadóttir drew an oft-repeated distinction: Icelandic is not a ‘small language’ but rather ‘a language spoken by few.’ According to Finnbogadóttir, an active linguistic advocate (and the world’s first elected woman head of state—fewer speakers often boast when they can), there are no small languages. This rings true to anyone who has been mouth-baffled in a land of extensive compound words. It is not a numbers game, but hundreds of years of Nordic literature—an immeasurable contribution to world culture and mythology—is contingent on linguistic knowledge."



"Tomorrow’s folk tale might be a cautionary yarn about the Pokémon hunter who fell into Goðafoss. Purists might cringe at the notion, romantics might refuse to read it—or watch the trailer. There is much to bemoan about the evolving tension between technology and our physical and social lives: bodily detachment, fractured attention, intimate dis-ease. Worries about Icelandic are well-founded, but its speakers are aware. Gerður Kristný responded to the ‘why not write in English’ question by explaining that language has so much to do with Icelandic independence and identity, she will always write in Icelandic. It is her language. Technology looms, but pride and artistry is made of different stuff. Human obstinacy is a phenomenon unto itself.

The fate of Icelandic and other languages spoken by few remains to be seen, read, and heard. For now, as with anything, we can take the mixed bag, if we believe we have a choice. Absorbing positive resonance when we can is a coping skill as venerable as sagas. Marveling at inventions creates space for thought about how to use them well.

Rarity may protect languages via the kind of cult interest Icelandic enjoys. Print was supposed to be dead by now, or the realm of fetishized art objects and eccentric collectors. Yet book-devices haven’t supplanted books themselves. There are simply more ways to read. The internet is akin to Borges’ Babel in both threat and potential—it cultivates a browsing attitude that eats its children but also offers a place to be intentionally communicative. Never have we had such a grand chance to self-define or such an audience for our own terms.

“Orchestra” is a pertinent Every Single Word in Icelandic entry. Hljómsveit, literally “sound team.” The ancient chorus persists, in one form or another, and it is what we make of it."

[See also: http://grapevine.is/author/eunsan-huh/
https://www.behance.net/gallery/28612451/Every-Single-Word-In-Icelandic ]
iceland  icelandic  language  languages  instagram  ktbilley  eunsanhuh  symbols  symbology  history  linguistics  audio  pronunciation  translation  english  illustration  via:tealtan  instagrams 
august 2016 by robertogreco
What is the future of Spanish in the United States? | Pew Research Center
"With more than 37 million speakers, Spanish is by far the most spoken non-English language in the U.S. today among people ages 5 and older. It is also one of the fastest-growing, with the number of speakers up 233% since 1980, when there were 11 million Spanish speakers. (The number of Vietnamese speakers grew faster, up 599% over the same period).

As Spanish use has grown, driven primarily by Hispanic immigration and population growth, it has become a part of many aspects of life in the U.S. For example, Spanish is spoken by more non-Hispanics in U.S. homes than any other non-English language and Spanish language television networks frequently beat their English counterparts in television ratings.

But what’s the future of Spanish?

According to a 2011 paper by U.S. Census Bureau Demographers Jennifer Ortman and Hyon B. Shin, the number of Spanish speakers is projected to rise through 2020 to anywhere between 39 million and 43 million, depending on the assumption one makes about immigration. Most of these Spanish speakers will be Hispanic, with Ortman and Shin projecting between 37.5 million and 41 million Hispanic Spanish speakers by 2020.

Ortman and Shin provide two other projections, both of which highlight the changing demographics of the nation’s Hispanic population and the rising importance of U.S. births rather than the arrival of new immigrants to Hispanic population growth.

Today, three-fourths of all Hispanics ages 5 and older speak Spanish. However, that share is projected to fall to about two-thirds in 2020. The share of Hispanics that speak Spanish reached 78% in the 2000s.

As the share of Hispanics who speak Spanish falls, the share that speaks only English at home is expected to rise. About a third (34%) of Hispanics will speak only English at home by 2020, up from 25% in 2010, according to Ortman and Shin.

The story of the Spanish language in the U.S. is still unfolding. Whether it follows the same pattern of decline in use as other non-English languages, such as Italian, German or Polish, remains to be seen. (The number of Italian, German and Polish speakers in the U.S. declined 55.2%, 32.7% and 25.9% between 1980 and 2010, even though the number of Americans who trace their ancestry to Germany, Poland or Italy grew over the same period.)

Nonetheless, the path that Spanish takes could be different. A 2012 Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project report showed 95% of Hispanic adults—including those born in the U.S.—said it is important that future generations of Hispanic speak Spanish. And today’s young Hispanics are more likely than their parents to say they hear messages about the importance of speaking Spanish. But among Hispanics, use of English when consuming news media, television entertainment, music or speaking it is on the rise."
spanish  us  español  language  languages  demographics  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Speaking in Tongues
"At a time when 31 states have passed “English Only” laws, four pioneering families put their children in public schools where, from the first day of kindergarten, their teachers speak mostly in a foreign language. Speaking in Tongues follows four diverse kids on a journey to become bilingual. This charming story will challenge you to rethink the skills that Americans need to succeed in the 21st century."

[See also: http://www.pbs.org/program/speaking-in-tongues/
http://www.patchworksfilms.net/speaking-in-tongues/
http://ww2.kqed.org/trulyca/speaking-in-tongues/ ]
culture  globalization  film  documentary  languages  sanfrancisco  education  schools  bilingualism 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Is bilingual better? | Public Radio International
"The benefits of speaking two languages were barely researched until the 1960s. Now, hardly a month goes by without the publication of a new inquiry into the bilingual brain. One of the most influential of these studies found that bilinguals were more adept at staving off memory loss and other effects of the ageing brain. Researchers have also found other evidence of cognitive improvements among speakers of more than one language.

There has been pushback from scholars who don't trust the methodology of these studies, or have been unable to reproduce the results, resulting in a nasty academic standoff.

There is also the occasional study that claims that speaking more than one language may actually be a disadvantage.

So in the podcast, we checked out some opinion, both informed and uninformed. We also report from a couple of bilingual frontlines: places where there is both support for and resistance to bilingualism in their communities.

Podcast Contents

00:00 In Dunstable, UK, a long-time resident views the influx of bilingual immigrants as an economic threat to monolingual locals.

4:30 Ari Daniel tells Patrick about the connection between what's going on in the womb of a pregnant woman and the Australian soap opera, "Neighbours."

6:00 What happens when you repeatedly play a soundfile that says "Tatata tatatata tatata" in the presence of a pregnant mother in her third trimester.

8:45 "By the time a baby is born, they are not an inexperienced listener."

9:30 A study out of Vancouver, BC, seeks to discover whether babies at birth can differentiate between languages.

11:10 The parents realize "their babies' interest in the world around them and is interested in learning from the first moments in life." Read more about the Ari Daniel's reporting on in utero language acquisition studies here.

12:10 Should Patrick award himself a gold star because he is raising his daughter to be bilingual? Does she have a bilingual edge?

13:25 Patrick and Nina talk bilingualism across continents and 11 time zones.

15:00 Patrick talks about the trilingual schools of Friesland in the Netherlands.

16:15 Nina notices the Hawaiian language all over Hawaii, but how many fluent speakers are there?

18:15 Patrick is a celebrity in Friesland.

19:00 Nina is mesmerized by the ocean. Will she ever come back?"
bilingualism  languages  2016 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The World in Words | Public Radio International
"A podcast about languages and the people who speak them"
language  languages  blogs  theworld  words  podcasts 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The hundred languages of childhood know no age bounds | IOE LONDON BLOG
"Loris Malaguzzi (1920-94) was one of the great educationalists of the 20th century. He was a thinker, but also a doer, a council employee who played a leading role in the evolution of a network of municipal schools in the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, 70 kilometres west of Bologna. Today, the schools and Malaguzzi are an inspiration to those who resist the spread of neoliberal and neoconservative education policies.

Most educationalists won’t have heard of Reggio Emilia or Malaguzzi. This is in part because both are Italian, and most of his work is in Italian. A newly published book – ‘Loris Malaguzzi and the Schools of Reggio Emilia’ – edited by myself and colleagues in Reggio Emilia, aims to rectify this, with English translations of a selection of his writings and speeches, starting in 1945 (when, as he wrote ‘everything seemed possible’). But there’s another reason. Malaguzzi and Reggio Emilia are world famous for early childhood education, a field largely untrodden by the rest of education. Yet Malaguzzi was convinced that he was engaged in a project of educational renewal, which knew no age bounds.

What lessons does Malaguzzi have for all education? He insists that education is, first and foremost, a political practice, always about making choices between conflicting alternatives. One of the most important choices concerns our understanding or image of the child – who do we think the child is? Answer that question, Malaguzzi argued, and all else – policy, provision, practice – follows. Of course every educational policy and service is based on a particular image, but one that is invariably implicit and unacknowledged; policy documents typically neither ask nor answer the question. But Reggio Emilia does.

Malaguzzi insisted that ‘a declaration [about the image of the child] is…the necessary premise for any pedagogical theory, and any pedagogical project’. And he was clear about his image: ‘We say all children are rich, there are no poor children. All children whatever their culture, whatever their lives are rich, better equipped, more talented, stronger and more intelligent than we can suppose’.

Rich children are born with a ‘hundred languages’, the term he used to suggest the many and diverse ways children can express themselves and relate to the world – ranging from manifold forms of art to maths, sciences and technologies. Malaguzzi was damning about the damage usually done to these languages by education: ‘Children have a hundred languages: they rob them of ninety nine, school and culture.’ Instead, he strove to nurture languages, for example through ateliers and atelieristas – art workshops and artist-educators found in most Reggio schools. Atelieristas were also there to confront traditional and narrow pedagogy, to ‘provoke some less convenient directions capable of breaking with the professional and cultural routine.’

For Malaguzzi, education was about constructing new knowledge and thought. He valued wonder and surprise, the unpredicted and the unexpected, making connections and inter-disciplinarity. The strength of Reggio, Malaguzzi believed, was that all the time ‘something unexpected, something that surprised us or made us marvel, something that disappointed us, something that humiliated us, would burst out in a child or in the children.’ While he despised what he termed ‘testology’ – ‘which is nothing but a ridiculous simplification of knowledge and a robbing of meaning from individual histories’ – and its partner ‘prophetic pedagogy’, which knows everything [that will happen], does not have one uncertainty, is absolutely imperturbable… [It] prophesies everything, to the point that it is capable of giving you recipes for little bits of actions, minute by minute, hour by hour, objective by objective, five minutes by five minutes. This is something so coarse, so cowardly, so humiliating of teachers’ ingenuity, a complete humiliation for children’s ingenuity and potential.

If making choices about understandings was an important part of education’s political practice, making choices about values was another. Malaguzzi’s choice included uncertainty and subjectivity, solidarity and cooperation and, perhaps most important of all, participation and democracy. As a ‘living centre of open and democratic culture’, opening out not only to families but also to its local neighbourhood, the school should be capable of ‘living out processes and issues of partici­pation and democracy.’ Democracy, for Malaguzzi, was not just a matter of participant social management and participatory accountability, important as both were; it should suffuse all relationships and practices – democracy in a Deweyan sense of ‘a mode of associated living’.

If Malaguzzi placed political practice first, this did not mean he ignored technical practice. He thought organisation was vital, though always serving politics and ethics, and was constantly asking under what conditions can innovation work. Indeed, it was this attention to organisational detail and technical practice that has enabled the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia to become the most extensive and sustained example of radical, democratic, public education in the world. Faced by a hidebound education system, Loris Malaguzzi showed that there are alternatives, that another world is possible.

A final point needs emphasising at a time when local authorities in England are being squeezed out of any role in the provision of schools. Reggio Emilia’s schools are municipal schools; this innovative experience was initiated and nurtured by the city council. Malaguzzi himself was a council employee, putting me in mind of equally inspired heads of local education authorities in England. As a believer in public, democratic education, embedded in its local community, Malaguzzi thought that the democratic expression of that community, the commune or local authority, should be a main protagonist in the provision of schools for young children (and other services). Academisation may make all the running at present, but Malaguzzi and the schools of Reggio Emilia remind us that there are alternatives."
lorismalaguzzi  reggioemilia  2016  education  pedagogy  emergentcurriculum  politics  italy  children  howwelearn  howweteach  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  expression  ethics  organization  innovation  schools  democratic  democracy  alternative  publicschools  community  academization  uncertainty  knowledge  culture  languages  art  policy  solidarity  cooperation  participation  participatory  sfsh 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Translation and the news—crossing languages in the age of networked journalism - FOLD
[See site for references relating to each of the different notes.]

"As my time as a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow winds down, I wanted to reflect a bit on what I’ve learned about journalism, translation and the importance of the network in contemporary digital journalism. Much of this applies more broadly—language is going to be and already is a critical issue for technologists concerned about supporting the increased range of people online—, but I’ll focus on the specifics of journalism in this post.

It’s been an incredible few weeks of interviews, conversations, seminars, workshops, historical research (especially at the beautiful Widener Library), Hacks/Hackers, a conference on comments and going beyond them. We also managed to squeeze in a few pilot projects with Bridge, our platform for translating social media. I’ll be writing a longer, more thoughtful version of my time for Nieman Lab in coming weeks, so I’ll not try to craft too much of a logical narrative in this post.

Instead, some notes to jot down:

We’re moving toward a majority internet population. With 3.3 billion online and a 832% growth rate, the internet is incredibly diverse.

The “next billIon” have arrived, and already, language diversity is steadily increasing. I’ve written before about how ostensibly “offline”communities like in rural northern Uganda, North Korea and Cuba are impacted by the internet, and it’s important to keep in mind that the internet has ripple effects far beyond those who are formally online. As we crossed into a majority urban population, even rural areas have now oriented toward cities, providing raw and manufactured materials and serving as dumping grounds.

A similar effect will no doubt take place with the internet—even if not everyone is officially connected with a single user account, they will be pressured to find creative solutions to get connected. (Zachary Hyman and I have a piece coming out soon in Makeshift to this effect, and you can read what Julia Ticona and I discussed in the US context for Civicist.)

With regards to language, the sheer diversity of speakers online is stunning. From 2000 to 2015, we’ve seen 6592% growth amongst Arabic speakers, 2080% amongst Chinese speakers and 3227% amongst Russian speakers, to name a few. Even more striking is the fact that English speakers will soon be the minority online, and the growth of non-Top Ten language continues apace. If the news is breaking, it’s almost always going to happen online too. And more importantly, it will be happening in many more languages than English.

Multilingual content hasn’t caught up with multilingual users.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity. According to the IDN World Report, English content is vastly overrepresented on the web. Part of this, of course, can be explained by the fact that many people speak English as a second language. But other languages, like Arabic, Chinese and Spanish, are severely underrepresented.

This sounds like an opportunity for content creators to make relevant content for language speakers, whose experience of the internet is much more limited than that of English speakers. At the same time, adapting the current business models—advertising and pay to read—for these new markets will be a challenge. As Buzzfeed’s Greg Coleman pointed out, global advertising presents unique challenges. If so many people speak English, why bother with other languages?

As came through in many interviews I’ve done, readers tend to prefer their own language, even if they do speak English. I’d like to dive into this with more rigorous research, but it generally makes sense. As digital journalist and Nieman Fellow Tim de Gier described it to me, the internet is full of road bumps. Our job as journalists is to reduce those road bumps and point people to our articles. If it’s in another language, even one we speak, that’s just one more bump in access.

Networked journalism is here to stay. And it’s an opportunity for more diverse stories.

In 2006, Jeff Jarvis defined networked journalism as a field where "the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; we’ll see more and more of that, I trust. The journalists can and should link to other work on the same story, to source material, and perhaps blog posts from the sources.... After the story is published — online, in print, wherever — the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective … not to mention promotion via links."

He added that he hoped it would be a sort of self-fulling prophecy, as more newsrooms turned to networks to both source and distribute the news. Journalists are shifting from simply manufacturers of news to moderators of conversations.

This month, at the Beyond Comments conference hosted by MIT Media Lab and the Coral Project, it became increasingly clear that major news outlets are striving for an alternative. In a terrific panel moderated by Anika Gupta, journalists like Amanda Zamora, Joseph Reagle, Monica Guzmán and Emily Goligoski pointed out that we need to make a shift from thinking of the audience as an audience to thinking of them more as a community.

To meet both speed and accuracy, translators need better tech and better processes.

In a breaking news environment, both speed and accuracy are critical. Indeed, translation and technology have always worked closely together. There are two examples that stick in my mind. The first is the Filene-Finlay simultaneous translator, developed at IBM and used in the Nuremberg trials. The second is the printing press: in Western Europe, it wasn't until books were translated from Latin to vernacular languages that they started to have an impact.

What does this look like in the digital context? It's something we're exploring at Meedan with Bridge, our platform for social media translation. Other great examples include Yeeyan, a Chinese platform for crowdsourcing news translation; Amara, for subtitling videos on platforms like TED; and Wikipedia.

But just as importantly as the tech, we need better systems and processes. The rigorous training of UN interpreters has made simultaneous interpretation at scale possible today. Glossaries, keeping up to date with the news, pairing interpreters together--this is the stuff that makes the tech powerful, because the humans behind it are more effective.

These processes can be supplemented with new tools in the digital context. Machine translation, translation memories, dynamic and shared glossaries can all help, as can fostering a collaborative mindset. What's most striking to me is the fact that interpretation at the UN is collaborative, with at least two interpreters per language pair. As we do away with the myth that translation is a one-to-one matter (i.e., one translator to one text), we can generate a stronger body of translations made possible through collaboration.

....And that's it for now - I'll be working on a much longer report, complete with case studies and examples, for the Nieman Lab in coming weeks. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!"
journalism  translation  socialmedia  anxiaomina  2016  networkedjournalism  netowrks  diversity  world  languages  inclusion  inclusivity  news  meedan  yeeyan  amara  wikipedia  ted  anikagupta  amandazamora  josephreagle  monicaguzmán  emilygoligoski  jeffjarvis  timdegier  internet  web  online  gregcoleman  spanish  español  chinese  arabic  russian  zacharyhyman  juliaticona 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Superior Social Skills of Bilinguals - The New York Times
"We found that bilingual children were better than monolingual children at this task. If you think about it, this makes intuitive sense. Interpreting someone’s utterance often requires attending not just to its content, but also to the surrounding context. What does a speaker know or not know? What did she intend to convey? Children in multilingual environments have social experiences that provide routine practice in considering the perspectives of others: They have to think about who speaks which language to whom, who understands which content, and the times and places in which different languages are spoken."



"Multilingual exposure, it seems, facilitates the basic skills of interpersonal understanding. Of course, becoming fully bilingual or multilingual is not always easy or possible for everyone. But the social advantage we have identified appears to emerge from merely being raised in an environment in which multiple languages are experienced, not from being bilingual per se. This is potentially good news for parents who are not bilingual themselves, yet who want their children to enjoy some of the benefits of multilingualism."
bilingualism  bilingual  languages  empathy  perspective  2016  psychology  communication  katherinekinzler  boazkeysar  zoeliberman  samanthafan  interpersonal  understanding  multilingual  multilingualism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Unless you speak English, the Internet doesn’t care about you | Fusion
"The internet is global but it is also regional. Cats are to the U.S. and Japan what goats are to Brazil and Uganda. If you speak an uncommon language, the internet can feel downright rural. The problem isn’t just getting online, but whether there will be anything for people who get online to actually do.

“What’s critical to understand is that, with the next billion users coming online, we’re going to see a wide variety of new languages represented online,” said An Xiao Mina, a co-founder of the Civic Beat and a technologist at Meedan working to build a platform to translate social media. “We live in a world of many internets, where even if you reduce the limits of geography, censorship and connectivity, language prevents large swaths of people from connecting with each other.”

But it’s not just ‘obscure’ languages that are discriminated against on the web.

Even use of Arabic—the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world and the fourth most common language among internet users—was until recently limited on many mobile phones. In some places on the internet, it still is. To cope, Arabic speak­ers developed “Arabizi”, a combination of Roman letters and numbers that make it easier to chat. Arabizi is a essentially a transliteration of Arabic into English characters, using numbers to stand in for some of the letters that don’t have direct counterparts in sound, like 7 for ح (ha), which sounds a bit like a guttural “h.”

It’s an ingenious solution, but one that shouldn’t have to exist. When emoji exploded in popularity, developers across all platforms worked quickly to make it easily usable on their devices. Why so slow with Arabic?

Arabic Wikipedia, by the way, has just 400,000 articles. A language spoken by more than 400 million people is less represented than Swedish, a language spoken by just 9 million. The demographics of the internet have historically been very different from that of the offline world, and those colonization effects are dramatic.

Recent research has shown that speaking English is a significant factor in determining whether someone adopts use of the web. Some languages are not well represented online, but others, like Tibetan, are completely invisible, unusable on browsers, operating systems, and keyboards.

The Tibetan blogger Dechen Pemba recently wrote about the frustrations of not being able to access the Tibetan language on a phone. Google, he wrote, failed to develop a Tibetan language interface and only recently incorporated the Tibetan language font on some Android phones. (That’s one way for Apple, which does support Tibetan, to win customers from Android.)

“Given that the Tibetan literary tradition goes back to the 7th century … my pet hate is when Tibetan language is described as ‘obscure,'” he wrote. “I wonder how it is possible that the language of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhists, comprising of as many as 60 million people, can be wilfully left behind in terms of modern technology?”

Facebook’s Free Basics program was controversial in India in large part because it limited the internet resources the digitally disadvantaged would have access to. Would it include access to domestic violence protection programs, or would it be a walled ghetto devoted to social media and online shopping? Language barriers can also force internet users into digital ghettos, or force them to forsake their mother tongue (and its culture) to escape them.

“The fact that a lot of groups have very little local-language content is problematic because it can contribute to a global homogenization of ideas and culture, and perhaps even knowledge itself,” said Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Graham predicts negative impacts on cultural diversity if the Internet’s language is predominantly English, Chinese, and Spanish. A version of this, for example, is happening right now in Iceland, where the packaging on so many imported goods is in English that it’s becoming more common than Icelandic in every day life.

A linguistically divided internet can also lead to the creation of monocultural bubbles. Wikipedia provides a good example: one study showed that most content on Wikipedia is available in exclusively one language. Even English Wikipedia only has articles that correspond with about half the topics of German Wikipedia.

“The Chinese internet is a good example of this,” Graham said. “There are more Chinese internet users online than internet users from any other country. So, this has meant that there is a lot of content out there in Chinese. Which, in turn, means that it is easy for Chinese internet users to exist in their own ‘filter bubble’—not really exposed to different content on the broader Web.”

Mina pointed out that the web’s prioritization of mainstream languages also leaves many tools for political organization and speaking out off-limits to marginalized groups.

“If you don’t speak a top ten language, the internet you have access to is extremely limited,” Mina told me. “Imagine going to a Chinese restaurant and just trying to order based on pictures.”

Graham told me he’d like to see more online spaces like Wikipedia that are digital commons where users can contribute content in any language they like, allowing local internet users to essential built their own web. But getting those digital commons filled with content first requires creating incentives to get people online in the first place. And part of that means making content that is already out there accessible across the boundaries of language. Mina is interested in chipping away at those boundaries by creating technology that translates social media content from one language to another. Scott Hale, a data scientist focused on bilingualism at the Oxford Internet Institute, told me that user interfaces could help break down language barriers by allowing users to interact with them in multiple languages at once. Most online interfaces—Google and Facebook among them— are designed with monolingual users in mind, only surfacing content in one language at a time. Allowing people to easily toggle between languages is one way to break down the linguistic silos that online life creates.

“You can’t just put a bunch of people in the network and expect that they connect,” Mina said.

The internet was supposed to be the thing that made all of our differences irrelevant, that erased borders and boundaries by translating everything into 1s and 0s. But online borders definitely exist with language boundaries that can be impenetrable."
internet  language  languages  web  online  anxiaomina  kristenbrown  wikipedia  arabic  english  translation  homogenization  culture  swedish  freebasics  arabizi  india  iceland  technology  socialmedia  politics  chinese  spanish  español  diversity 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Connecting a City with “Chinese Twitter” | USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
[See also: http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/alhambra-source-citizen-journalism-55541 ]

"In a conference room packed with 17 members of Chinese ethnic media and Los Angeles-based foreign correspondents, Alhambra Police Chief Mark Yokoyama announced last December that he was launching the country’s first municipal Sina Weibo — or “Chinese Twitter” — account.

The move was an effort in conjunction with USC Annenberg to engage the suburban Los Angeles community’s large immigrant population. L.A.-born Yokoyama was not prepared for the response. Scores of questions from Chinese-speakers from Alhambra to the Midwest to Beijing eager to better understand American policing overwhelmed him. In just five days, the account attracted more than 5,000 followers, about five times the “likes” for the Facebook account the police department had spent more than a year building.

The Weibo frenzy slowed after the first week, but interest remained strong, and within four months followers were more than 11,000. The immediate impact is clear: Chinese or Mandarin calls to the department requiring translation increased 64 percent since launching. Police departments from New York to Seattle to Monterey Park have inquired about how to create their own accounts, the initiative won the California Police Chief’s Excellence in Technology Award, and Yokoyama is convinced Weibo has transformed his force’s relationship with Alhambra’s Chinese immigrant population. “We’re answering those questions that have probably been on the minds of people for a long time.

They just didn’t know how to ask or who to ask,” Yokoyama said. “It tells me people have some sense of trust in at least asking the question of the police. That’s the outcome that I’ve most enjoyed.”

Weibo has proven an innovative way to fortify the city’s communication infrastructure, according to Annenberg Professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach. She teamed up with Journalism Professor Michael Parks in 2008, in an effort to investigate how local news in a multiethnic community can impact civic engagement and cross linguistic and ethnic barriers. The result was Alhambra Source, a multilingual community news web site with more than 80 local contributors who speak 10 languages. Weibo was a serendipitous outcome of the project that resulted from bridges forged between local media, immigrant residents and policy makers.

“The fact that now there is increased communication between the police and the ethnic Chinese community is critically important,” Ball-Rokeach said. “Weibo is kind of a mobile community relations department. It’s a way in which new technologies can actually facilitate police community relations, particularly with hard-to-reach populations.”

Indeed, Alhambra’s venture into Weibo added a cultural and linguistic layer to a growing trend toward social media in policing. For the past four years, the International Association of Chiefs of Police has been monitoring social media use among departments. The growth has been “exponential,” according to Senior Program Manager of Community Safety Initiatives Nancy Kolb. Word reached Kolb about the Alhambra Weibo account earlier this year.

While other cities have created Twitter and Facebook accounts in Spanish, this was the first time she knew of a U.S. police department using an international social media platform to reach residents. But she does not think it will be the last, based upon how social media is growing. “There is a nexus of social media with just about everything that law enforcement does today,” Kolb said. In many ways, police departments are following in the steps of media and private companies that were initially concerned about the ability of the masses to talk back and now are embracing it.

“Just this year alone so many agencies have come on board,” said Captain Chris Hsiung of the Mountain View, California Police Department. Located down the street from LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google, the agency has championed the idea that police need to embrace social media to engage with residents and promote community safety.

“We have nothing to really fear. Occasionally you get egg on your face like New York did,” Hsiung said, referring to a recent incident when the New York Police Department asked residents to pose with police officers and their initiative backfired when residents posted negative pictures instead with police arresting them that went viral. “But if you’re human, transparent, people really like you. A lot of our approach mirrors private sector PR strategies. People are out there and if you’re not part of the conversation you have no control over it. But if you’re part of it you can help control it.”

When Yokoyama signed on as chief in 2011, he quickly realized that finding a way to create that sort of conversation with the Chinese population that is roughly a third of Alhambra’s population would be a challenge. More than a quarter of the city’s residents live in linguistically isolated households where no adult spoke English well. As such, the language barrier was clearly the first hurdle: Just 6 percent of his force, or 5 out of 85 sworn officers, spoke Mandarin or Cantonese. At events most of the people who came were white and Hispanic, which better reflected the demographics of the force.

The idea for the Weibo account was generated after Yokoyama read an article in Alhambra Source on engagement techniques to reach the Chinese community. The chief asked for a meeting with Alhambra Source editorial staff and the author, courts interpreter and Alhambra Source community contributor Walter Yu. To reach younger, more highly educated and affluent recentimmigrants like himself, Yu suggested the department develop Weibo. He also offered to help make it happen, adapting his significant social media skills to help Alhambra become a presence on the Beijing-based social media site. While immigrants once would send letters back to relatives or flock to call centers, today they tend to hold onto social media ties from their home countries. In China, unlike most of the rest of the world, the government has banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“The Chinese are afraid these will become mechanisms for discontent to build and they don’t want that,” said Clayton Dube, director of Annenberg’s USC U.S.-China Institute. But Beijing has let homegrown social media companies grow, among them two Weibo — or microblogging — firms and another one similar to the texting service Whatsapp with social attributes that is growing rapidly.

“The China-based services perform two important functions,” according to Dube. “First is they give Chinese netizens tools that give them similar sort of functionality without setting them free basically. They use these as a way of moderating the public temperature. ... They also censor them and use them to put out their own messages.”

So far, at least, Alhambra Police Department’s Weibo is not seen as worth censoring and Dube does not think it would raise concern in Beijing. “I think the Alhambra Police Department was smart to do this,” Dube said, “And I think other communities with large numbers of Chinese speaking residents of whatever nationality should be mindful that it would be of their benefit to inform residents via this tool.”

The Alhambra Source, Yu and the police chief developed a system for taking in questions, translating them, and sharing them with the public. Yu created an #AskAmericanPolice campaign on the Alhambra Police Department Weibo account. When questions arrive, often as many as dozens a day, Yu translates them into English and sends them to the police chief. Yokoyama responds and sends them to Alhambra Source staff for a copy edit.

Once approved, Yu translates them back into Chinese for Weibo. He also sends the Chinese version to Alhambra Source, which is posted along with English and Spanish versions. The questions come from immigrants living in the Los Angeles area, across the country, and even from people in China curious about how American policing works. One parent wrote in from Missouri, “I have an 8-year-old—may I ask if I can leave my child at home legally?” Various local residents asked how to report incidents of fraud and stalking. And others just expressed relief to learn that they could actually call the police and not get in trouble.

“I believe sometimes people are just afraid to report to the police because of repercussions,” Yu said. In addition, immigrant residents are learning that the role of police in the United States is different than in China. For example, the idea that police will actually help out with a noise complaint or protect a lost pet is foreign to many immigrants. “In China police don’t do anything about pets,” Yu said. “Now they actually see them helping them and they get really curious.”

Along with the dialogue, came tips, as the police realized this was a key segment of their population that could be activated to help solve crimes. When there was a faux Southern California Edison phone call scam, the police department put out a warning on Weibo. Soon people were reporting that they’d been scammed. Others reported prostitution and drug sales.

Also contributing to the success of the Weibo account was that it coincided with the police department investing in its English-language Facebook account. In the past, the city used it the same way it would use a press release, essentially a one-way fax machine to the public. Officials would post a heavily vetted, and rather dry, print report once every couple of weeks. But then the department started posting pictures, and officers were encouraged to post on Facebook. The numbers started to take off, and so did the discussions on Facebook. For Yokoyama, the only frustration is that he still cannot be as fully integrated a part of the conversation as he would like.

“On Facebook I’m there all the time, but this is the unknown,” he said, explaining the challenges … [more]
weibo  2016  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  language  languages  chinese  mandarin  police  lawenforcement  spanish  español  journalism  media  alhambra  losangeles  alhambrasource  sandraball-rokeach  culture  communication  news  communicationecologies  sociology  danielagerson 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Melting-Pot Gazette - Pacific Standard
"Can a sociologist and a journalist get an ethnically fractured city engaged?"



"Ball-Rokeach studies what she calls “communication ecologies”—the web of ways in which different communities get and spread information, from Facebook to the grocery-store bulletin board, from the local tabloid to chatting with neighbors. She’s found that these networks can differ dramatically from community to community, ethnic group to ethnic group.

One of her recent surveys, for instance, showed that most Armenians in the city of Glendale get their news from mainstream TV. Anglos, meanwhile, mostly get theirs from newspapers and interpersonal connections. Within the Latino community, Ball-Rokeach has found that Angelenos of Mexican origin rely more on ethnic radio and less on interpersonal connections than those of Central American origin.

Understanding those differences is crucial for anyone, be they advertisers or political parties, trying to reach specific communities. Ball-Rokeach believes it’s also important for civic engagement. Strong cities with plugged-in citizens tend to have dense “neighborhood storytelling networks”—crisscrossing lines of media outlets, community groups, and other institutions that hold a running conversation about what it means to live there.

“There’s the critical link between democracy and media,” she says. “You must help people imagine an area as their community, to create a sense of belonging, and that’s done through media.”

If anywhere can use such a connective network, it’s Alhambra, a tidy bedroom community of roughly 83,000 just east of Los Angeles. In a 2001 study conducted by Ball-Rokeach’s team, Alhambra showed low levels of voter turnout and civic engagement. The city’s 2010 city council and school board elections were canceled because not one of the five incumbents on the ballot faced a challenger.

While Alhambra used to be largely white, the demographics have changed in the last 30 years. Today, the population is a little more than half Asian (mostly ethnic Chinese), about a third Latino (mostly Mexican), and 10 percent Anglo. These groups, research showed, didn’t talk much to each other.

Nor did they have a common source of news. The Los Angeles Times rarely reports on the city, and the nearby Pasadena Star-News cut back its Alhambra coverage. That leaves only the occasional article in local Chinese-language newspapers and Around Alhambra, a cheery English-language monthly published by the Chamber of Commerce.

In 2006, Ball-Rokeach was approached by Michael Parks, a former editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times and now her colleague at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. Parks was interested in how the deterioration of local coverage by big newspapers might be dragging down civic engagement. The two joined forces to test her communication framework and his hopes for grassroots online journalism with a community news outlet.

“Journalism tends to ride in and say, ‘We’re here to help,’” says Parks. “We wanted to know what were local people’s information needs and how could we meet them.”

Instead of simply sketching out the usual beats—city council, business, sports—they sent out a team of USC researchers who interviewed and held focus groups with residents in all three local languages. Their exploration showed that residents wanted to know more about education, local businesses, dining and entertainment deals, crime, and traffic and parking. “Many of them just said, ‘We don’t know what’s happening in Alhambra,’” says Ball-Rokeach.

Because their mission was to engage the community (and to save money), the Source would be written largely by a team of amateur, minimally paid community contributors. In 2009, they brought in Daniela Gerson, a multilingual journalist who has reported for The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Der Spiegel, to help run the site. Gerson believes they’ve begun to make a difference. Although readership has plateaued at about 9,000 per month, their regular readers include at least some city officials.

The site’s commitment to using community contributors rather than professional reporters has produced some journalistically unorthodox but popular stories: first-person accounts of being a second-generation immigrant, for instance, and a piece by the Alhambra High student body president, who explored the question of why he was the only Latino in a leadership position in a school that was half Latino. More conventional coverage of bicycle activism and a youth college prep program that was facing cancellation have also drawn a lot of eyeballs and online comments.

“It doesn’t necessarily always lead to action,” says Gerson, “but it leads to discussion where there wasn’t discussion before.”

Still, while relying mainly on unpaid community contributors may strengthen the local communication ecology, it’s a constant struggle to get them to produce professional-grade journalism. And the original idea to provide stories in all three local languages never went further than a handful of pages, due to a misplaced faith in the efficacy of Google Translate.

The Source is funded by the Annenberg Center and various grants, but that funding will eventually run out. Ball-Rokeach and company have begun looking for other ways to survive. That will be tough; recent years have seen many local news operations fail, including NBC’s EveryBlock, which went dark early this year.

Still, even if the Alhambra Source goes the same way, there’s an intriguing idea in this relationship between newspaper and university. What could embattled major dailies from The Boston Globe to the Los Angeles Times learn about their readers by teaming with sociology grad students? Tailoring a news outlet to reflect its community might not always produce the most in-depth journalism—but it might at least help the news business survive."

[See also: http://annenberg.usc.edu/news/annenberg-agenda/connecting-city-%E2%80%9Cchinese-twitter%E2%80%9D ]
journalism  media  alhambra  losangeles  2016  languages  language  joelsmith  alhambrasource  sandraball-rokeach  culture  communication  news  communicationecologies  sociology 
february 2016 by robertogreco
An Xiao Mina at Biased Data - An Xiao Mina - Open Transcripts
"Just to close, as we think about the role of lan­guage on the Internet, it really biases our expe­ri­ence, and there are a lot of risks and chal­lenges there, espe­cially as peo­ple from the Global South are com­ing online. The abil­ity for them to access con­tent and for them to con­tribute to impor­tant con­ver­sa­tions online will be severely lim­ited. It’ll look more like this, and I think some of the most impor­tant work we can do in tech is to bring it out into lan­guages that they can under­stand."
anxiaomina  language  languages  internet  online  web  2016  mikemcdandless  translation  blacklivesmatter  umbrellamovement  crowdsourcing  machinetranslation  sarahkendzior  russian  uzbek  opentranslationproject  aiweiwei  meedan  inequity  socialjustice  wechat  audio  chinese  china  bias  experience 
february 2016 by robertogreco
#EmergingUS: Diversity is our destiny, but how do we talk about it? - LA Times
"As we celebrate our country's birthday, let us also acknowledge that the country that declared independence in 1776 does not look like the country we live in today.

In fact, America today is not even the 1960s version of America that we study in history books, when the country was 85% white and 10% black. Today, Asian and Pacific Islander are the fastest growing racial and immigrant groups, according to the Pew Research Center. (Almost three-quarters of all Asian American adults are foreign-born.) In the last few decades, the growth of the Latino population has been so robust that 51% of all Californians under age 25 are Latino, according to the U.S. census.

And as California goes, so goes our nation.

America’s demographics are shifting to resemble the minority-majority reality in California, with Los Angeles as the country’s most diverse metropolis. Almost 200 languages and dialects are spoken daily in L.A., which is home to the largest communities of 25 nationalities (including Mexican, Filipino, Persian, Korean, Guatemalan, Armenian and Vietnamese) outside of their native countries. Forty percent of Angelenos are foreign-born, including me.

I was born in the Philippines, where everything I learned about the United States I learned from watching American television and movies. At age 12, my mother sent me to live with her parents in California. I didn’t realize that Oprah Winfrey was “black” and Julia Roberts was “white” until I arrived here. Immediately I wondered, where does an Asian-looking kid with a Latino name fit in this black-and-white racial binary? I had even more questions four years later when, at age 16, I tried to get a driver’s license and found out that the green card my grandfather gave me was fake. How can people be “illegal,” I wondered? How did white and black Americans get to the U.S.? What kind of papers did they need? And how do members of marginalized and disenfranchised groups pledge allegiance to a country that may not recognize them?

A year later, I discovered journalism and I have not stopped asking questions since.

What role can whites, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans play in the era of #BlackLivesMatter? How are immigrants, documented and undocumented, remaking not only California, Texas and New York but states in the Midwest and the South? When talking about diversity, which is our destiny, how do you ensure that everyone, including white Americans, are part of the conversation? What is the emerging American identity, and where do you fit?

Telling stories and exploring questions that live at the intersection of race, immigration, and identity will drive #EmergingUS, a digital magazine that the Los Angeles Times is launching this fall. So join us at EmergingUS.com in these frank and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about who we are."
california  diversity  race  ethnicity  language  languages  2015  joseantoniovargas  identity  us 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Linguacode Matrix
"Explorations in language, translation and cultural bridging, particularly in the context of the social web. I co-founded and once directed Bird's Nest: Ai Weiwei in English. I now spend some of my time working for Meedan.org, a community dedicated to improving online translation through design, research, and development."
tumblrs  language  languages  translation  anxiaomina  culture  socialmedia  socialweb  web  online  internet 
january 2016 by robertogreco
My Language, My Didot - Elushika Weerakoon / UX Pro, Designer, Type Nerd
[via: “TIL Sinhalese script got its curves because angular shapes damaged the palm leaves it was written on. http://cargocollective.com/elushika/My-Language-My-Didot … (ht @elushika)”
https://twitter.com/xuhulk/status/686305231999754240 ]

"I was once told that creating a typeface is similar to opening a can of worms: it is something that I shouldn't try unless I am an expert typographer. Despite these heedings, I knew I wanted to create a typeface.

Though I am a type nerd through and through, I am not quite a typographer. Perceived limitations aside, I decided to create a typeface in my native language, Sinhalese. Growing up in Sri Lanka, I remember noticing that the newspapers and books only had one style of typeface. Sans-serif or serif fonts were not used. The type was plain and consistent - which is fine - but I wanted to bring a level of inspiration and sophistication to the way Sinhalese is written."



"As Buddhism spread across the country, so did the writings. By the eighth century C.E., the writings became more developed and began to take on a shape similar to the present language. It was heavily influenced by Pallava Grantha (used in South India), well as the materials available to write on during that period. When the languages were written on stone, the shape of the letters was very angular with sharp edges. When palm leaves replaced stone as a writing surface, the shape of the letters took on a more circular form, because angular shapes damaged the leaf.1 Writings on palm leaves became widely popular, and books were transcribed on them. Buddhist manuscripts were copied and distributed among temples.

The Dutch East India Company captured the maritime colony of Ceylon from the Portuguese in 1656. During that time, the Dutch clergymen wanted to copy religious documents using palm leaves in the traditional methods of the island. After they realized this system was not working, a printing press was established in 1736 in the Fort of Colombo. The Dutch printed plakkaten, which were religious, educational and non-educational books in Sinhala and Dutch, between 1737 and 1796, until the British took over.4 The Sinhalese characters were wood cut by Gabriel Schade. 1"
sinhalese  writing  languages  history  letters  lettering  elushikaweerakoon  didot  typography  design 
january 2016 by robertogreco
English is losing its status as Internet's universal language - Tech Insider
"More than half of the internet is in English.

But that percentage may decline in the future, according to research by Álvaro Blanco from Funredes, a nonprofit that studies technology usage in the developing world.

In 1996, Blanco's research estimated that 80% of online content was in English. Less than a decade later, he said it fell to 45%. These estimations don't even take into account activity on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, since search engines only index about 30% of the web, Blanco told Quartz.

But even though English's presence online is declining, the current lack of language diversity is a huge problem on the web.

Even people who speak the most popular languages have a hard time reading online. Chinese, the most widely spoken language, makes up just 2.1% of the internet. The world's second most widely spoken language, Spanish, encompasses 4.8% of the web.Hindi, spoken by 260 million people, makes up less than 0.1% of the internet.

Organizations like UNESCO are worried that English's overbearing presence may drown out less popular languages. Activists argue that English's domination on the web could even contribute to the extinction of indigenous tongues.

Translation tools can help, however, and some experts believe machine learning will make online translation services incredibly accurate in the coming years. Within the next decade or two, all computers may have "language calculators" that interpret text with an accuracy level close to that of human translator, according to predictions by futurist Ray Kurzweil.

This technology, along with English's online decline, could create a more democratic web in the future."
language  languages  inclusion  inclusivity  culture  emergingmarkets  2016  via:anxioamina  internet  web  online  translation 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The Internet Isn't Available in Most Languages - The Atlantic
"Tweet, tuít, or giolc? These were the three iterations of a Gaelic version of the word “tweet” that Twitter’s Irish translators debated in 2012. The agonizing choice between an Anglicized spelling, a Gaelic spelling, or the use of the Gaelic word for “tweeting like a bird” stalled the project for an entire year. Finally, a small group of translators made an executive decision to use the Anglicized spelling of “tweet” with Irish grammar. As of April 2015, Gaelic Twitter is online.

Indigenous and under-resourced cultures face a number of obstacles when establishing their languages on the Internet. English, along with a few other languages like Spanish and French, dominates the web. People who speak these languages often take for granted access to social-media sites with agreed-upon vocabularies, built-in translation services, and basic grammar and spell-checkers.

For Gaelic, a minority language spoken by only two to three percent of the Irish population, it can be difficult to access these digital services. And even languages with millions of speakers can lack the resources needed to make the Internet relevant to daily life.

In September of this year, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, an organization established five years ago to monitor the growth and use of the Internet around the world, released its 2015 report on the state of broadband. The report argues that representation of the world's languages online remains one of the major challenges in expanding the Internet to reach the four billion people who don’t yet have access.

At the moment, the Internet only has webpages in about five percent of the world's languages. Even national languages like Hindi and Swahili are used on only .01 percent of the 10 million most popular websites. The majority of the world’s languages lack an online presence that is actually useful.

Ethnologue, a directory of the world’s living languages, has determined that 1,519 out of the 7,100 languages spoken today are in danger of extinction. For these threatened languages, social-networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which rely primarily on user-generated content, as well as other digital platforms like Google and Wikipedia, have a chance to contribute to their preservation. While the best way to keep a language alive is to speak it, using one’s native language online could help.

The computational linguistics professor Kevin Scannell devotes his time to developing the technical infrastructure—often using open-source software—that can work for multiple languages. He’s worked with more than 40 languages around the world, his efforts part of a larger struggle to promote under-resourced languages. “[The languages] are not part of the world of the Internet or computing,” he says. “We’re trying to change that mindset by providing the tools for people to use.”

One such under-resourced language is Chichewa, a Bantu language spoken by 12 million people, many of whom are in the country of Malawi. According to Edmond Kachale, a programmer who began developing a basic word processor for the language in 2005 and has been working on translating Google search into Chichewa for the last five years, his language doesn’t have sufficient content online. This makes it difficult for its speakers to compete in a digital, globalized world. “Unless a language improves its visibility in the digital world,” he says, “it is heading for extinction.”

In Malawi, over 60 percent of the population lacks Internet access; but Kachale says that “even if there would be free Internet nation-wide, chances are that [Chichewa speakers] may not use it at all because of the language barrier.” The 2015 Broadband Report bears Kachale’s point out. Using the benchmark of 100,000 Wikipedia pages in any given language, it found that only 53 percent of the world’s population has access to sufficient content in their native language to make use of the Internet relevant.

People who can’t use the Internet risk falling behind economically because they can’t take advantage of e-commerce. In Malawi, Facebook has become a key platform for Internet businesses, even though the site has not yet been translated into Chichewa. Instead, users tack-on a work-around browser plug-in, a quick-fix for languages that don’t have official translations for big social-media sites.

“Unless a language improves its visibility in the digital world, it is heading for extinction.”
In 2014, Facebook added 20 new languages to its site and launched several more this year, bringing it to more than 80 languages. The site also opens up languages for community-based translation. This option is currently available for about 50 languages, including Aymara, an indigenous language spoken mainly in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile. Though it has approximately 2 million speakers, UNESCO has designated Aymara as “vulnerable.” Beginning in May of 2014, a group of 20 volunteer translators have been chipping away at the 25,000 words used on the site—and the project is on course to be finished by Christmas.

The project is important because it will encourage young people to use their native language. “We are sure when Aymara is available on Facebook as an official language, it will be a source of motivation for Aymara people,” says Elias Quisepe Chura, who manages the translation effort (it happens primarily online, unsurprisingly via a Facebook page).

Ruben Hilari, another member of the translation team, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais, “Aymara is alive. It does not need to be revitalized. It needs to be strengthened and that is exactly what we are doing. If we do not work for our language and culture today, it will be too late tomorrow to remember who we are, and we will always feel insecure about our identity.”

Despite its reputation as the so-called information superhighway, the Internet is only legible to speakers of a few languages; this limit to the web’s accessibility proves that it can be as just as insular and discriminative as the modern world at large."
internet  languages  language  linguistics  2015  translation  insularity  web  online  gaelic  hindi  swahili  kevinscannell  via:unthinkingly  katherineschwab  edmondkachele  accessibility  enlgish  aymara  rubenhilari  eliasquisepechura  bolivia  perú  chile  indigenous  indigeneity  chichewa  bantu  google  kevinsannell  twitter  facebook  instagram  software  computation  computing  inclusivity 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Telling South Sudan’s Tales in a Language Not Its Own - The New York Times
"JUBA, South Sudan — WHEN dozens of people packed a hall in this capital city to celebrate the publication this year of the latest collection of short stories by Stella Gaitano, a South Sudanese commentator called her “our ambassador to the Arab world.” The audience included writers from Sudan, and when the book went on sale a few months later in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, the author received a glowing reception there as well.

“This is what Stella used to do back in college, bring people together,” said Omar Ushari, a former university colleague of Ms. Gaitano and a moderator of the Khartoum event.

In a relatively short time, Ms. Gaitano, 33, has built a distinguished reputation as a writer who brings to life the experiences of the South Sudanese, who have endured war and displacement as their fragile new country formed and then threatened to disintegrate. More than that, though, she does it in Arabic, a language of the country they broke away from.

“I love the Arabic language,” she said. “I am like writers who write in a language other than their own; I am no different.”

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, after a referendum that followed years of conflict with the north. Scores of indigenous languages are spoken here, but the lingua franca is Juba Arabic, a pidgin language. The elite who have studied abroad or with local missionaries generally also speak English, while Arabic is spoken by university-educated people who lived in the north, like Ms. Gaitano.

Her parents, members of the Latuka tribe, fled the town of Torit, in what is now South Sudan, in the late 1960s, as the flames of the first Sudanese civil war blazed. They took refuge in Khartoum, where Ms. Gaitano was born.

She learned several languages there, speaking Latuka at home, Juba Arabic with South Sudanese of other tribes and Sudanese Arabic in the larger Sudanese society. She learned classical Arabic in school, and studied pharmacology in college — in English.

“We were a creative generation that was forced to deal with several boundaries,” she said. “So we created gates into each cultural circle.”

She grew up in El-Haj Youssef, a poor neighborhood on the perimeter of Khartoum, as the third of seven children. Her interest in the stories of her grandmother, mother and other female relatives from the south kindled her imagination.

“The south, for me, was an imaginary place,” she said. “It was represented to me in the stories of those who went there and came back to Khartoum.”

HER early love of reading, which included the works of the Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih and Arabic translations of works by Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, inspired her to write.

“Writing is the legitimate child of reading,” she said.

At the University of Khartoum, she came into contact with writers, intellectuals and activists, and she began developing her literary niche. “I started writing about myself, my family and my people,” she said.

One afternoon, inspired by her grandmother, she wrote one of her first short stories, “A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit,” in just 30 minutes. “It was like a revelation,” she said.

It is the story of a girl and her grandmother in southern Sudan who are left to fend for themselves after the girl’s mother dies in labor, her father is killed by a wild buffalo and her grandfather is executed by the British colonial authorities. The story won a Sudanese literary prize in 2003.

“It was important for me that northern Sudanese realize that there was life, values and a people who held a different culture, who needed space to be recognized and respected,” Ms. Gaitano said.

In “Wilted Flowers,” Ms. Gaitano addressed the challenges faced by people who had fled murderous conflicts in southern Sudan, Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, and were living in shantytowns near Khartoum.

Struggling mothers, drunken fathers and pregnant teenagers living in poverty far from their homelands with little or no government assistance became the characters and setting of the story “Everything Here Boils.”

“I was trying to shed a light on these matters, and send a warning that ignoring people this way would make them feel that this is not their country,” she said. “But the message was understood too late.”

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese exiles returned to the newly independent country with high hopes, but the paradise many thought they would find was chimerical.

“When we came to the south, we found ourselves discussing the same issues that we did in the north: racism, tribalism, corruption, nepotism and political failure,” Ms. Gaitano said.

In her latest story collection, “Homecoming,” Ms. Gaitano reflects on the hopes and disappointments of returning families.

The story “Escape From the Regular” centers on families reunited after independence; the clashes between local people and those from the diaspora; and the irony and power of a commonly used phrase that became both a lament and an excuse: “Don’t you know we were freedom fighters?”

“South Sudanese saw themselves in the mirror,” Ms. Gaitano said. “They did not think that their own brothers, who look like them, could do the same things that others did to them.”

Her husband, who works at the University of Khartoum, and their two children are Sudanese, but like others from the south, Ms. Gaitano lost her Sudanese citizenship with independence. She spends as much time with them as she can. She lives in Juba, and works as a pharmacist, even as her literary career continues to bloom.

CHOL DENG YONG, a professor of Arabic at Upper Nile University in South Sudan, describes Ms. Gaitano’s work as “narrational,” with “an economic use of words” that combines “classical Arabic, colloquial Sudanese Arabic and Juba Arabic.”

Ms. Gaitano said that some of her South Sudanese colleagues, many of whom write in English, have criticized her privately for writing in Arabic, a language they deem a “colonial tool.” English is an official language in South Sudan but Arabic is not, and its cultural future here is uncertain, making some among the Arabic-educated intelligentsia uneasy.

Victor Lugala, a South Sudanese writer who writes in English, offered some insights: “Stella may be the last generation of South Sudanese to write in Arabic,” he said. “Her publishers could promote her work better if her works are translated into English.”

He went on to compare Ms. Gaitano’s association with a language with that of the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. “Since Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o decided to write in his mother tongue, Kikuyu, he has had the burden of translating his own works into English,” Mr. Lugala said.

And regional publishers are starting to notice her.

“Without doubt, having read Stella’s short story ‘I Kill Myself and Rejoice,’ ” said Lucas Wafula, an editor for the East Africa Education Publishers, “she will gain great readership once readers get to interact with the themes in her stories.”

Ms. Gaitano said that she was working on improving her English writing and that her works were being translated. Yet she also hopes that Arabic will retain a place in her country.

“Language for me is the soul of the text,” she said. “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.”"

[Story refreenced in article:
“I kill myself and rejoice!”
http://www.theniles.org/en/articles/small-arms/2575/ ]

[Other stories here: http://sudaneseonline.com/board/12/msg/Stella-Gaitano-Translated-into-English-By-Asha-El-Said-1449061495.htm ]
stellagaitano  southsudan  literature  language  languages  translation  africa  arabic  jubaarabic  tayebsalih  isabelallende  writing  reading  victorlugala  sudan  ngugiwathiong’o  kenya  storytelling  howwewrite  gabrielgarcíamárquez  ngũgĩwathiong'o  ngugi  ngũgĩ 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Jacob’s Ladder of coding — Medium
"Anecdotes and questions about climbing up and down the ladder of abstraction: Atari, ARM, demoscene, education, creative coding, community, seeking lightness, enlightenment & strange languages"



"With only an hour or two of computer time a week, our learning and progress was largely down to intensive trial & error, daily homework and learning to code and debug with only pencil and paper, whilst trying to be the machine yourself: Playing every step through in our heads (and on paper) over and over until we were confident, the code did as we’d expect, yet, often still failing because of wrong intuitions. Learning this analytical thinking is essential to successful debugging, even today, specifically in languages / environments where no GUI debugger is available. In the late 90s, John Maeda did similar exercises at MIT Media Lab, with students role-playing different parts of a CPU or a whole computer executing a simple process. Later at college, my own CS prof too would often quote Alan Perlis:
“To understand a program you must become both the machine and the program.” — Alan Perlis

Initially we’d only be using the machine largely to just verify our ideas prepared at home (spending the majority of the time typing in/correcting numbers from paper). Through this monastic style of working, we also learned the importance of having the right tools and balance of skills within the group and were responsible to create them ourselves in order to achieve our vision. This important lesson stayed with me throughout (maybe even became) my career so far… Most projects I worked on, especially in the past 15 years, almost exclusively relied on custom-made tooling, which was as much part of the final outcome as the main deliverable to clients. Often times it even was the main deliverable. On the other hand, I’ve also had to learn the hard way that being a largely self-sufficient generalist often is undesired in the modern workplace, which frequently still encourages narrow expertise above all else…

After a few months of convincing my parents to invest all of their saved up and invaluable West-german money to purchase a piece of “Power Without the Price” (a much beloved Atari 800XL) a year before the Wall came down in Berlin, I finally gained daily access to a computer, but was still in a similar situation as before: No more hard west money left to buy a tape nor disk drive from the Intershop, I wasn’t able to save any work (apart from creating paper copies) and so the Atari was largely kept switched on until November 10, 1989, the day after the Berlin Wall was opened and I could buy an XC-12 tape recorder. I too had to choose whether to go the usual route of working with the built-in BASIC language or stick with what I’d learned/taught myself so far, Assembly… In hindsight, am glad I chose the latter, since it proved to be far more useful and transportable knowledge, even today!"



"Lesson learned: Language skills, natural and coded ones, are gateways, opening paths not just for more expression, but also to paths in life.

As is the case today, so it was back then: People tend to organize around specific technological interests, languages and platforms and then stick with them for a long time, for better or worse. Over the years I’ve been part of many such tool-based communities (chronologically: Asm, C, TurboPascal, Director, JS, Flash, Java, Processing, Clojure) and have somewhat turned into a nomad, not being able to ever find a true home in most of them. This might sound judgemental and negative, but really isn’t meant to and these travels through the land of languages and toolkits has given me much food for thought. Having slowly climbed up the ladder of abstraction and spent many years both with low & high level languages, has shown me how much each side of the spectrum can inform and learn from the other (and they really should do more so!). It’s an experience I can highly recommend to anyone attempting to better understand these machines some of us are working with for many hours a day and which impact so much of all our lives. So am extremely grateful to all the kind souls & learning encountered on the way!"



"In the vastly larger open source creative computing demographic of today, the by far biggest groups are tight-knit communities around individual frameworks and languages. There is much these platforms have achieved in terms of output, increasing overall code literacy and turning thousands of people from mere computer users into authors. This is a feat not be underestimated and a Good Thing™! Yet my issue with this siloed general state of affairs is that, apart from a few notable exceptions (especially the more recent arrivals), there’s unfortunately a) not much cross-fertilizing with fundamentally different and/or new ideas in computing going on and b) over time only incremental progress is happening, business as usual, rather than a will to continuously challenge core assumptions among these largest communities about how we talk to machines and how we can do so better. I find it truly sad that many of these popular frameworks rely only on the same old imperative programming language family, philosophy and process, which has been pre-dominant and largely unchanged for the past 30+ years, and their communities also happily avoid or actively reject alternative solutions, which might require fundamental changes to their tools, but which actually could be more suitable and/or powerful to their aims and reach. Some of these platforms have become and act as institutions in their own right and as such also tend to espouse an inward looking approach & philosophy to further cement their status (as owners or pillars?) in their field. This often includes a no-skills-neccessary, we-cater-all-problems promise to their new users, with each community re-inventing the same old wheels in their own image along the way. It’s Not-Invented-Here on a community level: A reliance on insular support ecosystems, libraries & tooling is typical, reducing overall code re-use (at least between communities sharing the same underlying language) and increasing fragmentation. More often than not these platforms equate simplicity with ease (go watch Rich Hickey taking this argument eloquently apart!). The popular prioritization of no pre-requisite knowledge, super shallow learning curves and quick results eventually becomes the main obstacle to later achieve systemic changes, not just in these tools themselves, but also for (creative) coding as discipline at large. Bloatware emerges. Please do forgive if that all sounds harsh, but I simply do believe we can do better!

Every time I talk with others about this topic, I can’t help but think about Snow Crash’s idea of “Language is a virus”. I sometimes do wonder what makes us modern humans, especially those working with computing technology, so fundamentalist and brand-loyal to these often flawed platforms we happen to use? Is it really that we believe there’s no better way? Are we really always only pressed for time? Are we mostly content with Good Enough? Are we just doing what everyone else seems to be doing? Is it status anxiety, a feeling we have to use X to make a living? Are we afraid of unlearning? Is it that learning tech/coding is (still) too hard, too much of an effort, which can only be justified a few times per lifetime? For people who have been in the game long enough and maybe made a name for themselves in their community, is it pride, sentimentality or fear of becoming a complete beginner again? Is it maybe a sign that the way we teach computing and focus on concrete tools too early in order to obtain quick, unrealistically complex results, rather than fundamental (“boring”) knowledge, which is somewhat flawed? Is it our addiction to largely focus on things we can document/celebrate every minor learning step as an achievement in public? This is no stab at educators — much of this systemic behavior is driven by the sheer explosion of (too often similar) choices, demands made by students and policy makers. But I do think we should ask ourselves these questions more often."

[author's tweet: https://twitter.com/toxi/status/676578816572067840 ]
coding  via:tealtan  2015  abstraction  demoscene  education  creativecoding  math  mathematics  howwelearn  typography  design  dennocoil  alanperlis  johnmaeda  criticalthinking  analyticalthinking  basic  programming  assembly  hexcode  georgedyson  computing  computers  atari  amiga  commodore  sinclair  identity  opensource  insularity  simplicity  ease  language  languages  community  communities  processing  flexibility  unschooling  deschooling  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  understanding  bottomup  topdown  karstenschmidt 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Adapting to a more global, more diverse Internet » Nieman Journalism Lab
"“Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms.”

According to Quartz’s Next Billion vertical, Internet use is projected to double — from 2.5 billion to 5 billion — between 2012 and 2016. That’s next year, and already, the global diversity of the netizenry and how they use the Internet is starting to change people’s relationship with the news. Much of this growth is expected to occur in Asia, while the fastest growth will be in Africa. These so-called “next billion” Internet users are often different from the first 2.5 billion in their background and lifestyles, representing a plethora of languages, cultures, incomes, and methods of technological access. And the implications, I think, will reach many different aspects of journalism.

The news will break on many networks, and these networks won’t be open.

After the explosions in Tianjin this year, GIFs, photos, and videos circulated on Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo. But the first person to break the news did so through a private messaging group on WeChat, posting video of fire outside the chemical plant just minutes before the explosion. For minutes afterward, the mobile-first, private platform was the primary place for sharing and discussing.

Increasingly, eyewitness media is discussed and disseminated on private networks like WhatsApp, Line, KakaoTalk, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. This is already having significant effects on newsgathering. At the recent TechRaking conference at MIT, journalist Andy Carvin and others pointed out that, when media do surface on the open web, it’s incredibly difficult to find and source the originator, as the images are often stripped of metadata, compressed, and of indeterminate provenance.

Digital journalism, so accustomed to APIs and tools that aid discovery and aggregation, will likely have to adapt. Partnership and advocacy efforts are likely right — platforms can do more to facilitate journalists’ efforts, and newsrooms can build better tech for these platforms. As well, the technological approach to digital journalism will need be supplemented by the traditional relational skills of newsgathering: cultivating sources, building relationships, and fostering trust.

It won’t be enough to speak just one language, or even three.

As news and reports of the Paris attacks rippled through social media, journalists captured and reported on eyewitness media shared in both French and English. Just a day before, a flurry of tweets and Facebook posts in Arabic, French and English discussed the worst bombing in Beirut since 1990.

News reports of the Paris attacks in French were translated to English:

[tweed embeds]

To Chinese:

[tweet embed]

To Arabic:

[tweet embed]

From French to English and then to Italian:

[tweet embed]

Meanwhile, false reports of a tsunami heading for Japan triggered the trending topic #PrayForJapan. An earthquake had indeed happened, but the Japanese-language reports clearly stated it wasn’t strong enough to trigger a tsunami:

[tweed embeds]

In the hecticness of the day, Spanish newspapers picked up a selfie of a Canadian Sikh man Photoshopped to look like he was wearing a suicide bomber’s vest. In Baghdad, a real suicide bomber killed 18 people. It was a day for hashtag prayers for multiple corners of the world:

[tweet embed]

Every day, global trending topics on Twitter alone appear in multiple languages and scripts — when I glance at them at different times of the day, they frequently appear in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, and French, often outnumbering the English-language trending topics. English speakers, once the dominant group on the Internet, will soon become just one of many language speakers online.

Global communities will be talking back to media — and demanding better representation.

In recent years, we saw the transformation of #BlackLivesMatter from a hashtag and a nascent movement to a core question in the presidential primary debates. This year also saw #SomeoneTellCNN re-emerge as a satirical hashtag in Kenya in response to the network calling the country a “terror hotbed.” In the past, these tweets yielded minor changes in coverage; this year, a senior executive personally flew to Nairobi to apologize for the statements. And after Facebook turned on Safety Check for citizens of Paris, Beirutis asked why they didn’t get a Safety Check feature, even though their city had just been bombed a day before.

We can expect more of this. Geographically far from most media outlets, people in many regions of the world have historically had few avenues to attempt to improve global reportage of their issues. Thanks to denser networks that foster better pipelines for attention, the Internet gives communities a pathway directly to newsrooms. At its worst, call-out culture can be destructive and foster a herd mentality against the less privileged in society. But at its best, when people organize and amplify their voices to punch up rather than down, they can make real changes in media and media representation. What can we do to listen more effectively?

GIFs won’t be icing: they’ll be the cake.

[gif embed]

Let’s go back to Tianjin. Some of the most powerful images that circulated on WeChat were, in fact, GIFs. While livestreaming video tools like Periscope will push the boundaries of high-bandwidth, high-resolution video, the humble GIF is also on the rise, with built-in tools on sites like Tumblr and Instagram and autoplay features on Twitter now making it easier than ever for people to generate and share compelling moving images.

This matters for global Internet users because GIFs, in addition to being eminently shareable, consume less data — and less data charges. They also work well with smaller screens, whether that’s a low-cost smartphone or an Apple Watch. While cats and dogs will always have a special home on animated media, so will the mews, er, news."
anxiaomina  journalism  2015  messaging  internet  web  socialmedia  language  languages  news  translation  gifs  kakaotalksnapchat  viber  facebook  whatsapp  lineapp  andycarvin  digital  digitaljournalism  online  twitter  arabic  french  english  chinese  mandarin  italian  portuguese  japanese  spanish  portugués  español 
december 2015 by robertogreco
From Digital Divide to Language Divide: Language Inclusion for Asia’s Next Billion — Words About Words — Medium
"Thinking through language divides in online platforms and what we can do to reduce them"



"New Internet users who don’t speak majority languages will likely be unable to participate in global Internet culture and conversations as both readers and contributors; as Mark Graham and Matthew Zook have noted, minority languages speakers, especially those from the global south, will experience substantial information inequality online (Young, 2015). Indeed, people’s inability to speak English can significantly afect their very adoption and use of the Internet, even if they are aware of its existence (Pearce et al., 2014)."
anxiaomina  2015  language  languages  inclusion  internet  web  online  accessibility  kevinscannell  stevenbird  aikuma  translation  meedan  socialmedia  twitter  linguistics  katypearce  power  english  scotthale  technology  edbice  digitaldivide  asia 
december 2015 by robertogreco
In Translation - The New Yorker
"I write in a terrible, embarrassing Italian, full of mistakes. Without correcting, without a dictionary, by instinct alone. I grope my way, like a child, like a semiliterate. I am ashamed of writing like this. I don’t understand this mysterious impulse, which emerges out of nowhere. I can’t stop.

It’s as if I were writing with my left hand, my weak hand, the one I’m not supposed to write with. It seems a transgression, a rebellion, an act of stupidity.

During the first months in Rome, my clandestine Italian diary is the only thing that consoles me, that gives me stability. Often, awake and restless in the middle of the night, I go to the desk to compose some paragraphs in Italian. It’s an absolutely secret project. No one suspects, no one knows.

I don’t recognize the person who is writing in this diary, in this new, approximate language. But I know that it’s the most genuine, most vulnerable part of me.

Before I moved to Rome, I seldom wrote in Italian. I tried to compose some letters to an Italian friend who lives in Madrid, some e-mails to my teacher. They were like formal, artificial exercises. The voice didn’t seem to be mine. In America it wasn’t.

In Rome, however, writing in Italian is the only way to feel myself present here—maybe to have a connection, especially as a writer, with Italy. The new diary, although imperfect, although riddled with mistakes, mirrors my disorientation clearly. It reflects a radical transition, a state of complete bewilderment.

In the months before coming to Italy, I was looking for another direction for my writing. I wanted a new approach. I didn’t know that the language I had studied slowly for many years in America would, finally, give me the direction.

I use up one notebook, I start another. A second metaphor comes to mind: it’s as if, poorly equipped, I were climbing a mountain. It’s a sort of literary act of survival. I don’t have many words to express myself—rather, the opposite. I’m aware of a state of deprivation. And yet, at the same time, I feel free, light. I rediscover the reason that I write, the joy as well as the need. I find again the pleasure I’ve felt since I was a child: putting words in a notebook that no one will read.

In Italian I write without style, in a primitive way. I’m always uncertain. My sole intention, along with a blind but sincere faith, is to be understood, and to understand myself.

THE METAMORPHOSIS

Shortly before I began to write these reflections, I received an e-mail from a friend in Rome, the writer Domenico Starnone. I had been in Rome for a year. Referring to my desire to appropriate Italian, he wrote, “A new language is almost a new life, grammar and syntax recast you, you slip into another logic and another sensibility.” How much those words reassured me. They contained all my yearning, all my disorientation. Reading this message, I understood better the impulse to express myself in a new language: to subject myself, as a writer, to a metamorphosis.

Around the same time that I received this note, I was asked, during an interview, what my favorite book was. I was in London, on a stage with five other writers. It’s a question that I usually find annoying; no book has been definitive for me, so I never know how to answer. This time, though, I was able to respond without any hesitation that my favorite book was the Metamorphoses of Ovid. It’s a majestic work, a poem that concerns everything, that reflects everything. I read it for the first time twenty-five years ago, in Latin, as a university student. It was an unforgettable encounter, maybe the most satisfying reading of my life. To understand this poem I had to be persistent, translating every word. I had to devote myself to an ancient and demanding foreign language. And yet Ovid’s writing won me over: I was enchanted by it. I discovered a sublime work, a living, enthralling language. I believe that reading in a foreign language is the most intimate way of reading."



"If I mention that I’m writing in a new language these days, many people react negatively. In the United States, some advise me not to do it. They say they don’t want to read me translated from a foreign tongue. They don’t want me to change. In Italy, even though many have encouraged me to take this step, many support me, I’m still asked why I have a desire to write in a language that is much less widely read in the world than English. Some say that my renunciation of English could be disastrous, that my escape could lead me into a trap. They don’t understand why I want to take such a risk.

These reactions don’t surprise me. A transformation, especially one that is deliberately sought, is often perceived as something disloyal, threatening. I am the daughter of a mother who would never change. In the United States, she continued, as far as possible, to dress, behave, eat, think, live as if she had never left India, Calcutta. The refusal to modify her aspect, her habits, her attitudes was her strategy for resisting American culture, for fighting it, for maintaining her identity. Becoming or even resembling an American would have meant total defeat. When my mother returns to Calcutta, she is proud of the fact that, in spite of almost fifty years away from India, she seems like a woman who never left.

I am the opposite. While the refusal to change was my mother’s rebellion, the insistence on transforming myself is mine. “There was a woman, a translator, who wanted to be another person”: it’s no accident that “The Exchange,” the first story I wrote in Italian, begins with that sentence. All my life I’ve tried to get away from the void of my origin. It was the void that distressed me, that I was fleeing. That’s why I was never happy with myself. Change seemed the only solution. Writing, I discovered a way of hiding in my characters, of escaping myself. Of undergoing one mutation after another.

One could say that the mechanism of metamorphosis is the only element of life that never changes. The journey of every individual, every country, every historical epoch—of the entire universe and all it contains—is nothing but a series of changes, at times subtle, at times deep, without which we would stand still. The moments of transition, in which something changes, constitute the backbone of all of us. Whether they are a salvation or a loss, they are moments that we tend to remember. They give a structure to our existence. Almost all the rest is oblivion.

I think that the power of art is the power to wake us up, strike us to our depths, change us. What are we searching for when we read a novel, see a film, listen to a piece of music? We are searching, through a work of art, for something that alters us, that we weren’t aware of before. We want to transform ourselves, just as Ovid’s masterwork transformed me.

In the animal world metamorphosis is expected, natural. It means a biological passage, including various specific phases that lead, ultimately, to complete development. When a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly it’s no longer a caterpillar but a butterfly. The effect of the metamorphosis is radical, permanent. The creature has lost its old form and gained a new, almost unrecognizable one. It has new physical features, a new beauty, new capacities.

A total metamorphosis isn’t possible in my case. I can write in Italian, but I can’t become an Italian writer. Despite the fact that I’m writing this sentence in Italian, the part of me conditioned to write in English endures. I think of Fernando Pessoa, a writer who invented four versions of himself: four separate, distinct writers, thanks to which he was able to go beyond the confines of himself. Maybe what I’m doing, by means of Italian, resembles his tactic. It’s not possible to become another writer, but it might be possible to become two.

Oddly, I feel more protected when I write in Italian, even though I’m also more exposed. It’s true that a new language covers me, but unlike Daphne I have a permeable covering—I’m almost without a skin. And although I don’t have a thick bark, I am, in Italian, a tougher, freer writer, who, taking root again, grows in a different way."
translation  language  italian  2015  jhumpalahiri  languages  ovid 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Costs of English-Only Education: A Growing Movement to Teach ELL Students in Their Native Languages - The Atlantic
"In 1998, Ron Unz, a Silicon Valley millionaire and former gubernatorial candidate, set out to abolish bilingual education in California. Fueled by an anti-immigrant climate, Unz spearheaded a statewide campaign for Proposition 227, a highly controversial state initiative that required schools to teach language-minority students almost entirely in English. The ballot measure passed with 61 percent of the vote and made California the first state to prohibit bilingual programs in schools, radically altering the education of hundreds of thousands of children. Now almost 17 years later, while the political tensions remain, a reversal is underway, powered largely by findings that bilingual instruction is what’s best for English language learners.

Nationally, bilingual education has been rechristened “dual-language programs” and is gaining fresh appeal. The templates of dual-language instruction vary—some programs transition students into English-only after several years while others emphasize ongoing two-language immersion at different ratios—but the common strand is an attempt to build literacy and proficiency in more than one language. The approach is found to outperform traditional ESL, where lessons are typically taught entirely in English. Research shows two-language instruction is linked to numerous positive and long-term benefits, including stronger literacy skills, narrowing of achievement gaps, and higher graduation rates. And the academic advantages of two-language programs even carry over to an unexpected group: children who only speak English at home. A Michigan State University study of Texas elementary students in 2013 found “a substantial spillover effect”—higher math and reading scores—for children from English-only homes who were enrolled in schools with bilingual education programs.

Today, more California students are learning the three Rs in their native languages, aided by a provision that allows public schools to bypass Proposition 227 if parents sign a waiver. According to the state Department of Education, some 50,000 California children are receiving dual instruction in English and another language, including Armenian, German, Mandarin, French, and Korean. This is a small but growing segment of California’s 1.4 million English learners. The National Association for Bilingual Education estimated in 2011 there were 2,000 dual-language programs in U.S. schools, a tenfold increase over the prior decade.

Beyond the politics are parents seeking a quality education for their children and the real-life costs of English-only education. The goals of dual-language are closely related and intertwined—better teaching models for non-English speakers, fostering cross-cultural understanding, and in special settings reclaiming disappearing Native American languages—and the approach is earning praise.

With this growing momentum, schools like Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles are embracing the cultural and cognitive value of dual-language courses. As a charter school, Camino Nuevo is exempt from California’s requirement for exclusive English education, allowing it to offer dual-language instruction in Spanish and English from kindergarten through fifth grade. The curriculum, which emphasizes culturally relevant literature, is showing signs of success. Rachel Hazlehurst, the academy’s literacy and language specialist, sees an obvious link between celebrating children’s ethnic roots and school performance.

“Students need to see themselves in the school in order to excel academically,” she says. “If there’s a disconnect between students’ home identities … and what’s promoted by the school, students are more likely to disconnect, disinvest, and experience educational failure.” The situation is worsened, Hazlehurst stresses, when the first language isn’t taught, hindering a child’s ability to communicate. “[When] children lose their home language skills, we as educators have a serious problem … fractured communities are created when families can no longer [talk] on a deep level about issues that matter.”

While underscoring the importance of bilingual programs, Hazlehurst also acknowledges a perennial challenge: the shortage of qualified bilingual teachers. Teachers certified to lead a bilingual classroom are scarce and those with experience teaching in a bilingual program are rarer. With bilingualism’s rising popularity and myriad gains—from stronger critical thinking skills to higher lifetime earnings—many school districts around the country are finding it hard to keep pace with rising demand.

New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., looked at communities that are revamping how they serve language learners and found that even well-designed, well-resourced efforts can suffer from hiring woes. In San Antonio, Texas, one of the cities profiled, planning and executing a dual-language effort is complicated by the supply of available teachers, with the analysis concluding, “Districts seeking to shift to a dual immersion model need to begin with a human capital strategy.”

These challenges take on a special twist with Native American language-immersion programs, which blend the language, culture, and traditions of indigenous peoples in dual instruction. [continues …]"
bilingualeducation  us  education  dual-language  bilingualism  prop227  1998  esl  ron  unz  california  languages  language  bilingualinstruction  rachelhazelhurst  2015 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Human language may be shaped by climate and terrain | Science/AAAS | News
"Why does the Hawaiian language flow melodically from vowel to vowel, whereas Georgian is peppered with consonants? It may have something to do with the climate and terrain where those languages developed, a new study of more than 600 languages from around the world suggests.

Previous research has shown that some other species’ vocalizations are shaped by their environment. Birds such as the song sparrow, for example, sing at higher pitches in cities, where lower frequency notes would be drowned out by urban noise. And birds living in forested areas tend to sing at lower frequencies than birds living in open spaces, suggesting different species and populations may optimize their vocalizations to travel through branches and other obstacles that deflect high-frequency sounds. The phenomenon—called “acoustic adaptation”—“is seen in species after species,” of birds, bats, and other animals, says Caleb Everett, an anthropological linguist at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, who was not involved in the new work.

How much, if any, acoustic adaptation occurs in human languages is unclear, says Ian Maddieson, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. To explore that question, Maddieson and colleague Christophe Coupé, of the French National Center for Scientific Research’s Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage, combined data on 633 languages worldwide with ecological and climatic information on the regions where those languages developed, excluding internationally spoken languages—such as English, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish—that are no longer restricted to the geographic regions where they emerged.

A subtle, but clear pattern emerged: Languages in hotter, more forested regions such as the tropics tended to be “sonorous,” employing lower frequency sounds and using fewer distinct consonants, whereas languages in colder, drier, more mountainous places were consonant-heavy, the team reported today at the 170th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in Jacksonville, Florida. Taken together, these ecological variables accounted for about one-fourth of the variation in how “consonant-heavy” a language is, Maddieson says. One possible explanation for why vowel-rich languages appear more frequently in the tropics is that they travel farther than languages dominated by rapid-fire, high-frequency consonants, which lose their fidelity in humid, forested environments, he says. Heat and humidity interrupt sound, as do solid tree branches and leaves, he adds.

In the study, Maddieson and Coupé simply looked at the number of vowels, consonants, and consonants per syllable for each language. Next, they plan to use data taken directly from spoken recordings to examine “how these elements are actually put together in a continuous flow of speech,” Maddieson says.

The data lend credence to an older, much smaller study of 70 languages, which found a similar pattern, and are “very much in line” with studies of acoustic adaptation in other species, Everett says. Although the findings remain purely correlational, and not based on any experimental evidence, he notes, the notion that ecological factors such as tree cover could affect the sounds a language develops is “a totally reasonable idea.”"

[See also: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2015/11/04/langauge-environment-acoustics/ ]
languages  language  2015  geography  climate  linguistics  anthropology  calebeverett  ianmaddieson 
november 2015 by robertogreco
GrokReader
"Dual Language Interactive Alternating Chapter books offer a new way to read and learn a foreign language. The patent pending (GrokReader) interwoven and overlapping book format compels you to read the complete chapter in the original foreign language. When you make it to the end of each chapter, there is a link to re-read the chapter in English to help you understand what you read, or a link to jump to the next chapter in English or Original Language. For a Spanish English book, you choose whether to read the Spanish language chapter first, covering new territory, or take the easier route and read it in English first, followed by the same chapter in Spanish. No matter which path you take, you will come out having read a classic book in its original language, improving your Spanish (or English) chapter by chapter.

As you improve, you can choose to read more chapters in the foreign language first, which studies show is a key way to "strain the brain", forcing you out of your comfort-zone, and facilitating improved retention of vocabulary and meaning."
kindle  applications  translation  reading  languages  languageacquisition 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Fight on to preserve Elfdalian, Sweden's lost forest language | ScienceNordic
"OPINION: Secret language has preserved linguistic features that are to be found nowhere else in Scandinavia."
languages  language  sweden  2015  scandinavia  linguistics  history 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Johnson: Bilingualism in America: "Speak American". What about speaking something else too? | The Economist
"ARRIBA, ándale. America’s conversation about the country’s second-biggest language is as drearily predictable as the catch-phrase of Speedy Gonzalez, a cartoon mouse, is silly. The country has not quite figured how to think about the fact that it is home to millions of people who speak Spanish.

Three recent stories encapsulate the tone-deaf nature of the dialogue happening between English and Spanish in America. First is that of Vanessa Ruiz, a newscaster in Arizona. Apparently many Anglophones in her audience are annoyed by her overly Spanish pronunciation of Spanish names and place-names during her English broadcast. (One tweeted at her “You are a newscaster. Not a mariachi. Speak English.”) Ms Ruiz replied in a cheerful on-air commentary: she was “lucky” to grow up bilingual, and that she had faith that her viewers would get used to hearing the words in question pronounced “they way they are meant to be pronounced.”

This is slightly confused; there is not a single way that anything is “meant” to be pronounced: tomato, tomahto, “park the car in Harvard Yard” and “pahk the cah in Hahvahd yahd.” Mexico is pronounced meks-ick-o in English, and meh-hee-ko in Mexico. What about a name like “Rodríguez”: the rhotic burr of an American "r" twice, or a trilled “r” to start the name and a quick tap for the second r, as in Spanish?

There is not a simple answer. One may not be authentically Spanish, but a Rodriguez in Cleveland may not care, or may even prefer the red-white-and-blue pronunciation. Ms Ruiz should not be criticised for her pronunciation; neither should she assume that Americans who do otherwise are doing anything wrong. If America can handle both Harvard Yard and Hahvahd Yahd, it can manage this.

But Spanish is not just another accent; it is a language. People’s confusion quickly leads to irritation when they cannot understand the speech of those around them, and many monolingual English-speakers don’t like the growth of Spanish in America. This became more than obvious when the second Spanish controversy broke recently. Jeb Bush, a contender for the Republican nomination for the presidency, is married to a Mexican-American, and occasionally addresses an impressively fluent string of Spanish to his supporters. This was too much for Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, who said said that Mr Bush "should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States". Joining the chorus was Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008, who said that while it was great that Mr Bush is bilingual, Latinos in America should “speak American”.

Never mind that she corrected this to “speak English” a sentence later. After disappearing from the national stage for a time, Ms Palin’s reputation for talking entertaining nonsense was quickly revived. She is, however, on a slightly better historical footing than her critics think: the state of Illinois declared its official language to be “American” in 1923, before quietly revoking the law in 1969, and one congressman introduced a failed bill to make “American” the national language in the 1920s as well. American English is quite obviously a dialect of English, not a separate language from that spoken in England, but in quite a lot of places, two mutually intelligible varieties of speech get different names for political reasons: Serbian and Croatian, Hindi and Urdu, and so forth.

Ms Palin did her best to be generous, calling America’s Hispanic population “large and wonderful” and praising Mr Bush’s connection to Hispanics through his wife and her language. But she went on to say “I think, you know, when you’re here, let’s speak American.” The territoriality of it all seems to be at issue: foreign languages are great, so long as they’re only spoken abroad.

But the territory of the United States has never been anything resembling monolingual. It was founded on the territory of speakers of the many native American languages. It bought and conquered big territories from France, Spain and Mexico. It has received wave after wave of immigrants, and contrary to popular belief, yesterday’s waves were no faster than today’s to learn English (and in many cases, quite a lot slower). Contrary to another popular belief, Spanish is not the first language with large groups of speakers living in big sections of the country, with media and local life in their language; German-speakers made up a huge and mostly unassimilated bloc a century ago, dominating cities across the midwest like Milwaukee, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

This history is easily forgotten because America is very good at turning immigrants into monoglot English-speakers. Yes, American English is the crucial language to know in the United States. But Ms Ruiz in Arizona and Mr Bush on the campaign trail merely highlight an obvious corollary: there is nothing wrong at all—in fact, there is a lot to celebrate—in speaking a second language alongside English, whether you are an Arizonan named Ruiz or the Anglo-Saxon son and brother of former presidents named Bush. Barack Obama can chat a bit in Indonesian, Herbert Hoover was fluent in Mandarin, and Martin van Buren’s first language was Dutch. America is never going to elect someone who doesn’t speak “American”, but it should be proud, not nervous, when it picks someone who speaks more than a single language."
spanish  español  english  us  language  languages  politics  2015  bilingualism 
september 2015 by robertogreco
Toki Pona: A Language With a Hundred Words - The Atlantic
[Toki Pona website: http://tokipona.org/ ]

"In Chinese, the word computer translates directly as electric brain.

In Icelandic, a compass is a direction-shower, and a microscope a small-watcher.

In Lakota, horse is literally dog of wonder.

These neologisms demonstrate the cumulative quality of language, in which we use the known to describe the unknown.

“It is by metaphor that language grows,” writes the psychologist Julian Jaynes. “The common reply to the question ‘What is it?’ is, when the reply is difficult or the experience unique, ‘Well, it is like —.’”

That metaphorical process is at the heart of Toki Pona, the world’s smallest language. While the Oxford English Dictionary contains a quarter of a million entries, and even Koko the gorilla communicates with over 1,000 gestures in American Sign Language, the total vocabulary of Toki Pona is a mere 123 words. Yet, as the creator Sonja Lang and many other Toki Pona speakers insist, it is enough to express almost any idea. This economy of form is accomplished by reducing symbolic thought to its most basic elements, merging related concepts, and having single words perform multiple functions of speech.

In contrast to the hundreds or thousands of study hours required to attain fluency in other languages, a general consensus among Toki Pona speakers is that it takes about 30 hours to master. That ease of acquisition, many of them believe, makes it an ideal international auxiliary language—the realization of an ancient dream to return humanity to a pre-Babel unity. Toki Pona serves that function already for hundreds of enthusiasts connected via online communities in countries as diverse as Japan, Belgium, New Zealand, and Argentina.

In addition to making Toki Pona simple to learn, the language’s minimalist approach is also designed to change how its speakers think. The paucity of terms provokes a kind of creative circumlocution that requires careful attention to detail. An avoidance of set phrases keeps the process fluid. The result, according to Lang, is to immerse the speaker in the moment, in a state reminiscent of what Zen Buddhists call mindfulness.

“What is a car?” Lang mused recently via phone from her home in Toronto.

“You might say that a car is a space that's used for movement,” she proposed. “That would be tomo tawa. If you’re struck by a car though, it might be a hard object that’s hitting me. That’s kiwen utala.”

The real question is: What is a car to you?

As with most things in Toki Pona, the answer is relative.

“We wear many hats in life,” Lang continued, “One moment I might be a sister, the next moment a worker, or a writer. Things change and we have to adapt.”

The language’s dependence on subjectivity and context is also an exercise in perspective-taking. “You have to consider your interlocutor’s way of understanding the world, or situation,” the Polish citizen Marta Krzeminska stated. “For that reason, I think it has great potential for bringing people together.”

To create her new language, Lang worked backwards—against the trend of a natural lexicon. She began by reducing and consolidating the specific into the general."
language  english  linguistics  tokipona  rocmorin  2015  communication  vocabulary  minimalism  languages 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Aljamiado - Wikipedia
Aljamiado (Spanish: [alxaˈmjaðo]; Arabic: عَجَمِيَة‎ trans. ʿajamiyah) or Aljamía texts are manuscripts that use the Arabic script for transcribing European languages, especially Romance languages such as Mozarabic, Portuguese, Spanish or Ladino.

According to Anwar G. Chejne,[2] Aljamiado or Aljamía is "a corruption of the Arabic word ʿajamiyah (in this case it means foreign language) and, generally, the Arabic expression ʿajam and its derivative ʿajamiyah are applicable to peoples whose ancestry is not of Arabian origin". In linguistic terms, the Aljamía is the use of the Arabic alphabet to transcribe the Romance language, which was used by some people in some areas of Al-Andalus as an everyday communication vehicle, while Arabic was reserved as the language of science, high culture and religion.

The systematic writing of Romance-language texts in Arabic scripts appears to have begun in the fifteenth century, and the overwhelming majority of such texts that can be dated belong to the sixteenth century.[3] A key aljamiado text was the mufti of Segovia's compilation Suma de los principales mandamientos y devediamentos de nuestra santa ley y sunna, of 1462.[4]

In later times, Moriscos were banned from using Arabic as a religious language, and wrote in Spanish on Islamic subjects. Examples are the Coplas del alhichante de Puey Monzón, narrating a Hajj,[5] or the Poema de Yuçuf on the Biblical Joseph (written in Aragonese[6])."

[via https://twitter.com/Ballandalus/status/614554279093923840
http://www.arauco.org/SAPEREAUDE/terraaustralisincognita/historiasdealandalus/literaturaljamiada.html ]
arabic  spanish  español  portugués  portuguese  ladino  language  languages  aljamiado  aljamía 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Why the Book I'm About to Publish Will Be Ignored — Partisan
"Given that English speakers share a country with such a vital and little understood literary market, and given how rarely these translations occur—and given that the poetry collections being rendered into English are some of the most outstanding and representative books from that territory—you would think their appearance would be regarded as a cause for celebration (or at least cause for copy). But beyond the staples of Émile Nelligan and, maybe, Saint-Denys Garneau, and outside of living poets like Nicole Brossard, Québécois poetry barely registers. And Quebec isn’t alone. There are Francophone poetry communities throughout the country—in Manitoba or New Brunswick—that exist in almost total isolation from English-Canadian reviewers, critics, and academics. I often joke that the easiest way to confound an English-Canadian poet is to tell them there are major Canadian poets who don’t write in English."



"One group gets it—Quebec’s English poets. Almost everything Canada knows about Québécois poetry is thanks to them. The McGill Movement is where it started. Led by F.R. Scott,, and active during the forties and fifties, this group was the first to demonstrate an interest in contemporary French-language verse. It was a period, according to Scott, when many “lively interchanges” were struck up among the French and English poets he invited to his home. (“I remember Louis Portugais,” Scott writes, “then editor of Hexagone publications, after reading T.S. Eliot’s translation of Saint-John Perse’s Anabase, looking up and saying to me, ‘It’s very bad’”). The McGill Movement’s importance, however, resides chiefly in its belief that translation wasn’t merely bridge-gapping tokenism but creative opportunity. Scott and his coterie sought authoritative and adventurous English equivalents—high-quality renditions that were poems in their own right."



"Anglo-Quebec poets are the only group that still seek out the invigorating surplus of these exchanges. Not surprisingly, they also appear to have harvested its considerable linguistic benefits—they write English, as Gail Scott has said of herself, “with the sound of French” in their ear. As a result, their best work not only carries a percentage of the genius of Québécois poetry, but something new: a Babelian sense of living between competing origins and tongues. For Eric Ormsby, this can lead to a phenomenon called a “shadow language.” Using the example of Basil Bunting’s familiarity with Latin or Geoffrey Hill’s knowledge of German, Ormsby argues that foreign idioms and phrases lurking below native speech can compel poets to “nuance and complicate the sound-patterns of their verse.” 

This shadow language enriches many of the English poems written in Montreal, poems marked by doubletalk and euphemism, polyphonic wordplay and impurities of diction. A. M. Klein was the first Anglo-Quebec poet to idiomatically emulsify his phrasings, to allow French to infiltrate and float inside his lines (“Mollified by the parle of French / Bilinguefact your air!”). But moments just as mesmerizing occur in poems by John Glassco, D.G. Jones, and Peter Van Toorn, as well as younger figures like Bruce Taylor, Asa Boxer, Oana Avasilichioaei, and Linda Besner.

A shadow language’s impact isn’t just linguisitic. Among Montreal poets, it can create the feeling of being set apart or cut adrift, of existing as an outsider. “I am nobody: / that is how I will enter you” is the way Michael Harris once addressed a room of imaginary readers. Or take Robyn Sarah: “I am the blip on the screen, / the cold spot, the dark area you see / with indefinite borders.” More exhilaratingly, it can contribute to a “several selves” state: life defined not only by the reality it inhabits, but also the potential—and sometimes fantastical—existences it did not fulfill. David Solway’s most notorious book, Saracen Island, features faux translations from a fictional Greek poet (he has since tried his hand at “Englishing” poems from Turkish and Domenican). And Asa Boxer’s long poem “Primer to the New World” reinvents Canada’s discovery as a Medieval travel narrative, packed with fabulous beasts and holy objects.

Anglo-Quebec poets are also the only group to successfully reconcile the century-old bicultural quarrel. The “two solitudes” have become what Solway calls the “two solicitudes.” What was once a sense of division is now a feeling of concern for the other’s well-being. Solway—who once declared Québécois poetry “the most powerful, the most interesting and the most vital poetic tradition in all of Canada”—has himself been an excellent conduit for that concern. He used to contribute a monthly translation of a French poem to the now-defunct Books in Canada (since gathered into a lovely anthology called Demilunes: Little Windows on Quebec), enjoys a fervent relationship with many francophone poets, and is the first English writer to win the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal.

It should be said such transactions aren’t exclusively between English and French. In her study Translating Montreal, Sherry Simon calls the city one of the world’s few “contact zones,” a place where languages mingle and intersect. This means poets can avail themselves of shadowy accents from a large palette of foreign vernaculars. Antonio D'Alfonso’s early collections sometimes mixed English, French, and Italian. Erin Mouré has creatively repurposed (or "transelated") Portuguese and Spanish poems into outrightly exotic dialects. Nonetheless, the shift of solitudes into solicitudes is the tale of an exploited double heritage, of poets embracing the acoustic advantage of living inside the French language and taking pleasure from its music. The self-centeredness of English dissolves in such a climate, forcing poets to acknowledge that larger soundscape.

Of course, that also means acknowledging the existence of singular talents like Nepveu. And that, in turn, means acknowledging a version of Canadian poetry found only in translation, in the sympathetic resonances between foreign words. Those of us committed to engaging with—and making available—literary worlds not our own can feel like that English radio station, discussed in Translating Montreal, that advertised delivering the “news to nous.” But “news to nous” isn’t always news that stays news. Fact is, it’s news to which Canada is now deaf."
poems  poetry  translation  french  english  canada  2015  language  languages  carminestarnino  quebec  spanish  español  portuguese  italian  mcgillmovement  ericormsby  amklein  johnglassco  dgjones  petervantoorn  brucetaylor  asaboxer  ooanaavasilichioaei  lindabesner  robynsarah  davidsolway  sherrysimon  erinmouré  pierrenepveu  gastonmiron  robertmelançon  pierremorency  michelgarneau  yvesboisvert  michaelhofmann  pashamalla  donaldwinkler  raymondbock  nellaarcan  hélènedorion  paulmuldoon  marcplourde  jacquesbrault  saint-denys-garneau 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Is Translation an Art or a Math Problem? - NYTimes.com
"One Enlightenment aspiration that the science-­fiction industry has long taken for granted, as a necessary intergalactic conceit, is the universal translator. In a 1967 episode of “Star Trek,” Mr. Spock assembles such a device from spare parts lying around the ship. An elongated chrome cylinder with blinking red-and-green indicator lights, it resembles a retracted light saber; Captain Kirk explains how it works with an off-the-cuff disquisition on the principles of Chomsky’s “universal grammar,” and they walk outside to the desert-­island planet of Gamma Canaris N, where they’re being held hostage by an alien. The alien, whom they call The Companion, materializes as a fraction of sparkling cloud. It looks like an orange Christmas tree made of vaporized mortadella. Kirk grips the translator and addresses their kidnapper in a slow, patronizing, put-down-the-gun tone. The all-­powerful Companion is astonished.

“My thoughts,” she says with some confusion, “you can hear them.”

The exchange emphasizes the utopian ambition that has long motivated universal translation. The Companion might be an ion fog with coruscating globules of viscera, a cluster of chunky meat-parts suspended in aspic, but once Kirk has established communication, the first thing he does is teach her to understand love. It is a dream that harks back to Genesis, of a common tongue that perfectly maps thought to world. In Scripture, this allowed for a humanity so well ­coordinated, so alike in its understanding, that all the world’s subcontractors could agree on a time to build a tower to the heavens. Since Babel, though, even the smallest construction projects are plagued by terrible delays.

Translation is possible, and yet we are still bedeviled by conflict. This fallen state of affairs is often attributed to the translators, who must not be doing a properly faithful job. The most succinct expression of this suspicion is “traduttore, traditore,” a common Italian saying that’s really an argument masked as a proverb. It means, literally, “translator, traitor,” but even though that is semantically on target, it doesn’t match the syllabic harmoniousness of the original, and thus proves the impossibility it asserts.

Translation promises unity but entails betrayal. In his wonderful survey of the history and practice of translation, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?” the translator David Bellos explains that the very idea of “infidelity” has roots in the Ottoman Empire. The sultans and the members of their court refused to learn the languages of the infidels, so the task of expediting communication with Europe devolved upon a hereditary caste of translators, the Phanariots. They were Greeks with Venetian citizenship residing in Istanbul. European diplomats never liked working with them, because their loyalty was not to the intent of the foreign original but to the sultan’s preference. (Ottoman Turkish apparently had no idiom about not killing the messenger, so their work was a matter of life or death.) We retain this lingering association of translation with treachery."



"One computational linguist said, with a knowing leer, that there is a reason we have more than 20 translations in English of “Don Quixote.” It must be because nobody ever gets it right. If the translators can’t even make up their own minds about what it means to be “faithful” or “accurate,” what’s the point of worrying too much about it? Let’s just get rid of the whole antiquated fidelity concept. All the Sancho Panzas, all the human translators and all the computational linguists are in the same leaky boat, but the machinists are bailing out the water while the humans embroider monograms on the sails.

But like many engineers, the computational linguists are so committed to the power and craftsmanship of their means that they tend to lose perspective on whose ends they are advancing. The problem with human translators, from the time of the Phanariots, is that there is always the possibility that they might be serving the ends of their bosses rather than the intent of the text itself. But at least a human translator asks the very questions — What purpose is this text designed to serve? What aims are encoded in this language? — that a machine regards as entirely beside the point.

The problem is that all texts have some purpose in mind, and what a good human translator does is pay attention to how the means serve the end — how the “style” exists in relationship to “the gist.” The oddity is that belief in the existence of an isolated “gist” often obscures the interests at the heart of translation. Toward the end of the marathon, I asked a participant why he chose to put his computer-­science background to the service of translation. He mentioned, as many of them did, a desire to develop tools that would be helpful in earthquakes or war. Beyond that, he said, he hoped to help ameliorate the time lag in the proliferation of international news. I asked him what he meant.

“There was, for example, a huge delay with the Germanwings crash.”

It wasn’t the example I was expecting. “But what was that delay, like 10 or 15 minutes?”

He cocked his head. “That’s a huge delay if you’re a trader.”

I didn’t say anything informational in words, but my body or face must have communicated a response the engineer mistranslated as ignorance. “It’s called cross-­lingual arbitrage. If there’s a mine collapse in Spanish, you want to make a trade as quickly as possible."
via:tealtan  translation  language  languages  words  davidbellos  technology  2015  engineers  computing  gideonlewis-kraus 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Blog - by Allen Tan - An accent marks the lag between two cultures, two...
"An accent marks the lag between two cultures, two languages, the space where you let go of one identity, invent another, and end up being more than one person though never quite two." —André Aciman in Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language, and Loss
andréaciman  language  accents  identity  languages  speech  exile  connection  betweenness  migration  immigration  belonging  culture  seams  interstitial  thirdculture  liminality  liminalspaces  liminalstates  between 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Wordly Treasures – The New Inquiry
"The colonized owe nothing, not even words, to their colonizers."



"These languages are not the world’s, these treasures are “theirs,” not “ours.” Languages belong to their speakers, as do the intellectual traditions and cultural complexes they encode and preserve. Support, or even enthusiastic commitment to language preservation, if predicated solely on values of humanism and universality, replicates the colonizing, imperial moves that continue to push these communities to marginalization, subalterity, and death. Australians, Hawaiians, and the Welsh do not owe their cultures and languages to anyone but themselves, and the rights of a culture are not contingent on certain of their artifacts’ circulation in depoliticized market of ideas or some similar multiculturalist fantasy. The turn toward native language reclamation and revitalization in Wales, Hawai’i, or Austrailia does not hinge on the pleasures of the Anglophone imagination, but represent the application, in that rarefied space of organic virtuality where humans’ signifying behavior occurs, of a complex of strategies devised by indigenous communities for effective decolonization and national liberation.

Besides their exonyms—names applied by neighbors and colonizers—many indigenous languages have an internal name, which speakers use to refer to their tongue in private. Often, this name translates to simply “true speech,” or “human speech.” Even in regions rich in linguistic diversity, even when they themselves are fluent polyglots, people will continue to say, each in their own language, “We, it is we who are special,” if only to hear themselves say it.

Upholding indigenous communities’ rights to linguistic self-determination necessarily entails upholding the right to self-determination in all aspects of social, political and economic life, however much their exercise might disturb, baffle, or otherwise ignore Western sensibilities. The colonized owe nothing, not even words, to their colonizers. In a humorous, telling moment near the film’s conclusion, Bob Holman asks Lolena Nicholas, one of the first teachers in the first punana leo, Hawaiian language immersion schools founded in the 1980s, if she thinks about the possibility of Hawaiian dying out. “There is a chance it might be,” he insists. Nicholas replies curtly, “‘A‘ole paha,” “maybe not.” Holman takes it in stride, and Nicholas’s interpreter makes a joke, at which Nicholas, in a casual act of ethnographic refusal, does not smile."
language  languages  2015  franciscosalaspérez  colonization  decolonization  ownership  liberation  davidgrubin  bobholman  resilience  self-organization  linguistics  languagematters  endangeredlanguagealliance  film  kdavidharrison  danielkaufman  rossperlin  capitalism  colonialism  preservation  refusal  ethnographicrefusal 
february 2015 by robertogreco
There is no language instinct – Vyvyan Evans – Aeon
"For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong"



"In the 1960s, the US linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky offered what looked like a solution. He argued that children don’t in fact learn their mother tongue – or at least, not right down to the grammatical building blocks (the whole process was far too quick and painless for that). He concluded that they must be born with a rudimentary body of grammatical knowledge – a ‘Universal Grammar' – written into the human DNA. With this hard-wired predisposition for language, it should be a relatively trivial matter to pick up the superficial differences between, say, English and French. The process works because infants have an instinct for language: a grammatical toolkit that works on all languages the world over.

At a stroke, this device removes the pain of learning one’s mother tongue, and explains how a child can pick up a native language in such a short time. It’s brilliant. Chomsky’s idea dominated the science of language for four decades. And yet it turns out to be a myth. A welter of new evidence has emerged over the past few years, demonstrating that Chomsky is plain wrong.

But let’s back up a little. There’s one point that everyone agrees upon: our species exhibits a clear biological preparedness for language. Our brains really are ‘language-ready’ in the following limited sense: they have the right sort of working memory to process sentence-level syntax, and an unusually large prefrontal cortex that gives us the associative learning capacity to use symbols in the first place. Then again, our bodies are language-ready too: our larynx is set low relative to that of other hominid species, letting us expel and control the passage of air. And the position of the tiny hyoid bone in our jaws gives us fine muscular control over our mouths and tongues, enabling us to make as the 144 distinct speech sounds heard in some languages. No one denies that these things are thoroughly innate, or that they are important to language.

What is in dispute is the claim that knowledge of language itself – the language software – is something that each human child is born with. Chomsky’s idea is this: just as we grow distinctive human organs – hearts, brains, kidneys and livers – so we grow language in the mind, which Chomsky likens to a ‘language organ’. This organ begins to emerge early in infancy. It contains a blueprint for all the possible sets of grammar rules in all the world’s languages. And so it is child’s play to pick up any naturally occurring human language. A child born in Tokyo learns to speak Japanese while one born in London picks up English, and on the surface these languages look very different. But underneath, they are essentially the same, running on a common grammatical operating system. The Canadian cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has dubbed this capacity our ‘language instinct’.

There are two basic arguments for the existence of this language instinct. The first is the problem of poor teachers. As Chomsky pointed out in 1965, children seem to pick up their mother tongue without much explicit instruction. When they say: ‘Daddy, look at the sheeps,’ or ‘Mummy crossed [ie, is cross with] me,’ their parents don’t correct their mangled grammar, they just marvel at how cute they are. Furthermore, such seemingly elementary errors conceal amazing grammatical accomplishments. Somehow, the child understands that there is a lexical class – nouns – that can be singular or plural, and that this distinction doesn’t apply to other lexical classes.

This sort of knowledge is not explicitly taught; most parents don’t have any explicit grammar training themselves. And it’s hard to see how children could work out the rules just by listening closely: it seems fundamental to grasping how a language works. To know that there are nouns, which can be pluralised, and which are distinct from, say, verbs, is where the idea of a language instinct really earns its keep. Children don’t have to figure out everything from scratch: certain basic distinctions come for free."



"In his book The Language Instinct (1994), Steven Pinker examined various suggestive language pathologies in order to make the case for just such a dissociation. For example, some children suffer from what is known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – their general intellect seems normal but they struggle with particular verbal tasks, stumbling on certain grammar rules and so on. That seems like a convincing smoking gun – or it would, if it hadn’t turned out that SLI is really just an inability to process fine auditory details. It is a consequence of a motor deficit, in other words, rather than a specifically linguistic one. Similar stories can be told about each of Pinker’s other alleged dissociations: the verbal problems always turn out to be rooted in something other than language."



"Stop and think about this: it is a very weird idea. For one thing, Chomsky’s claim is that language came about through a macro-mutation: a discontinuous jump. But this is at odds with the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis, widely accepted as fact, which has no place for such large-scale and unprecedented leaps. Adaptations just don’t pop up fully formed. Moreover, a bizarre consequence of Chomsky’s position is that language couldn’t have evolved for the purpose of communication: after all, even if a grammar gene could have sprung up out of the blue in one lucky individual (already vanishingly unlikely), the chances of two individuals getting the same chance mutation, at exactly the same time, is even less credible. And so, according to the theory of the language instinct, the world’s first language-equipped human presumably had no one to talk to."



"According to the US comparative psychologist Michael Tomasello, by the time the common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis had emerged sometime around 300,000 years ago, ancestral humans had already developed a sophisticated type of co‑operative intelligence. This much is evident from the archaeological record, which demonstrates the complex social living and interactional arrangements among ancestral humans. They probably had symbol use – which prefigures language – and the ability to engage in recursive thought (a consequence, on some accounts, of the slow emergence of an increasingly sophisticated symbolic grammar). Their new ecological situation would have led, inexorably, to changes in human behaviour. Tool-use would have been required, and co‑operative hunting, as well as new social arrangements – such as agreements to safeguard monogamous breeding privileges while males were away on hunts.

These new social pressures would have precipitated changes in brain organisation. In time, we would see a capacity for language. Language is, after all, the paradigmatic example of co‑operative behaviour: it requires conventions – norms that are agreed within a community – and it can be deployed to co‑ordinate all the additional complex behaviours that the new niche demanded.

From this perspective, we don’t have to assume a special language instinct; we just need to look at the sorts of changes that made us who we are, the changes that paved the way for speech. This allows us to picture the emergence of language as a gradual process from many overlapping tendencies. It might have begun as a sophisticated gestural system, for example, only later progressing to its vocal manifestations. But surely the most profound spur on the road to speech would have been the development of our instinct for co‑operation. By this, I don’t mean to say that we always get on. But we do almost always recognise other humans as minded creatures, like us, who have thoughts and feelings that we can attempt to influence.

We see this instinct at work in human infants as they attempt to acquire their mother tongue. Children have far more sophisticated learning capacities than Chomsky foresaw. They are able to deploy sophisticated intention-recognition abilities from a young age, perhaps as early as nine months old, in order to begin to figure out the communicative purposes of the adults around them. And this is, ultimately, an outcome of our co‑operative minds. Which is not to belittle language: once it came into being, it allowed us to shape the world to our will – for better or for worse. It unleashed humanity’s tremendous powers of invention and transformation. But it didn’t come out of nowhere, and it doesn’t stand apart from the rest of life. At last, in the 21st century, we are in a position to jettison the myth of Universal Grammar, and to start seeing this unique aspect of our humanity as it really is."
language  linguistics  instinct  languageinstinct  2014  vyvyanevans  noamchomsky  michaeltomasello  behavior  psychology  evolution  cooperation  howwelearn  languages  communication  universalgrammar  stevenpinker  genetics  languageacquisition 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Sarah Churchwell: why the humanities matter | Opinion | Times Higher Education
"The renowned scientist E. O. Wilson recently described the humanities as “the natural history of culture, and our most private and precious heritage”. The humanities are the study of what makes us human, of what it means to be human. As they penetrate every aspect of existence, they can, and should, intersect with the natural and social sciences, but literature, history, art, music, languages, theatre, film – and yes, television and computer games – are the stories and ideas through which we express our humanity.

We understand ourselves and our world through the telling of stories. Visual dramas teach us sympathy, empathy, pity, encouraging us to break out of our solipsistic shells. They explore ethical issues, ask challenging questions, inform the way we view each other. Today we live in a culture more defined by images and stories than ever before. Given this, it is vital that we approach the media, advertising and marketing discourses that influence and often manipulate us with critical thinking. We need improved communication skills; no one is born with them, and just chatting with your family and friends does not teach the precision of language needed to negotiate and reframe our complicated world. In a global age, we need to understand other societies. Anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows that different phrases can prompt new perspectives and open our eyes to cultural values; studying foreign languages also improves mastery of our own. This rule holds by analogy more generally: when we learn about other people, we also learn about ourselves.

The politicians and corporations telling us that the humanities do not matter are, by no coincidence, the same people who think of us only as workers and consumers, not as citizens or individuals, and who strip away our human rights, one by one. It is the wealthy who insist that we should seek only to work: we don’t need the humanities, they tell us, all we need is to labour in a marketplace that will enrich them, not us.

If we agree that the humanities do not matter, or fail to challenge this assessment, we are colluding in the very practices that reduce our humanity, that impinge upon all the other ways in which we can enrich our lives, our abilities to express our creative individuality. Until we reconsider what it means to lead a truly satisfying life, what the ancient Greeks considered the “good life” – who are by no coincidence the people who invented the study of the humanities – we should not be surprised if we have the politicians and plutocrats we deserve. Why should any politician seek to challenge the source of his (rarely her) power?

The humanities conserve and safeguard those aspects of our being that intersect with the meanings of human existence beyond industry. A certain playwright was said to love humanity as a concept but to have less time for human beings. The same can be said of our so-called leaders, whose lofty rhetoric in support of humanity is belied by their contempt for the study of the humanities. That said, as the historian James Truslow Adams wrote some years ago, it is absurd to think that the powerful will abandon their power “to become spiritual leaders of a democracy that despises spiritual things”.

There is a story that may be apocryphal but is illustrative. Supposedly, Richard Dawkins was once visiting an art gallery in Florence, and as he left was heard to ask, “But what’s all this art for?” Regardless of whether Dawkins actually said it, this question articulates a widely held view among the instrumentalists and technocrats who decide our society’s priorities. Last year it was revealed that scientific studies had “proven” that reading made people more empathetic. At last, some book lovers cried, what we always knew has been proven: book lovers are better people! Anyone who has spent time in a literature department might challenge this jolly notion, but I agree with the critic Lee Siegel, who responded by defending his right to love books regardless of whether they “improved” him. Let me answer the question: what’s all this art for? It’s for us.

When we stopped being citizens and began to think of ourselves – or rather, each other – only as consumers, we relinquished thousands of years of human development. How can we sustain our civilisation if we don’t understand how it works? How can we interpret Magna Carta and defend our rights if no one reads Latin? How will we protect our own laws? How can we hope for transcendence in a secular age if we give up on beauty? Even in instrumentalist terms, the humanities represent 5,000 years of free research and development in what it means to be human. I think we should make use of that.

The humanities are where we locate our own lives, our own meanings; they embrace thinking, curiosity, creation, psychology, emotion. The humanities teach us not only what art is for, but what life might be for, what this strange existence might mean. What kind of humans would think that the humanities don’t matter? We need the advanced study of humanities so that we might, some day, become advanced humans."
humanities  2014  sarahchurchwell  eowilson  humanity  culture  literature  art  history  language  languages  stories  storytelling  theater  film  music  socialsciences  videogames  tv  television  humans  capitalism  policy  politics  markets  richarddawkins  technocracy  technocrats  instrumentalists  leesiegel  secularism  thinking  criticalthinking  thewhy  why  existence  existentialism  purpose 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why you probably won’t understand the web of the future - Quartz
"The giants of the connected world are finally waking up to one of the biggest obstacles in their stated missions of connecting billions more people to the internet: The language barrier.

This week alone, Google announced the “Indian Language Internet Alliance,” which aims to get half a billion Indians online by 2017 by serving them content in local languages, and there are indications Facebook is already defaulting to local languages in India. Facebook’s head of internationalization and localization published a long piece about “The Internet’s Language Barrier” in Innovations, a quarterly journal from MIT; and Mozilla and GSMA, a trade body of mobile operators, published a white paper titled “Unlocking relevant Web content for the next 4 billion people.”

Language barriers in globalization are hardly a new issue. So why the sudden drive for polyglotism? It’s simple: As mobile operators and web giants try to expand their markets by bringing more people online, we have reached a tipping point where the imbalance of content on the internet has become too stark to avoid.

“A lot of the content online is about very few places and those are the places you might imagine: Western Europe, Japan, Korea, North America,” says Mark Graham, an associate professor who looks at information geographies at the Oxford Internet Institute. “And a lot of the contribution to the internet comes from those very same places.”"



"Making the web more usable for non-English speakers doesn’t stop at language. Facebook’s Orriss cites the example of Russia, where some users enter their names in the roman script and other in Cyrillic. This causes a problem, she writes: “You are searching for your friends’ names in Cyrillic, but some of them registered using Roman script. Therefore, when you type a friend’s name into the search field, the software has to search for the name in both scripts using a common conversion algorithm—in essence, it has to understand this cultural norm of your native language.”

Another example is color. In the West, red is associated with danger or bad news, while in China it means good news. Any company serious about serving a global audience needs to take such subtle cues into account."
language  languages  web  internet  online  2014  color  culture  russia  cyrillic  china  india  hindi  leomirani 
november 2014 by robertogreco
In other words: inside the lives and minds of real-time translators | Mosaic
"The world’s most powerful computers can’t perform accurate real-time translation. Yet interpreters do it with ease. Geoff Watts meets the neuroscientists who are starting to explain this remarkable ability."



"I ask Moser-Mercer if interpreters ever do anything else while interpreting. In a job dominated by women, she tells me, some knit – or used to when it was a more popular pastime. And you can see how a regular manual action might complement the cerebral activity of translation. But a crossword puzzle? Moser-Mercer hasn’t tried it, but she tells me that under exceptional circumstances – a familiar topic, lucid speakers, etc. – she thinks she could.

That such a feat might be possible suggests that interesting things are indeed happening in the brains of simultaneous interpreters. And there are other reasons for thinking that interpreters’ brains have been shaped by their profession. They’re good at ignoring themselves, for example. Under normal circumstances listening to your voice is essential to monitoring your speech. But interpreters have to concentrate on the word they’re translating, so they learn to pay less attention to their own voice.

This was first demonstrated 20 years ago in a simple experiment devised by Franco Fabbro and his colleagues at the University of Trieste in Italy. Fabbro asked 24 students to recite the days of the week and the months of the year in reverse order while listening to themselves through headphones. First they heard themselves with no delay. They then repeated the exercise with delayed feedback of 150, 200 and 250 milliseconds. Even a slight delay subverts speech, forcing listeners to slow down, stutter, slur and even come to a halt. Sure enough, many of the students made errors. But half of the group were in their third or fourth year at the university’s School of Translators and Interpreters, and these students suffered no significant disruption.

Some habits acquired in the workplace may carry over to the home. One way that experienced interpreters acquire speed is by learning to predict what speakers are about to say. “I will always anticipate the end of a sentence, no matter who I’m talking to and whether or not I’m wearing a headset,” says Moser-Mercer. “I will never wait for you to finish your sentence. Many of us interpreters know this from our spouses and kids. ‘You never let me finish…’ And it’s true. We’re always trying to jump in.”

Interpreters also have to be able to cope with stress and exercise self-control when working with difficult speakers. I read one review, based on questionnaires given to interpreters, which suggested that members of the profession are, as a consequence, highly strung, temperamental, touchy and prima donna-ish. Maybe. But I couldn’t see it in Marisa, Carmen or Anne."



"The story that is emerging from the Geneva work – that interpretation is about coordinating more specialised brain areas – seems to gel with interpreters’ descriptions of how they work. To be really effective, for example, a simultaneous interpreter needs a repertoire of approaches. “The process has to adapt to varying circumstances,” says Moser-Mercer, who still does 40 to 50 days of interpretation a year, mainly for UN agencies. “There could be poor sound quality, or a speaker with an accent, or it might be a topic I don’t know much about. For instance, I wouldn’t interpret a fast speaker in the same way I would a slow one. It’s a different set of strategies. If there isn’t time to focus on each and every word that comes in you have to do a kind of intelligent sampling.” It may be that the flexible operation of the brain networks underpinning interpretation allows interpreters to optimise strategies for dealing with different types of speech. And different interpreters listening to the same material may use different strategies."
translation  via:alexismadrigal  2014  neuroscience  geoffwatts  languages  language  brain  simultaneousinterpretation  interpreters 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Signed languages can do so many things spoken languages can’t | Sarah Klenbort | Comment is free | theguardian.com
"I also used to assume all deaf people would prefer to be hearing.

The deaf community is no utopia, but it does offer an alternative language, culture and social life to those who choose to be a part of it. In fact, signed languages can do many things spoken languages can’t. In fact, here’s a list of ways in which visual languages are superior to the spoken word:

10. You can carry on a complex conversation in the loudest pub or club, while people all around you scream into each other’s ears, trying to convey something as simple as, I’m going to the toilet now.

9. Visual languages are more accessible, not only for people who are fully deaf, but (in theory) for the 1 in 6 Australians who have a hearing loss.

8. You can ask your partner to pick up the mail from the balcony when he’s standing in the parking lot, four floors down, without disturbing the neighbours.

7. You can talk underwater.

6. Storytelling is more engaging and detailed in visual languages. Because they are visual-spatial, signed languages are particularly adept at describing space and movement.

5. You can talk through car windows. It’s easy to give directions to a signing friend driving behind or in front.

4. Deaf people who sign have been proven to be more “multilingual”. In a fascinating study lead by UK academic and researcher Sabaji Panda, it was found that if you put two deaf people in a room, who have no shared language, it’s only a matter of hours before they find a way to communicate (imagine trying that with hearing people.) Because signed languages have shorter histories, their grammars typically share certain features, which means that even if two deaf people have no common vocabulary, it takes short time before they can figure out a way to communicate.

3. You can critique a terrible lecture/performance/reading without anyone in the audience hearing you.

2. Unlike Esperanto, that failed international spoken language, International Sign has taken off since the advent of social media. Deaf people often learn and use IS when they travel overseas, skype, and/or present at international deaf conferences and events.

1. A signed language, often referred to as the “natural language of the deaf”, offers deaf people a sense of belonging and a positive identity.

I can’t speak for the deaf community – I’m not deaf – but I can share what I’ve learned from my daughter’s experience. She speaks clearly, but she doesn’t hear well. She loves Auslan and is proud of her deaf identity. What’s more of a loss for her than any hearing loss is the fact that she has so few peers to sign with; the majority of deaf children in Australia have no exposure to Auslan.

Auslan is not taught in government schools or early intervention programs.

Over 95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, who are often told not to sign by medical professionals and speech therapists—they claim it will impede spoken language development, though studies show the opposite is true. And my six year-old proved this in a speech competition last month. It feels appropriate to end with her words.

My daughter’s art teacher recently asked her to paint what she most loved about herself. “What’s that?” I asked.

“That I’m deaf!” she said as if I was stupid. “I painted myself signing.”"
signlanguage  via:ablerism  visuallanguages  language  languages  communication  deaf  2014 
october 2014 by robertogreco
How Culture Shapes Our Senses - NYTimes.com
"FLORENCE, Italy — WE think of our senses as hard-wired gateways to the world. Many years ago the social psychologist Daryl J. Bem described the knowledge we gain from our senses as “zero-order beliefs,” so taken for granted that we do not even notice them as beliefs. The sky is blue. The fan hums. Ice is cold. That’s the nature of reality, and it seems peculiar that different people with their senses intact would experience it subjectively.

Yet they do. In recent years anthropologists have begun to point out that sensory perception is culturally specific. “Sensory perception,” Constance Classen, the author of “The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch,” says, “is a cultural as well as physical act.” It’s a controversial claim made famous by Marshall McLuhan’s insistence that nonliterate societies were governed by spoken words and sound, while literate societies experienced words visually and so were dominated by sight. Few anthropologists would accept that straightforwardly today. But more and more are willing to argue that sensory perception is as much about the cultural training of attention as it is about biological capacity.

Now they have some quantitative evidence to support the point. Recently, a team of anthropologists and psychologists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, both in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, set out to discover how language and culture affected sensory awareness. Under the leadership of Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, they made up a kit of systematic stimuli for the traditional five senses: for sight, color chips and geometric forms; for hearing, pitch, amplitude and rhythm variations; for smell, a set of scratch-and-sniff cards; and so forth. They took these kits to over 20 cultural groups around the world. Their results upend some of our basic assumptions.

For example, it’s fairly common, in scientific literature, to find the view that “humans are astonishingly bad at odor identification and naming,” as a recent review of 30 years of experiments concluded. When ordinary people are presented with the smell of ordinary substances (coffee, peanut butter, chocolate), they correctly identify about half of them. That’s why we think of scent as a trigger for personal memory — leading to the recall of something specific, particular, uniquely our own.

It turns out that the subjects of those 30 years of experiments were mostly English-speaking. Indeed, English speakers find it easy to identify the common color in milk and jasmine flowers (“white”) but not the common scent in, say, bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. When the research team presented what should have been familiar scents to Americans — cinnamon, turpentine, lemon, rose and so forth — they were terrible at naming them. Americans, they wrote, said things like this when presented with the cinnamon scratch-and-sniff card: “I don’t know how to say that, sweet, yeah; I have tasted that gum like Big Red or something tastes like, what do I want to say? I can’t get the word. Jesus it’s like that gum smell like something like Big Red. Can I say that? O.K. Big Red, Big Red gum.”

When the research team visited the Jahai, rain-forest foragers on the Malay Peninsula, they found that the Jahai were succinct and more accurate with the scratch-and-sniff cards. In fact, they were about as good at naming what they smelled as what they saw. They do, in fact, have an abstract term for the shared odor in bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. Abstract odor terms are common among people on the Malay Peninsula.

The team also found that several communities — speakers of Persian, Turkish and Zapotec — used different metaphors than English and Dutch speakers to describe pitch, or frequency: Sounds were thin or thick rather than high or low. In later work, they demonstrated that the metaphors were powerful enough to disrupt perception. When Dutch speakers heard a tone while being shown a mismatched height bar (e.g., a high tone and a low bar) and were asked to sing the tone, they sang a lower tone. But the perception wasn’t influenced when they were shown a thin or thick bar. When Persian speakers heard a tone and were shown a bar of mismatched thickness, however, they misremembered the tone — but not when they were shown a bar mismatched for height.

The team also found that some of these differences could change over time. They taught the Dutch speakers to think about pitch as thin or thick, and soon these participants, too, found that their memory of a tone was affected by being shown a bar that was too thick or too thin. They found that younger Cantonese speakers had fewer words for tastes and smells than older ones, a shift attributed to rapid socioeconomic development and Western-style schooling.

I wrote this in Florence, Italy, a city famous as a feast for the senses. People say that Florence teaches you to see differently — that as the soft light moves across the ocher buildings, you see colors you never noticed before.

It taught Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, to see differently. He attributes his inspiration to a photography class he took in Florence while at a Stanford study-abroad program about a decade ago. His teacher took away his state-of-the-art camera and insisted he use an old plastic one instead, to change the way he saw. He loved those photos, the vintage feel of them, and the way the buildings looked in the light. He set out to recreate that look in the app he built. And that has changed the way many of us now see as well."
senses  taste  smell  olfaction  touch  sight  seeing  noticing  language  languages  culture  darylbem  tmluhrmann  constanceclassen  wcydwt  glvo  slow  marshallmcluhan  anthropology  psychology  perception  sense  asifamajid  stephenlevinson  sound  hearing  tone  pitch  rhythm  color  comparison  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  literacies  literacy  identification  naming  kevinsystrom 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Respect Myanmar Diversity: Use Unicode Fonts | ISIF Asia
"Burmese is the dominant language of Myanmar, but its had a long and winding journey in the digital realm, and now there is a tension between two competing systems to represent it online.

Unlike Latin script or pictograph scripts like Chinese, Burmese doesn’t use spaces between words and generally doesn’t fit into nice, tidy blocks that are easy for computers to render on a screen.

Almost all languages have fonts that adhere to the Unicode standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text. In Myanmar the development of Unicode compliance had a very slow start, and until recently, there wasn’t a strong Unicode standard.

To help Myanmar enter the digital age, a group of individuals produced the Zawgyi font to represent Burmese script. Most of the tech elite learned to type using Zawgyi, and like the American Qwerty system, the network effects – from keyboards to typing classes – has made Zawgyi the most widely used font. However, its popularity doesn’t mean Zawgyi is the best font to use.

Technologically, Zawgyi is a nightmare for backend software development, as it requires extensive customization to present the font correctly. The font itself also needs to be installed on computers or mobile phones, which can be a technical hurtle for novice users.

But culturally, there is an even greater imperative to use Unicode instead of Zawgyi. Zawgyi is useless for typing other ethnic Myanmar languages that use Burmese script, like Sanksrit, Shan, and Mon. Myanmar already has a rocky history (past and present) with ethnic minorities, and we should not use any digital tool that excludes them or presents a barrier to their digital voice.

Unicode fonts support 11 languages that use the Myanmar script, including Burmese, Pali, Sanskrit, Mon, Shan, Kayah, Rumai Palaung, and four Karen languages. Unicode is now standard on Android devices, which are and will be the most popular way to get online in Myanmar, and over 30% of Myanmar government websites use Unicode.

So it is time for all of us to use Unicode fonts to communicate in Myanmar, so we can truly communicate with everyone."

[via: http://www.ictworks.org/2014/08/20/myanmar-will-be-the-first-smartphone-only-country/#comment-113453 ]
myanmar  unicode  language  languages  wayanvota  burmese  zawgyi  encoding  2014 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 69, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"When García Márquez speaks, his body often rocks back and forth. His hands too are often in motion making small but decisive gestures to emphasize a point, or to indicate a shift of direction in his thinking. He alternates between leaning forward towards his listener, and sitting far back with his legs crossed when speaking reflectively."



INTERVIEWER How do you feel about using the tape recorder?

GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The problem is that the moment you know the interview is being taped, your attitude changes. In my case I immediately take a defensive attitude. As a journalist, I feel that we still haven’t learned how to use a tape recorder to do an interview. The best way, I feel, is to have a long conversation without the journalist taking any notes. Then afterward he should reminisce about the conversation and write it down as an impression of what he felt, not necessarily using the exact words expressed. Another useful method is to take notes and then interpret them with a certain loyalty to the person interviewed. What ticks you off about the tape recording everything is that it is not loyal to the person who is being interviewed, because it even records and remembers when you make an ass of yourself. That’s why when there is a tape recorder, I am conscious that I’m being interviewed; when there isn’t a tape recorder, I talk in an unconscious and completely natural way.



GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ I’ve always been convinced that my true profession is that of a journalist. What I didn’t like about journalism before were the working conditions. Besides, I had to condition my thoughts and ideas to the interests of the newspaper. Now, after having worked as a novelist, and having achieved financial independence as a novelist, I can really choose the themes that interest me and correspond to my ideas. In any case, I always very much enjoy the chance of doing a great piece of journalism.



INTERVIEWER Do you think the novel can do certain things that journalism can’t?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Nothing. I don’t think there is any difference. The sources are the same, the material is the same, the resources and the language are the same. The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe is a great novel and Hiroshima is a great work of journalism.

INTERVIEWER Do the journalist and the novelist have different responsibilities in balancing truth versus the imagination?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.



INTERVIEWER How did you start writing?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.



INTERVIEWER Can you name some of your early influences?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The people who really helped me to get rid of my intellectual attitude towards the short story were the writers of the American Lost Generation. I realized that their literature had a relationship with life that my short stories didn’t. And then an event took place which was very important with respect to this attitude. It was the Bogotazo, on the ninth of April, 1948, when a political leader, Gaitan, was shot and the people of Bogotá went raving mad in the streets. I was in my pension ready to have lunch when I heard the news. I ran towards the place, but Gaitan had just been put into a taxi and was being taken to a hospital. On my way back to the pension, the people had already taken to the streets and they were demonstrating, looting stores and burning buildings. I joined them. That afternoon and evening, I became aware of the kind of country I was living in, and how little my short stories had to do with any of that. When I was later forced to go back to Barranquilla on the Caribbean, where I had spent my childhood, I realized that that was the type of life I had lived, knew, and wanted to write about.

Around 1950 or ’51 another event happened that influenced my literary tendencies. My mother asked me to accompany her to Aracataca, where I was born, and to sell the house where I spent my first years. When I got there it was at first quite shocking because I was now twenty-two and hadn’t been there since the age of eight. Nothing had really changed, but I felt that I wasn’t really looking at the village, but I was experiencing it as if I were reading it. It was as if everything I saw had already been written, and all I had to do was to sit down and copy what was already there and what I was just reading. For all practical purposes everything had evolved into literature: the houses, the people, and the memories. I’m not sure whether I had already read Faulkner or not, but I know now that only a technique like Faulkner’s could have enabled me to write down what I was seeing. The atmosphere, the decadence, the heat in the village were roughly the same as what I had felt in Faulkner. It was a banana-plantation region inhabited by a lot of Americans from the fruit companies which gave it the same sort of atmosphere I had found in the writers of the Deep South. Critics have spoken of the literary influence of Faulkner, but I see it as a coincidence: I had simply found material that had to be dealt with in the same way that Faulkner had treated similar material.

From that trip to the village I came back to write Leaf Storm, my first novel. What really happened to me in that trip to Aracataca was that I realized that everything that had occurred in my childhood had a literary value that I was only now appreciating. From the moment I wrote Leaf Storm I realized I wanted to be a writer and that nobody could stop me and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world. That was in 1953, but it wasn’t until 1967 that I got my first royalties after having written five of my eight books.



INTERVIEWER What about the banana fever in One Hundred Years of Solitude? How much of that is based on what the United Fruit Company did?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ The banana fever is modeled closely on reality. Of course, I’ve used literary tricks on things which have not been proved historically. For example, the massacre in the square is completely true, but while I wrote it on the basis of testimony and documents, it was never known exactly how many people were killed. I used the figure three thousand, which is obviously an exaggeration. But one of my childhood memories was watching a very, very long train leave the plantation supposedly full of bananas. There could have been three thousand dead on it, eventually to be dumped in the sea. What’s really surprising is that now they speak very naturally in the Congress and the newspapers about the “three thousand dead.” I suspect that half of all our history is made in this fashion. In The Autumn of the Patriarch, the dictator says it doesn’t matter if it’s not true now, because sometime in the future it will be true. Sooner or later people believe writers rather than the government.

INTERVIEWER That makes the writer pretty powerful, doesn’t it?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Yes, and I can feel it too. It gives me a great sense of responsibility. What I would really like to do is a piece of journalism which is completely true and real, but which sounds as fantastic as One Hundred Years of Solitude. The more I live and remember things from the past, the more I think that literature and journalism are closely related.



INTERVIEWER Are dreams ever important as a source of inspiration?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ In the very beginning I paid a good deal of attention to them. But then I realized that life itself is the greatest source of inspiration and that dreams are only a very small part of that torrent that is life. What is very true about my writing is that I’m quite interested in different concepts of dreams and interpretations of them. I see dreams as part of life in general, but reality is much richer. But maybe I just have very poor dreams.

INTERVIEWER Can you distinguish between inspiration and intuition?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ Inspiration is when you find the right theme, one which you really like; that makes the work much easier. Intuition, which is … [more]
gabrielgarcíamárquez  1981  interviews  colombia  writing  journalism  truth  reality  fiction  literature  latinamerica  drawing  kafka  jamesjoyce  stories  storytelling  everyday  williamfaulkner  imagination  biography  autobiography  politics  childhood  fantasy  magicrealism  credibility  detail  details  belief  believability  responsibility  history  bricolage  collage  power  solitude  flow  dreams  dreaming  inspiration  intuition  intellectualism  translation  mexico  spanish  español  gregoryrabassa  borders  frontiers  miguelángelasturias  cuba  fame  friendship  film  filmmaking  relationships  consumption  language  languages  reading  howweread  howwewrite  routine  familiarity  habits 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Why I want my children to be bilingual – Ben Faccini – Aeon
"My children are not in the eye of converging linguistic influences the way I was. I have to accept that I cannot recreate the natural intermeshing of languages necessary for long-lasting bilingualism or multilingualism. I have, disturbingly, even begun to fear that my children might not speak any language other than English.

From school to university, and then working and travelling for a UN agency for many years, I constructed myself thanks to different languages, following the roads they paved out into the unknown. I can now say with confidence that the chameleonic battles of my childhood were worth it. A knowledge of languages can foster versatility, an attentiveness to the world and an understanding of cultural difference. It can make sense of the make-up and narrative of nations, cultivating deeper and joyous communion with others. Without languages, I feel as though my children are going to be missing some vital limb, hobbling through life, cut off from their heritage and the possibilities of the world."



"In my experience, learning another language lays the foundations for greater curiosity and openness to learning processes overall. It evolves into a curiosity that can underpin life in general. As a child, no doubt because of my rural isolation too, I used to spend hours crouched in the long grass observing insects and juxtaposing words in my head, lining up meanings in different tongues, jostling alternatives and options, classifying, rearranging. I remember being particularly exercised by my father’s complaint that there wasn’t anything as expressively satisfactory as the French ‘tant pis’ in English. ‘Too bad’, ‘never mind’ or ‘oh well’ didn’t quite do it justice, and the accompanying gestures certainly weren’t the same either."



"Areas most vulnerable to the loss of biodiversity are regions where languages are dying out"
bilingualism  polyglots  language  languages  dementia  parenting  2014  banfaccini 
march 2014 by robertogreco
STET | Speaking in tongues
"A counterpoint (or sometimes complement) to Jakobson’s “referential function” of language is what he calls the “poetic function” of language. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but the poetic function of language is not about communication. It’s about language as a pure material. Perhaps this is why poets are among the most notorious code-switchers. The Cantos of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” are good examples, frustrating and bewildering undergraduates for decades with their seemingly snobbish hodgepodge of languages alive and dead. But language isn’t always about clarity of expression. It’s about magic. That feeling of recognition you get, when someone says something you might not exactly understand or feel able to paraphrase, and yet it makes perfect sense. (These, by the way, are the kinds of thoughts I have while I’m in a boat on a river zooming towards what I can only assume is yet another bad decision.)"



"And this is where it gets a little tricky. Because even though linguists are fairly strict with their definition of code-switching, there are anthropologists and sociologists and philosophers and theorists who persuasively suggest that you can code-switch within a language depending on who you happen to be talking with, or your intention, based on relationships and personal and communal identities. Some recent sociolinguistic studies suggested that people have a few basic reasons for code-switching. For one thing, we want to fit in, so we often code-switch as a way of showing solidarity. We sometimes code-switch subconsciously in this kind of situation. I’d intuitively choose the word “try,” for instance, when I’m sitting on the Greyhound bus out of Salt Lake City, talking to the friendly trucker next to me who’s deadheading back from LA to Indianapolis. We talked for, like, two hours about how to make the perfect Bolognese, and disagreed only about whether or not the milk was really important. But I’d probably intuitively go with “attempt” if I were asking a question of a panelist at an academic conference. Well, depending on the panel. People code-switch for all kinds of contexts, including social class, age, race, and other kinds of origin. A lot of us have identities that belong to more than one discourse. Of course, the darker side of solidarity is less about belonging and more about hiding. Or perhaps more aptly, passing."
culture  german  identity  language  languages  codeswitching  2014  spanish  portuguese  español  portugués  juncen  rebeccalindenberg  conversation  onomotopoeia  romanjakobson  brasil  brazil  argentina  germany  poetry  poeticfunction  words 
january 2014 by robertogreco
COHEN VAN BALEN
"Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen run a London based experimental practice that produces fictional objects, photographs, performances and videos exploring the tensions between biology and technology.

Inspired by designer species, composed wilderness and mechanical organs, they set out to create posthuman bodies, bespoke metabolisms, unnatural animals and poetic machines."
art  design  cohenvanbalen  revitalcohen  tuurvanbalen  via:bopuc  animals  biology  artificial  bacteria  biotech  biotechnology  bionics  biosensors  sensors  blood  bodies  body  human  humans  brain  memory  cellularmemory  science  choreography  cities  clocks  cooking  cyborgs  documentary  dogs  eels  electricity  ethics  exhibitiondesign  exhibitions  families  genetics  gold  goldfish  heirlooms  immunesystem  immunity  implants  installations  language  languages  leeches  lifesupport  life  machines  numbers  organs  performance  phantoms  pharmaceuticals  pigeons  birds  placebos  poetics  posthumanism  sheep  psychology  rats  prozac  suicide  soap  spatial  serotonine  superheroes  syntheticbiology  video  yeast  utopia  yogurt  translation 
june 2013 by robertogreco
Building an Open-Source Map of the World's Languages
"We're trying to map the world's languages, and we can't do it alone.

Linguists have awesome visualizations up their sleeves, but they don't have a universal, open-source dataset for where languages are spoken.

We're going to fix that!"
maps  mapping  language  languages  via:meetar  jonathansoma  world  global 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Chineasy - Where characters are revealed
"A visual-based learning system which teaches Chinese characters, simple stories & phrases.
Our aim is to bring down the great wall of Chinese language."
chinese  languages  language  learning  education  languagelearning  languageacquisition  via:anne  srg  edg 
may 2013 by robertogreco
ENCAPSULATED UNIVERSES | Edge.org
"Think about it this way. We have 7,000 languages. Each of these languages encompasses a world-view, encompasses the ideas and predispositions and cognitive tools developed by thousands of years of people in that culture. Each one of those languages offers a whole encapsulated universe. So we have 7,000 parallel universes, some of them are quite similar to one another, and others are a lot more different. The fact that there's this great diversity is a real testament to the flexibility and the ingenuity of the human mind. The fact that we're able to take so many different perspectives and create such an incredibly diverse set of ways of looking at the world, that is something first to be celebrated, but also something to learn from: flexibility and diversity are at the very heart of what makes us human and what makes us so smart. I think the more we understand how people are able to take all these different perspectives, and able to change the way they think, the better we'll understand the nature of being human."
encapsulateduniverses  leraboroditsky  language  languages  perspective  perception  humanmind  humans  lostintranslation  flexibility  diversity  2013  paralleluniverses 
april 2013 by robertogreco
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