Saturday, June 1, 2013

Languages In The News: May 2013

Today we've decided to take a look at some of the biggest language stories featured in the news from the past month. We try to share all language news on our Facebook page, but we'll look back at the top stories at the end of each month just in cased you missed them. Here's what has been going on in the world of languages throughout the month of May.

The Guardian and The Economist both featured the conlang Dothraki from Game of Thrones in posts at the end of the month. These were published on April 30th, but since this is our first "Languages In The News" post, we'll include them. 

The New York Times featured an overly-favourable article on translation apps. Despite calling the piece "The Utility and Drawbacks of Translation Apps", we found there were far too few drawbacks.

Arco della Pace in Milan, the city where writer Dan Brown
had 11 translators working underground for 2 months.
Dan Brown's new novel was covered by a few sources after it was revealed that the translators working on the piece were subjected to fairly "hellish" conditions whilst translating in order to not reveal any secrets and spoil from the book. One such article was found in The Telegraph.

The Los Angeles Times informed us that search engine Bing's translation services will now include the Star Trek conlang Klingon as part of a marketing campaign for the franchise's latest film, Star Trek Into Darkness. Trekkies can rejoice at the ability to translate text written in over 40 languages into Klingon, as well as convert it back into a "traditional" language.

In the mid-May, we found out from CNET that Google Translate now produces a billion translations per day while helping about 200 million users. The translation service works in 71 languages, but we're still skeptical of the quality of the machine-based translations it provides.

In Franglais, these are called talkie-walkies!
The relationship between French and English was heavily featured in the news this month. The Guardian informed us that the French government has decided to relax a long-time ban on the use of foreign languages in its universities. Since 1994, a French law has banned all teaching in a foreign language except, of course, in the case of language courses. The news inspired the BBC to produce some fun articles on Franglais, including a piece on their readers' favourite Franglais terms and phrases, as well as an amusing post called "How to speak Franglais" that is completely written in Franglais.

Finally, we have the results of two language-related research studies. The first study, done by researchers in Sweden and the US, discovered that foetuses actually listen to and remember their mothers' speech in the finals weeks of pregnancy. They can also distinguish foreign languages soon after birth, as discussed in this BBC article. A second study in Britain revealed that the long-debated idea of a Eurasiatic superfamily of languages may actually be a reality. The group of linguists was able to narrow down a list of 23 words found in at least four of the languages thought to belong to the superfamily, including "man", "mother", "worm" and "to spit"!

Was there another language article we missed that really piqued your interest this past month? Let us know below in the comments.