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Controversy over the use of simultaneous interpretation in the Spanish Congress (source in Spanish)


The Partido Popular (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE) have agreed to rule out the possibility of launching a system of simultaneous interpretation in the Congress similar to the one implemented by the Senate on Tuesday for the co-official languages. Read more. Read More...

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New Welsh Language Measure confirms official status of the Welsh language in Wales - public bodies and some private companies will have to offer services in Welsh


The history of the Welsh language has taken another turn with the adoption of the Welsh Language Measure of 2010.
Back in 1536 the Act of Union specified that English would be the official language in the courts, non-English speakers were barred from public office and the Welsh gentry became increasingly English-speaking. Then in 1847 the event known as the Treachery of the Blue Books caused outrage in Wales when government school inspectors claimed that the Welsh language was responsible for the alleged backwardness of the Welsh. The Welsh Not (or Note) was used to stigmatise children who spoke Welsh at school and the status of the language was diminished. In response to the decline in the number of speakers in the 20th Century, Saunders Lewis gave a speech on the Fate of the Language in 1962 which inspired language protestors to campaign for equal status for the language. Activists have been battling for bilingualism ever since.
7 December 2010 was a milestone for the Welsh language. The new Welsh Language Measure confirms the official status of the Welsh language in Wales. Public bodies and some private companies will have to offer services in Welsh. The law also provides for the appointment of a Language Commissioner to protect the rights of Welsh speakers, the creation of a Tribunal where complaints can be taken and a Partnership Council to advise the government on strategy. The new law will come into force in the new year.
The last Welsh Language Act dates back to 1993 and made public bodies responsible for providing services in Welsh. The new Measure of 2010 will also cover some large private companies, including utility and telecommunication companies. Read More...

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Google Conversation Mode automates interpreting


Automated translation of text on your smartphone? That’s so 2010. Now that a brand new year is underway, Google is venturing further into spoken language territory than ever before, enabling millions of Android users to overcome language barriers through its new Conversation Mode feature. And, it comes in time for the one-year anniversary of the company’s launch of the Google Translate app for Android.
The news comes as no surprise. We watched with interest as Eric Schmidt previewed the new feature for German and English a few months ago in Berlin. While development is obviously underway for other languages, Android users will only be able to use Conversation Mode for English and Spanish for now.
Automated interpretation is, in many ways, a no-brainer in Google’s quest to make information available to more people on the planet. We’ve written before about machine interpretation as a means of overcoming the limitations of literacy and the orality of communication.
While Google notes that the feature is still in experimental phases, the concept is not exactly new. We discussed JAHJAH‘s MandarinEnglish phone-based speech-to-speech translation offering back in 2008, and our research has repeatedly mentioned machine interpretation as a replacement technology for telephone interpreting. We also recently wrote about new apps that accomplish a similar purpose by connecting users to human telephone interpreters, following in the footsteps of Language Line’s iPhone application.
Unsurprisingly, Google points out that Conversation Mode has trouble coping with some of the same issues human interpreters have wrestled with for centuries — background noise, strong regional accents, and fast-paced speech. Of course, flesh-and-blood interpreters are still the gold standard — so long as they are professionally trained. There is an unfortunate shortage of qualified human interpreters in many parts of the world. Yet, the ubiquity of demand for their services is undeniable, especially in the quest to improve global access to information.
How will Google’s announcement affect the world? We believe the development is a very important one, for several reasons:
* Heightened societal awareness of spoken language access. Machine interpretation has been available for awhile, but Google’s involvement will draw plenty of attention to this growing area of technology. As we noted in our annual predictions for 2011 and our report on global product development, expect to see more integrations of this type for devices used by the average consumer.
* A boost in demand for services. In the near term, we don’t expect machine interpretation to replace the hard-working human interpreters who work each day in diplomatic, medical, legal, and business settings throughout the world. Instead, we believe that the increased communication that is likely to result from increased awareness will fuel the demand for high-quality human interpreting.
* Greater visibility in the marketplace. Now that Google is hanging out a shingle, expect to see more language service providers start to pay attention to machine interpretation. According to our most recent study, the global language services market will reach US$29.789 billion in 2011. The data from our segmentation exercise revealed that the interpretation technology sector was worth less than 2% of that total.
Read More...

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Researchers at Google are tackling one of the most difficult challenges in artificial intelligence — translating poetry


There are added problems of length, meter and rhyme a computer has to solve to understand and translate poetry. At a conference a few months ago, Dmitriy Genzel, a research scientist at Google, presented a paper outlining those problems and described the ways Google’s computers work to solve them.
Researchers have no way around the pick-and-choose process, so the translations are far from instant and no beta is public. But there’s a reason why it’s useful to improve translation software of any kind, Genzel says.
“Most of the content on the Web is not in English anymore,” he says. “So even for English speakers, there’s a huge amount of stuff on the Web that you don’t have access to.”
In poetry, the translating perspective is more difficult. The value of preserving meter and rhyme in poetic translation has been highly debated. Vladimir Nabokov famously claimed that, since it is impossible to preserve both the
meaning and the form of the poem in translation, one must abandon the form altogether.”But there’s quite a big aspect of [poetry translation] that machines can do pretty well,” Genzel says. Read More...

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Google Waves Goodbye to Language Barriers


Travelers and tourists longing to communicate better with locals may be in luck very soon. Google's prototype language translator, Conversation Mode, uses Android phones to record spoken words and then play them back in a different language.
Conversation Mode combines the technology of Google Voice and Google Translate (which only works for text) to translate over fifty languages via a speech interface on a smartphone. While similar translation programs exist, most of them are text-based and those that do translate speech-to-speech only work for a limited number of languages. Some of the best competitors can claim around twenty languages, though we can probably expect that number to jump with programs like Conversation Mode coming into play. As the video demonstration below shows, this could change the way people travel. Imagine being able to visit any place in the world and communicate with the locals about topics much more complicated than where the bathroom is. That is, as long as you have enough battery... and a signal. Read More...

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