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Opinion: The pains and joys of learning Yoruba (or any language)

Opinion: The pains and joys of learning Yoruba (or any language) | translation | Scoop.it
For the past seven weeks I have been engaged in an intensive language program, studying Yoruba for eight hours a day. I have studied and speak six other languages, including Swahili and Arabic, and I can say with complete certainty Yoruba is by far the most challenging and difficult of them all.

You might be thinking, “yor-a-who?” Yoruba is spoken in Southwest Nigeria, Benin and Togo by up to 60 million people and is widely considered the language of the African diaspora in the New World, as it is maintained in liturgical languages of the syncretic Afro-Caribbean religions of Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Haiti.

If you know the expression “bad juju,” you already know some Yoruba! Some scholars even assert that our “uh huh,” which can mean “yes” or “no” depending on intonation, derives from West African languages like Yoruba, brought here by the slaves who built America.

As evidenced in “uh huh,” Yoruba is a tonal language, like Chinese (and the majority of the world’s languages), in that changes in pitch change meaning. For instance,“ọkọ” can mean garden hoe, husband, field or sword, so you have to be extra careful how you pronounce the word when you are saying what you want.

Moreover, there are two sounds, represented by and

, which are the sounds [ɡ] and [b], and [k] and [p], respectively, pronounced simultaneously. It ain’t easy y’all.

As such you can imagine the frustration, but moreover the laughter, of my classmate Ayò̩délé and I as we tried to pick up this difficult language!

The first day of class we had to choose Yoruba names, but within Yoruba culture it is believed that your name is chosen for you after your birth based on the circumstances of your birth and the situation of your family at the time. My name is Òjó, a boy born with the umbilical cord around his neck, and my teacher’s name is Ké̩hìndé, the second-born of twins. My classmate’s name means “joy has come into the house,” meaning her birth brought happiness to her clan.

Though the grammar is tricky and very dissimilar from that of English, the benefits of learning a vehicle to understand the Yoruba culture, engage with Yoruba people in Nigeria and in the diaspora are immeasurable.

In linguistics, many believe every language represents a distinct view of reality that can only be fully glimpsed in that specific language, hence it is inherently worthwhile to learn different languages.


So, I do not say “I’m hungry,” but rather “ebí ń pa mí,” “hunger kills me,” and likewise “inú mi dùn,” “my stomach is sweet” to say “I’m happy.” Idiomatic expressions give a small and valuable glimpse into the reality that another language entails, one that is distinct from ours but just as valuable.

Furthermore, every language affords the poetic and philosophical tradition of proverbs, such as the Yoruba saying, “When a tiger approaches you cautiously it’s not because he’s shy.”

As such, given the difficulties but also the sublime joy it is to be able to speak to another in his or her mother tongue, which has always seemed to me a kind of magical power, I exhort all of you to pick up that book, take that class and learn a foreign language.

Though for a long time the foreign language learner is relegated to feeling paralyzed and absurd, there are few things more gratifying than finally accomplishing the arduous task and glorious feat of incorporating the music and beauty of another language into your personal repertoire.

Jordan Mackenzie is a second-year UF linguistics master’s student. His column appears on Thursdays.


Via Charles Tiayon
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Clara Janés, décima mujer académica de la Lengua en 300 años de la RAE

Clara Janés, décima mujer académica de la Lengua en 300 años de la RAE | translation | Scoop.it
Clara Janés presentado la antología «Poesía y pensamiento» el pasado mes de marzo en Ávila. ©Efe/Raúl Sanchidrián
Janés (Barcelona, 1940), Premio Nacional de Traducción, se ha impuesto así al otro candidato que había para el sillón «U», el filólogo canario Fernando Galván, rector de la Universidad de Alcalá de Henares y catedrático de Filología Inglesa.
Según ha informado el secretario de la RAE, Santiago Muñoz Machado, al finalizar la sesión plenaria, la nueva académica resultó elegida en la tercera ronda de votaciones.
Los dos candidatos «eran muy buenos», pero al final la Academia «se ha decantado por Clara Janés», poeta de larga...
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Translation is Not About Words. It’s About What the Words are About. - Kevin Hendzel

Translation is Not About Words. It’s About What the Words are About. - Kevin Hendzel | translation | Scoop.it
Subject-matter knowledge is not just “important” to translation.  It’s the very essence of translation. Buried deep in the bedrock of every profession are certain truths that are universally understood and accepted by modern practitioners. In medicine, for example, those include a recognition that the human body exists in a physical universe subject to the laws of science and not to a fictitious universe of mysterious spirits accessible to the chosen, pre-ordained few, a concept that had dominated human medicine for millennia. As a result, medical doctors strolling through a cocktail party today would never encounter questions from their friends, patients or colleagues about the effectiveness of specific spells, incantations or charms in their medical practice. Mysticism and superstition in medicine have been duly and effectively discarded in the proverbial dustbin of history. Not so for translation. We translators can spend...
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FIT President Henry Liu on ways to increase translation quality and value

FIT President Henry Liu on ways to increase translation quality and value | translation | Scoop.it
How can we ensure that our work is not viewed as a commodity? What practical steps can we take to demonstrate the value of our work to our clients? And how can we increase the quality that we provi...
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Inside the Weird Brains of Real-Time Translators

Inside the Weird Brains of Real-Time Translators | translation | Scoop.it
The world's most powerful computers can't perform accurate real-time translation. Yet interpreters do it with ease.
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Arabic debate-poetry translated into English on its way into schools in Britain and the UAE | The National

Arabic debate-poetry translated into English on its way into schools in Britain and the UAE | The National | translation | Scoop.it
Thousands of primary school pupils in the United Kingdom have been learning about the region’s pearling industry, the oil boom and the culture of coffee in the Arabian Gulf thanks to the efforts of a British couple.

Clive Holes, a dialectologist, and his wife, Deidre, have translated examples of the oral debate-poetry that was a popular form of expression for Bedouins in Arabia in the early part of the last century.

They painstakingly converted these Arabic “artistic texts” into English-language reading material for the Hamilton Trust – a UK-based online teachers’ resource centre.

And now they are starting work with teachers in the Emirates to integrate their adaptations into English courses and history lessons here.

As part of this effort, they will lead a workshop on November 5, exclusively for teachers, on the history of oral poetry and its use in the classroom at the Nabati Poetry Conference organised by the Dubai International Writers’ Centre.

Now retired, Holes taught English in Bahrain in the 1970s and was in the faculty at the Oriental Institute at Oxford. The co-author of The Nabati Poetry of the UAE, an anthology of Emirati verse with English translations, he began studying the dialogue poetry of the munathara (or debate) genre for an academic paper and decided to develop some of the poems for schools.

“Debate poetry are verbal battles, pitting two things or cultures against each other,” he says. “It has its roots in Iraq with some of the earliest poems found in the Sumerian language about 4,000 years ago. There are examples of such debates in the Gulf, too.”

The couple, who live in the UK, worked with the Hamilton Trust to create animated online versions and activity books featuring three long debate poems.

One of them, The Rat and Ship’s Captain, adapted from a traditional Bahraini poem by Atiyaa Bin Ali, has been studied by about 300,000 children.

“It is meant be a funny poem, with the rat talking to a captain and arguing about whether the rat is guarding the ship or eating everything in it,” says Holmes. “It is based on the real life of the 1930s. The poems reflect real issues and discussions from that time.”

The Dispute of Coffee and Tea and the Debate of Pearl-diving and Oil-wells are also available on the trust’s website.

Deidre, a consultant for the trust, says they wanted to spruce up the school curriculum.

“Schools use the same text over and over again and children lose interest in these topics,” she says. “The main aim is to give these children interesting literary material, teaching them about the use of language, how to debate and the pros and cons in an argument.”

The poems can also be used to teach creative writing.

“Clive’s translations use the same powerful language present in the original poems,” she says. These poems use a lot of idioms, strong verbs and punctuations which can be taught to children.”

At the same time it broadens the youngsters’ perspective on the Middle East.

“In the UK, the immediate thoughts associated with this part of the world are terrorism, oil and Islam,” she says. “Those are important discussions, but so is their history and culture.”

Holes says the lifestyle of the Bedouins and the fast-changing society of the 1930s shine through in the poems.

The poems and activities can be found on www.hamilton-trust.org.uk. The Rat and Ship’s Captain can be watched on YouTube.

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Why is bilingual education ‘good’ for rich kids but ‘bad’ for poor, immigrant students?

Why is bilingual education ‘good’ for rich kids but ‘bad’ for poor, immigrant students? | translation | Scoop.it
If you follow the public debate about bilingual education, you know that there are two basic opposing views. As Claire Bowern, the author of the following post, writes,

To put it bluntly, bilingualism is often seen as “good” when it’s rich English speakers adding a language as a hobby or another international language, but “bad when it involves poor, minority, or indigenous groups adding English to their first language, even when the same two languages are involved.

Here is a piece about the value of bilingualism for all students. Bowern is an associate professor of linguistics at Yale University and a fellow in The OpEd Project’s Public Voices project who has been researching topics s related to language and society, including bilingualism, for 15 years. She also works as an advisor to Native American and Australian indigenous groups on language reclamation, maintenance, and bilingual education issues.

 

By Claire Bowern

Two languages, two sets of opinion about bilingualism. On the one side is the research that consistently shows that bilingualism is good for you. It leads to an enriched set of experiences, a new way of seeing the world, and more prosaically but no less importantly, is associated with reduced rates of dementia. People who are multilingual are perceived as more intelligent and educated, and they have better international contacts and resources in their careers.

On the other side, we also hear about the perniciousness of bilingualism among immigrants, the uselessness of supporting and preserving minority and indigenous languages, and the educational and economic harm that comes from ‘wasting’ valuable resources on bilingual education initiatives. Some even see maintaining another language as seditious, a compromise to national security, or at the very least, evidence of conflicted loyalties or identities, or that a person cannot be fully trusted.

These opposing views tells us more about stereotypes and social pigeonholing than about language. To put it bluntly, bilingualism is often seen as “good” when it’s rich English speakers adding a language as a hobby or another international language, but “bad” when it involves poor, minority, or indigenous groups adding English to their first language, even when the same two languages are involved.


You may have heard the joke: “What do you call someone who speaks two languages? (Bilingual) Someone who speaks three languages? (Trilingual) Someone who speaks one language? American.” But America is a multilingual national, with 55 million Americans speaking another language at home, and nearly 400 languages represented. And far from being unusual outside the United States, multilingualism is the norm with 163 of the world’s 195 countries officially bi- or multilingual. More than half the world’s population uses more than one language.

Let’s look in more detail at the evidence that bilingualism is “good.” The evidence comes from several sources. One is Erika Hoff’s work on second language exposure. She compared Spanish-speaking immigrants to the USA who spoke Spanish to their children with those who spoken mostly English to them. The children who had mostly English at home did worse in standardized tests, while the children whose parents spoke to them mostly in Spanish benefited from a “bilingual boost” by being proficient in two languages.

Research in Australia among Aboriginal groups shows that bilingual education programs have higher school attendance and better outcomes on standardized tests. The same is true for the elite bilingual schools at the other end of the socio-economic spectrum. Bilingual education benefits all, not just the rich.

The “bilingual boost” extends beyond the classroom and into later life. Ellen Bialystok’s research, for example, shows that bilingual adults, as they get older, stay sharper for longer than monolingual adults do. The effect is about four years’ difference on average, which can make a considerable difference to quality of life in retirement. In research by the same team, bilingual adults also showed the delays in the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. They still got the disease, but they were able to maintain active lifestyles for longer – 5 to 6 years longer on average.


Not everyone thinks that bilingualism is a good idea, however. A common argument confuses promoting bilingualism with promoting lack of fluency in English. Karin Davenport, of U.S. English, for example, calls bilingualism as “crutch” that allows people to remain “linguistically isolated.” But again, research is clear. All research on this topic, from multilingualism to the causes of language endangerment, has shown that immigrant kids will most likely pick up the major language within a generation, whatever the policies are. In the United States, second-generation fluency in English is around 80 percent, while third generation fluency is well over 90 percent.

English-only won’t get more people speaking English; they’ll learn English no matter what. But will they have access to good literacy, education, and all the other prerequisites for success that go along with that? Only if they’re well supported in school. And research is again clear that the best way to do that is to teach students in their first languages, to maintain school attendance by making school relevant to their experience, and by employing teachers who are role models.

The tide is slowly changing, at least at the legislative level. Legislators in California recently voted to allow consideration of overturning the 1998 English-only instruction laws in that state. And there is national legislation currently under consideration in congress, with bipartisan support (particularly HR.4214/S.1948). Both these bills recognize that beginning the “bilingual boost” needs to start early, and that government support through state education is critical.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “We have room for but one language in this country, and that is the English language.” But Roosevelt himself was trilingual, and America has never been home to just a single language, from the several hundred indigenous languages that were here before European settlement to the early colonists from Britain, Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe, from the slaves brought here from the coasts of Africa, to more recent immigration from Central and South America, Oceania, Asia and the Middle East. It’s time to change the monolingual mindset and to recognize the benefits of bilingualism for all who want it.

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Dylan Jacobs's curator insight, October 26, 2014 9:39 PM

An article by the Washington Post that turns bilingualism into a political debate. Interesting read.

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¿Es posible un español global?

¿Es posible un español global? | translation | Scoop.it
Dos visiones sobre la pregunta ¿la normalización de la lengua solo puede existir en la escritura?
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La obra de referencia para 500 millones de hablantes

La obra de referencia para 500 millones de hablantes | translation | Scoop.it
La 23.ª edición del Diccionario de la Real Academia pretende seguir siendo el corpus normativo de referencia de la comunidad hispanohablante (unos 500 millones de hablantes), con una política panhispánica activa desde el siglo XIX, que se ha...
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CPD for translators: upcoming translation conferences 2014-2015

CPD for translators: upcoming translation conferences 2014-2015 | translation | Scoop.it
Translation Conferences 2014-2015 I just love being a freelance translator. I love the flexibility, creativity and intellectual challenge of translation. But sometimes I miss spending time with my colleagues.

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IATE - Datasets | European Union Open Data Portal

IATE - Datasets | European Union Open Data Portal | translation | Scoop.it
The EU Open Data Portal provides, via a metadata catalogue, a single point of access to data of the EU institutions, agencies and bodies for anyone to reuse.

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150 Ebooks gratis para Traductores e Intérpretes

150 Ebooks gratis para Traductores e Intérpretes | translation | Scoop.it
Nuevos libros incorporados a la biblioteca U niversidad deS alamanca F acultad de Traducción y D ocumentación B iblioteca Web Libros profesionales InfoTrad Diciembre 2013 150 Ebooks gratis para Tra...
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ATA Science & Technology Division: Glossaries for Environmental Science

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View on Migration: Translation tools for refugees

View on Migration: Translation tools for refugees | translation | Scoop.it
Data apps and online translation engines help inform and protect vulnerable migrants, says Rebecca Petras.

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Yolanda Vercher's insight:
Language problems lead to misinformation about asylum rights

Online translation engines and emergency data apps can help

Information must be tailored to audience, setting and type of crisis
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interpreter's curator insight, March 12, 7:29 PM
The demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in northern France has caused outrage and consternation. It has also added fresh evidence of a problem that gets little media or government attention: a lack of translation and information services for refugees. A study by a group of French charities says poor asylum information and translation services were the main trigger for refugees rejecting accommodation centres elsewhere in France, while Amnesty International reports information on asylum is massively inadequate. Translation services are neglected in the European refugee crisis — and humanitarian response more generally — and, even with new translation apps, efforts to tackle this remain piecemeal and translators scarce. I spoke to Rebecca Petras, deputy director of Translators Without Borders, about how to address this. In the European refugee crisis, “the misinformation is just unbelievable, and language is at the centre of that”, Petras says. “There are misunderstandings as to when smugglers are involved, when not.” And confusion breeds fear, distrust, panic and vulnerability. 
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When a man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable.

When a man asks people to translate a hate message he's received, their response is unforgettable. | translation | Scoop.it
Reading the words would be one thing. Having to think about what they mean is almost too intense.
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Machine Translation Technology and Internet Security

TransTech blog discusses the risks in the use of public machine translation engines.
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World Update: Translators Without Borders take on Ebola

In the fight against Ebola, of course medical intervention is the first priority. But it is just as important to help people understand the disease and how to fight it - ignorance and rumour have hamp
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History of Translation in the Last 10,000 Years According to Mad Patent Translator, Part III - Modern Times

History of Translation in the Last 10,000 Years According to Mad Patent Translator, Part III - Modern Times | translation | Scoop.it
  In the last two posts on my blog I briefly summarized the developments in translation and in the translation business in the last 10,000 years or so, or how these developments appear to me i...

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Funny in 33 languages: The art of translating Maysoon Zayid’s hilarious TED Talk

Funny in 33 languages: The art of translating Maysoon Zayid’s hilarious TED Talk | translation | Scoop.it
What’s funny in one language isn’t necessarily funny in another. Maysoon Zayid’s “I got 99 problems … palsy is just one” presented many challenges for TED translators bringing the hilarious talk in...
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Ten Common Myths About Translation Quality

Ten Common Myths About Translation Quality | translation | Scoop.it
The world of translation can be a confusing place, especially if you're the one doing the buying on behalf of your company....
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El anglicismo depredador

El anglicismo depredador | translation | Scoop.it
La riqueza del lenguaje que utilizamos depende de lo que decimos y también de lo que dejamos de decir
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English vs Welsh: Which language is balderdash?

English vs Welsh: Which language is balderdash? | translation | Scoop.it
Welsh features a number of borrowed words from English, but a lesser known fact is that English has borrowed some words from Welsh too.

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Charles Tiayon's curator insight, September 26, 2014 1:46 AM

The English language is a global superpower, and its native speakers are often perceived to be notoriously bad at learning other languages. But are we more multilingual than we think?

English has borrowed and assimilated words from different languages and cultures for centuries. Some of these loanwords have come from distant lands and ancient tongues, but others have been introduced from sources much closer to home.

Using Welsh as an example, we can see how two very different languages can share a surprising number of similarities. The fact that you may know more Welsh than you thought isn't just balderdash...

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List of languages by number of native speakers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

List of languages by number of native speakers

The following table contains the top 100 languages by estimated number of speakers in the 2007 edition of Nationalencyklopedin . As census methods in different countries vary to a considerable extent, and some countries do not record language in their censuses, any list of languages by native speakers, or total speakers, is based on estimates.

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Found in translation ... when misquoting someone is the best way to be fair and accurate

Found in translation ... when misquoting someone is the best way to be fair and accurate | translation | Scoop.it
Saptarshi Ray: If a non-English speaker feels like a 'donkey out of water', it's right to change their words to help them get their point across clearly
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