Metaglossia: The Translation World
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Metaglossia: The Translation World
News about translation, interpreting, intercultural communication, terminology and lexicography - as it happens
Curated by Charles Tiayon
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Google offers 'right to forget' form

Google has launched a service to allow Europeans to ask for personal data to be removed from online search results.

The move comes after a landmark European Union court ruling earlier this month, which gave people the "right to be forgotten".

Links to "irrelevant" and outdated data should be erased on request, it said.

Google said it would assess each request and balance "privacy rights of the individual with the public's right to know and distribute information".

"When evaluating your request, we will look at whether the results include outdated information about you, as well as whether there's a public interest in the information," Google says on the form which applicants must fill in.

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Essential writing skills: giving your sentences that rhythm and twist

Welcome to the second post in a series exploring some of the mechanics of writing.

Deco. Jazz. Hemingway, They all go together.

Writing is one of those fields where everybody thinks they can do it –not because it’s easy, but because they don’t know enough about it to know how hard it actually is.

The challenge is making the transition from those stumbling moments through to soaring mastery of the art. I outlined some of those challenges last week – check out the break-down.

This week – the No. 1 basic issue – sentence construction. With a twist. One that will, I guarantee, throw Word green grammar error underlines through your work – but it’ll be quite comprehensible to the punters. And it’s essential.

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Father-son developers create service that offers different languages in a single video - The Next Web

There’s always been a certain je ne sais quoiabout going to a foreign film. First, it absolutely confirms that you know how to read (kidding). But second, it implies that you can read between lines of dialog you don’t understand, and which are often minimally translated, to get the heart of a story.

The father-son creators of an upcoming service called Alugha — still in beta — don’t think you should have to work that hard to enjoy a video just because it’s not filmed in your language. The pair is working to facilitate the native-language translation of movies, available within the original file, so viewers can devote their full attention to the action — sans subtitles. Think of Alugha as a kind of super-dubbing, but with additional benefits.

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IATE term of the Week: European Neighbours’ Day

Last weekend was European Neighbours’ Day, and since its launch in Paris in 2000, the festival continues to rise. In fact, the party is now celebrated all around the world by millions of people – 1400 partner cities, housing organizations and associations are participating in over 36 countries with 16 million participants.

The impressive development of Neighbours’ Day is living proof that the desire to promote a “better living together” has no borders!

Each year, the Neighbours’ Day keeps growing with new partners. The celebration is the opportunity to reconnect with the values of solidarity, brotherhood and friendship that should be at the forefront of neighbourly relations.

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Google: Portland is tops in U.S. for 'World Cup' searches

Portland, which likes to think of itself as Soccer City, USA, led all U.S. metro areas in the number of Google searches for "World Cup" between the beginning of the year and May 14, according to a new "think with Google" report.

Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, D.C., follow Portland.

The measurement was for per-capita searches, not total searches, cautioned Google officials with "think with Google," a marketing-themed online publication.

One of the participants in the study, Brad Johnsmeyer, an analytical insights marketing manager for Google based in New York, said he did not know why Portland ranked so high. He declined to speculate about the influence on Portland's ranking by two large sporting goods companies: Nike, which has invested millions into pre-World Cup marketing, and Adidas America, whose parent company is an official World Cup sponsor.

For the other top cities on the list, Johnsmeyer and his colleagues noted that there was a correlation between a large Hispanic population and the metro area's ranking. But that doesn't seem to be the driver here: Portland is 38th among U.S. cities in terms of Hispanic population, according to Pew Research.

The Google-search ranking was not a surprise, however, to Mike Golub, the Portland Timbers president of business operations.

"It's just further testament about the type of soccer city that Portland is," Golub said. "Just look at the level of support for soccer at every level."

Among other findings by the Google team:

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Microsoft and Skype To Break Real Time Language Barrier Through Skype Translator Tool

Microsoft wants to change the future of communication with Skype and its new translator tool. Before the end of 2014, Microsoft plans to release a beta for "Skype Translator."
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Top Stories - WJAC WJACTV.com

Parents sue city over interpreter for deaf son, 8 May 30, 2014 09:20 EDT GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The parents of a deaf 8-year-old boy have sued a western Pennsylvania city because they want it to provide a sign-language interpreter for a local youth soccer league. The parents and their son are identified only by their initials in the federal lawsuit against the city of Greensburg. The suit was first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The couple contends their son needs the interpreter to understand his coaches. The boy's mother served as the boy's interpreter in 2012, but has been unable to do so last year or this year. City solicitor Bernard McArdle says he doesn't believe the city is required to provide the interpreter because the boy is a non-resident playing in a league whose coaches are volunteers. He estimated the interpreter would cost the city $5,000 to $10,000 annually. 

Read More at: http://www.wjactv.com/template/inews_wire/wires.regional.pa/2cf1cd64-www.wjactv.com.shtml#.U4m9C_l_s3k

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Overseas property buyers ‘should use professional translation services’ | OPP Connect

Some buyers think they can save money by using smartphone services, websites or foreign language students to translate foreign real estate contracts, but that can translate into problems, warns expert, Simon Conn

Overseas property buyers must make sure they have a professional and accurate translation of contracts, advises an industry expert.

Some buyers are prepared to either sign a foreign contract they do not understand or sign a version in their mother tongue without checking it is a correct translation, according to overseas property and finance expert, Simon Conn.

Other buyers try to save money by relying on smartphones, websites and foreign language students to carry out the translation of their legal contracts, but making mistakes can cost more in the long run, says Mr Conn.

As an example, Mr Conn asked human and online translation services to work on a Spanish legal property document. Although the results of both were understandable, the automated translations were hard to read, contained awkward phraseology, were disjointed and not always in context. Several Spanish words remained untranslated. An English-speaking Spanish tutor missed several key words and phrases.

The Spanish word “censos”, which normally means a survey (census) was in the document, but in this context it was referring to a leasehold – two very different things.

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App do dia: Word Lens Translator traduz palavras sem necessidade de conexão - Home - iG

o World Lens Translator é um ajudante valioso para quem viaja muito. Ele traduz instantaneamente textos em vários idiomas e, diferentemente de alguns apps semelhantes, não necessita de conexão à internet para a tradução.

Basta apontar a câmera para o aviso e a tradução aparece sobre a imagem. Não é necessário tirar uma foto do objeto. 

O Word Lens Translator foi criado mais especificamente para tradução de mensagens em placas de trânsito e cartazes, e não funciona tão bem com letras feitas a mão. O app traduz palavras nos idiomas português, espanhol, inglês, russo, francês, italiano e alemão. O aplicativo é grátis para iPhone/iPad e Android.

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SpeechTrans aprimora serviços de tradução em tempo real em todo o mundo usando Microsoft Azure - PR Newswire - Tecnologia - R7

LYNDHURST, N.J., 29 de maio de 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- A SpeechTrans Inc., uma Microsoft Managed Partner e provedora de tecnologia avançada de tradução, anun...
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3 steps for powerful public speaking - Jacksonville Business Journal

Speaking in public is one of the most powerful ways you can build your business. When it is done right, your carefully crafted presentation can be most persuasive in selling your products and services. Strong presentation skills are also important for enhancing and boosting your career.

While reflecting on some of my recent presentations in London, I realized some important steps that can help you in your next big presentation. Here are three steps for effective presentations.

1. It's not about you, it's about them

People often ask me how to overcome stage fright. Having worked with some of the best speakers around the world in my more than 30 years of professional speaking, I find that even the best still have twinges of stage fright. That is okay, as long as they learn to channel it.

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Familiarize yourself with hurricane terminology

Hurricane season begins June 1. It's time to familiarize yourself and your family with severe weather terminology.
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Skype to get real-time translator by year end

Los Angeles: Microsoft has unveiled a "real-time" language translation feature for its internet phone service Skype that will be available later this year.

Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft corporate vice president of Skype and Lync, demoed the new Skype Translator app on Tuesday at the inaugural Code Conference in California.

The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.

Skype Translator, the result of years of research at Microsoft, first will be available as a Windows 8 beta app before the end of 2014.

"Today, we have more than 300 million connected users each month, and more than 2 billion minutes of conversation a day as Skype breaks down communications barriers by delivering voice and video across a number of devices, from PCs and tablets, to smartphones and TVs," Pall wrote in Microsoft's official blog post.
"But language barriers have been a blocker to productivity and human connection; Skype Translator helps us overcome this barrier," Pall wrote.

Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams, said Pall.

"It is early days for this technology, but the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator isn't a galaxy away, and its potential is every bit as exciting as those Star Trek examples.”

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Sites brasileiros ganham serviço de tradução automática em Libras - Tribuna Hoje - O portal de notícias que mais cresce em Alagoas

A Hand Talk, empresa premiada pela ONU e referência no serviço de tradução de conteúdos para a Língua Brasileira de Sinais - Libras, acaba de anunciar mais uma novidade para seus usuários. O Tradutor de Sites, lançado recentemente apenas para empresas, agora também está disponível para qualquer site, e gratuitamente.

A solução já está presente em diversas páginas brasileiras e a cada dia esse número vem aumentando exponencialmente. Isso se deve, primeiramente, porque as pessoas estão aderindo à causa e percebendo a importância de tornar seus canais acessíveis à comunidade surda, que no Brasil representa quase 10 milhões de pessoas, segundo dados do Censo IBGE 2010. Outro fator predominante para a grande aderência do serviço é a sua facilidade de implementação. “Com apenas alguns cliques, a partir de agora, o próprio usuário consegue colocar a ferramenta em seu site, tornando-o acessível em Libras. É muito fácil e dura apenas alguns minutos”, comenta Carlos Wanderlan, CTO da Hand Talk.

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Capital Region Gives: Northeast Career Planning


Sandy Cohen's office at Northeast Career Planning is a buzz with activity now that graduation season is underway in the Capital Region.

Cohen serves as manager of rehabilitation at the nonprofit and also directs interpreter services, working with a network of nearly 30 professional sign language interpreters.

Northeast Career Planning is the largest provider of sign language services in the Capital Region, and its interpreters provide translation for the deaf community at almost all local college commencements, and many high school graduations as well.

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Did Microsoft Just Create Real-Time Translation Software for Skype? - DailyFinance

On science fiction shows technology has eliminated the language barrier. Whether it's a Star Trek-style translator, an earpiece that flawlessly translates, or some other method, speaking different languages in the future is no longer an obstacle to communication.

In real life, we have semi-successfully automated the translation of websites and documents (if nuance and subtlety are not important), but spoken-word translation remains a challenge. Yes, there are handheld devices and apps that can help but none offer true, reliable real-time translation.

Microsoft  has plans to change that. The company demonstrated a version of Skype featuring real-time language translation at ReCode.net's first annual Code Conference on Tuesday. Though the product is only in the beta phase, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has big plans for the technology. 


"We'll put it on all devices," Nadella said. However, it will start with devices with better sound and may work more easily on devices it has control over, so it may show up earlier on Microsoft devices, Re/Code reported.

What does the Skype translator do?

The Skype translator tool may feel like something out of the distant future, but Microsoft has been working on it for a while, even showing a demo of it a few years ago. That demo just presented the idea. Now the company is ready to roll out a functioning version when it updates Skype later this year. The feature currently supports translation for about 40 languages.

"This is about creating a learning system that improves with data," Nadella said. Microsoft posted to a company blog about the new software:

Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition. Skype Translator is a great example of why Microsoft invests in basic research. We've invested in speech recognition, automatic translation, and machine learning technologies for more than a decade, and now they're emerging as important components in this more personal computing era.

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Twitter planeja usar recurso de tradução Bing no Android

Twitter está aparentemente, testando um novo recurso em seu aplicativo Android que permitirá aos usuários traduzirem tweets para suas línguas de origem.
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Entrée du mot « lesbophobie » dans le dictionnaire : une étape historique contre les violences lesbophobes

Il faut se réjouir de l’entrée du mot « lesbophobie » dans la nouvelle édition 2015 du Petit Robert et saluer une décision éditoriale historique prenant enfin en compte les réalités de la société et les violences faites aux femmes. Cette revendication lesbienne et féministe aura enfin abouti après près d’une quinzaine d’années de mobilisation des associations. Créé en 1998 par la Coordination Lesbienne en France (CLF) en réaction à l’invisibilisation des lesbiennes dans la société et à l’invisibilisation des violences à leur encontre, le mot « lesbophobie » se définit comme la conjugaison du sexisme et de l’homophobie en direction des femmes dont l’homosexualité est réelle ou supposée (femmes ne correspondant pas aux normes de féminité imposées par les stéréotypes de genre). Parce que ce qui n’est pas nommé n’existe pas, il était primordial de nommer cette violence pour pouvoir la combattre La reconnaissance officielle du mot « lesbophobie » permettra ainsi la reconnaissance même de cette violence spécifique à l’encontre des lesbiennes. En effet, dans notre société hétéropatriarcale où l’hétérosexualité est la norme, les lesbiennes sont doublement discriminées. En tant que femmes et en tant qu’homosexuelles, elles rencontrent sexisme et homophobie. Malgré leur réalité, ces violences sont trop souvent niées, oubliées et invisibilisées. - See more at: http://www.dialogai.org/actualites/2014/05/entree-du-mot-lesbophobie-dans-le-dictionnaire-une-etape-historique-contre-les-violences-lesbophobes/#sthash.J0uGRncj.dpuf

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Star on Indian Subcontinent's Firmament Changes: Neighborhood Body Language Friendlier

Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has scored some immediate public relations wins by unexpectedly reaching out to the leaders of India's neighboring states in the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation.

Terror, Terror and Terror is what topped Prime Minister Narendra Modi's agenda on Tuesday, in his first one-to-one meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawab Sharif, even as 7 billion pairs of eyes watched their body language, keeping close tabs on the exact wording from each side as a new government in India hinted at a "relationship" future that is likely to mark the decade ahead. The Indian monsoon hits the subcontinent on June 1 every year, and following the heat and dust of the most bitter election campaign in the last 50 years, this week was as though the people of this entire region were waiting for a soothing shower.

Yes, the world last week witnessed a right-wing leader win a massive mandate and become India's 15th Prime Minister, following a year-long campaign spitting fire and brimstone against Pakistan and Bangladesh, against secularism and non-Hindus, against dynastic politics and crony capitalism. The rhetoric raised the boogie of a dictatorship in the offing, warnings of massive Hindu-Muslim friction and questions on unknown foreign and economic policy perspectives. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in opposition to India's GOP, the Indian National Congress Party, this summer won the 2014 general elections with 282 seats in a House of 543 seats, to become the majority party in the Indian parliament. The popular verdict and two-thirds majority without any alliance, gave the BJP the confidence to cut a path very different from even its own past.

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DailyTech - Skype Realtime Translation Coming by End of 2014

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is racing Google Inc. (GOOG) to have the platform with the best voice translation.  And it appears that at long last, the Star Trek vision for a Universal Translator has almost been made a reality.   Just weeks ago, Quest Visual -- whose app "Word Lens" offer real-time translation via a smartphone camera of Spanish printed signage -- was acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum.  Google said it will continue to support the standalone app for Android and its rival Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iOS for now, but that ongoing development will shift to tightly-integrated, platform-exclusive features integrated into Android OS, Chrome OS, and Google's web API. - See more at: http://www.dailytech.com/Skype+Realtime+Translation+Coming+by+End+of+2014/article34967c.htm#sthash.UbufMf3N.dpuf

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OK Google, We Get It—Semantic Search Is the Future

In its quest to make the world that much more like the Oscar-nominated film HerGoogle recently introduced new voice search capabilities for Chrome OS.

Hotwording is now available on New Tab pages and Google.com for all English (U.S.) users as of May 20, 2014, giving Web users the ability to speak directly to their Chrome browsers when they are looking for information. By using the phrase, “OK Google,” a person can ask Google questions and receive search results within seconds based on his or her query.

Hotwording has already revolutionized the way people search on mobile devices, as both Google and Apple (Siri) aim to embrace the inevitable shift toward semantic search. Google’s upcoming Google Glass product comes equipped with similar technology—operators cruise the Web and use various built-in applications using the phrase, “OK Glass.”

With the latest Chrome OS update, users can now search the Web through speech on their various devices, including their mobile phones, tablets, desktop computers, and Google Glass.

“The ‘OK Google’ verbiage already somehow seems natural, despite the fact that I literally never use that same sentence construction to address real humans or in general conversation,” said TechCrunch contributor Darrell Etherington in a review of the latest Chrome OS update.

While the phrase may seem awkward for some users, Etherington said it does seem to count as “natural speech,” which has become a top priority for Google’s search experts. In late 2013, the search engine company launched its Hummingbird algorithm, which was aimed at improving how it serves content to its audience. Hummingbird focused on producing stronger results queries constructed as questions or sentences. This latest update clearly plays into the behavioral shift that Google predicted and implemented through its algorithmic update.

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Translating 'Frozen' Into Arabic

For the past few months, I’ve lived my life to the soundtrack of Disney’s mega-hit musical “Frozen.” I wake up to the sound of my two daughters singing the Oscar-winning power anthem “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs as they get dressed for school. By breakfast, we’re on to “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” followed by the peppy duet “Love Is an Open Door.” Between bites of oatmeal, my four-year-old chimes in with well-rehearsed counterpoint as her older sister closes her eyes and solemnly belts out the reprise to “For the First Time in Forever.”

On a scale of infectiousness, these songs are pestilential. This is a good thing; “Frozen” recently became the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time. The story of two orphaned princesses—Elsa (aloof, traumatized, cryokinetic) and Anna (headstrong, starved for companionship)—in the fjord-riven realm of Arendelle, the film spent many years in development, as one producer after another tried to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairy tale “The Snow Queen” into something Disneyesque. The result looks almost nothing like the original story, thanks in part to “Let It Go,” which prompted a re-write of Elsa’s character and turned her from a frigid hermit into a spunky feminist.

Not long after they’d made me memorize every syllable, every quavering crescendo and pregnant fermata, my kids moved on from “Let It Go” to their next obsession, “Let It Go in 25 Languages,” a behind-the-scenes video of the song being recorded by twenty-five foreign Elsas in studios around the world. The clip moves line by line from one language to the next, one singer to the next, each wearing a pair of headphones and standing in front of a condenser microphone with an Elsa-like look of resolve in her eyes.

My girls are mesmerized. They learn the polyglot version in a day or two and proceed to the ultimate level, “Let It Go in 41 Languages,” which includes Icelandic, Vietnamese, Turkish, Croatian, Estonian, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and Canadian French. By the weekend, the house sounds like a business-class lounge at an international airport terminal. Snatches of German and Cantonese waft downstairs from the second-grader’s bedroom, mingling with Danish and Russian phrases murmured by the preschooler making Play-Doh cookies on the kitchen floor.

Literary translation is challenging, and tends to work best when the translator has recourse to the amplifying and telescoping powers of periphrasis, poetic license, and, if it comes to it, a discreet footnote here or there. Few of these tools are at the disposal of the cinematic translator. The perfect dub must convey meaning within an allotted timeframe. It is often set to music and accompanied by context-specific body language, and must aim to fit the shape of characters’ mouths as they are speaking. Of course, songs also have to rhyme, jokes have to be funny, and cultural references have to be legible to an audience of foreign children. Dubbing is translation in four dimensions.

There has never been a Disney musical so widely translated (or “localized,” in industry-speak) as “Frozen.” There has also never been a Disney musical so loaded with American vernacular speech. Princess Anna may have spent her childhood in a remote Scandinavian citadel, but she talks like a teen-ager from suburban New Jersey. Singing about her sister’s impending coronation ceremony, she says, “Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone,” and confesses to a need to “stuff some chocolate in my face” at the prospect of meeting a handsome stranger at the party. Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine were more demure in their longings, and sang in a register of English more readily amenable to translation.

One of the forty-one languages in which you can watch “Frozen” is Modern Standard Arabic. This is a departure from precedent. Earlier Disney films (from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to “Pocahontas” to “Tangled”) were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic, the dialect with the largest number of speakers in the region, based in a country with a venerable history of film production. Generations of Arabs grew up watching Egyptian movies, and the Disney musicals capitalized on their familiarity with this particular dialect.

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Online Writing: Top Five Mistakes New Brand Journalists Make

In recent years, brand journalism has seen an influx of writers migrating from more traditional industries such as journalism or public relations. If you are making this transition, you may be wondering what specifics to keep in mind when you begin your new career.

The following are five mistakes budding brand journalists tend to make when they first start out:

1. Choosing the Wrong Brands

When you first start out online writing as a freelance brand journalist, it can be tempting to cast a wide net to reel in as many prospective employers as possible. The more people you work for, the more paychecks you’ll get, right? It’s easy to be a quasi-expert in a bit of everything, right? Wrong.

You are better off finding a handful of brands that suit your interests and voice. If you aren’tfamiliar with your subject matter, it will either be painfully obvious that you’re spewing buzzwords you don’t truly understand, or it will require you to do so much research that writing the article isn’t worth your time—or your paycheck.

2. Being Too Specific

Though you don’t want to brand yourself as a generalist, be sure that you aren’t sliding to the other extreme and choosing too narrow of an online writing niche. Some articles will require you to do research. Some articles will teach you about something new. Don’t be afraid to reach out a little and tackle an unfamiliar subject. The only way you’ll grow as a writer is to expand your knowledge base.

3. Not Doing Research Ahead of Time

When I was in college, I had a lengthy research project for a creative nonfiction class in which I had to read seven pieces of Dave Eggers’ work, determine his writing style, and then use that to influence my own writing. And while that project yielded a snarky short story about taking dating advice from relatives, it also taught a good lesson in adapting your writing voice to others’ expectations.

You’ll go through a similar process when you take on a new client. To make sure you’re writing in the style the brand requires, read up on the client’s past content and extensively read over any content guidelines. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your voice or your style, but you need to determine the parameters in which you should be working.

Spend a few hours reading through previous articles and make a note of their voice, subtle branding, and audience. You’ll be surprised how much you will learn.

4. Overselling the Product

Sometimes, when writers start working in brand journalism, they are under the impression that every piece of content must come with a smile, thumbs-up, wink, and shout of, “BUY/SIGN UP FOR/PARTNER WITH THIS TODAY, AND YOUR LIFE WILL BE FOREVER CHANGED!”

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Challenging the hegemony of English | Grocott's Mail Online

Grahamstown is home to a number of multilingual activists, and recently hosted the isiXhosa Children’s Literacy Festival, organised by Elinor Sisulu and the Puku Foundation. Nandi Majola spoke to three people at the forefront of this movement.

“It is a great tragedy when a language dies, because with that language dies an entire civilisation, culture and way of viewing the world,” said Professor Russell Kaschula, commenting on the threatened survival of African languages.

Kaschula, who up until 2012 was the Head of the School of Languages at Rhodes University, currently occupies the NRF Chair at Rhodes which specialises in “the intellectualisation of African languages, multilingualism and education".

Kaschula and other advocates for multilingualism argue that the English language continues to thrive in its position as the medium of instruction in most educational institutions.

This is in spite of the presence of a diversity of languages and cultures in our country.

One of the virtues of being multilingual is the access that one has to different world views and cultures said Kaschula.

He emphasised that in a university setting, the point of education is to open the minds of the students and to develop them into caring global citizens.

Michael Joseph, Professor of Education at Rhodes University, agrees with Kaschula about the virtues of multilinguilism, especially for the transference of knowledge and skills in the classroom.

Joseph, an internationally recognised academic in multilingualism, teaches Foundation Phase education (Grade R to 3) to education students.

He and his partner, Professor Esther Ramani, were the first to launch a bilingual degree, the BA in Contemporary English Language and Multilingual Studies, at the University of Limpopo when they realised that none of the universities use an African language as the medium of instruction.

Joseph says teaching in English marginalises many African learners who do not have it as their mother-tongue.

Using the language of the pupil to teach them can facilitate the acquisition of that language, as well as the language needed for learning and understanding concepts.

When it comes to literacy and reading for pleasure, Carole Bloch, Director of the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in SA (Praesa), says that on this continent, children have not been given the right to grow up loving books, because many African countries still value the ex-colonial language.

This is problematic, because children need access to a range of different language materials.

“Children who do not speak English should be able to read stories in their mother-tongue. As human beings we use stories to make sense of our lives and to nourish our morals and values,” says Bloch.

The Nal’ibali literacy supplements, produced under the auspices of Praesa and delivered to Nal’ibali reading clubs in Grahamstown on a weekly basis, always feature material in at least two languages.

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The Language of Maya Angelou

How does a black American woman literally find her voice?  

After being raped by her mother's boyfriend at the age of 7, Maya Angelou didn't speak for several years to anyone except her older brother Bailey Johnson. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she writes, "It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense."

When she broke her silence after those years of reading and listening, Angelou was well on her way to mastery of the various linguistic styles around her, in the beginnings of a lifelong love for the "sound of language." Although she never attended college, her gift with words was ultimately recognized by more than 50 honorary degrees and an endowed university professorship, not to mention a permanent legacy in the minds and classrooms of the nation. The language in her works reflect the different social and cultural worlds that she navigated, especially as a groundbreaking Black poet with access to Standardized English, African American English, and the great diversity of both. Every word Angelou wrote was a choice between one language variety or another, and the way in which she decided between them is a significant part of how her words resonate with so many people.

Perhaps surprisingly, Angelou was vocal during the Ebonics debate of the 1990s against the celebration of language variation. In a 1996 CNN article she stated: "The very idea that African-American language is a language separate and apart can be very threatening, because it can encourage young men and women not to learn standard English." Angelou recognized that having access to more prestigious varieties of English was a valuable social tool, and having a larger array of words to choose from meant greater power for her and her students.

To be sure, the majority of the text in Angelou's autobiographies and poems was written in a standardized English, capturing her culture more in the lyrical form and subject matter, although she sometimes incorporated one of the five other languagesthat she spoke into her work. Even just in English, she occasionally used eye dialect, that is, alternate spellings that convey a specific pronunciation, so that the dialect strikes the eye through the printed word rather than appealing to the ear through sound or more accurate phonetic representation. When she does use eye dialect, it conveys dialogue in her autobiographies and allows her to take on the roles of characters in her poems.

The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who also wrote in both Standardized English and African-American English, was a strong influence on Angelou, and it was at the suggestion of Abby Lincoln Roach that Angelou adopted the name of her first autobiography from the Dunbar poem Sympathy. Dunbar writes:

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!


Like Dunbar, Angelou uses the more slangy ain't throughout her poetry (at least 50 times in her collected poems), and in Riot 60's employs git and nigga. She also usednigger spelled outright in other poems, explaining in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings:

Every person I knew had a hellish horror of being "called out of his name." It was a dangerous practice to call a Negro anything that could be loosely construed as insulting because of the centuries of their having been called niggers, jigs, dinges, blackbirds, crows, boots and spooks.

In other examples of eye dialect, she uses apostrophes at the end of words, for example in Ain't That Bad, to represent the pronunciation of -ing as -in, which is found in many dialects of English:

Puttin’ down that do-rag
Tightenin’ up my ‘fro
Wrappin’ up in Blackness
Don't I shine and glow?  

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