Only three more days until 2017!
But before we leave 2016 behind to embark on new adventures, here are some of the most interesting linguistic news directly from the ATA headquarters:
- Wikitongues, a non-profit organization based in New York, wants to help preserve and record linguistic diversity. It has volunteers in 40 countries, who have recorded over 300 videos of people telling stories in more than 180 unique languages. At the beginning of the year, Wikitongues launched a campaign to develop an open sourced software (Poly) for creating multimedia dictionaries on the fly.
- A survey commissioned by Man Booker International Prize showed that translated fiction is now selling better than English fiction on the U.K. book market.
- The U.S. Census Bureau is looking into the possibility of offering the census questionnaire in Arabic for the first time in 2020.
- Cybersecurity experts are increasingly using the linguistic clues found in malicious codes or metadata to identify the nationality of hackers.
- Following a parking incident involving one of its cars in Beijing, Tesla amended the translation of its autopilot system as a “driver-assistance” rather than a “self-driving” system.
- The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages in the British Parliament warned of a post-Brexit language crisis. They stated that a lack of foreign-language competence costs the U.K. approximately 3.5% of its economic performance. The group insists on making language skills in the U.K. a top policy issue.
- The University of Cambridge wants to promote multilingualism in Britain through its MEITS project. A pop-up National Museum of Languages will have a physical presence in regional centers located in shopping districts across the country.
- And another interesting European development: Gaeilge is to become a full working language of the EU by 2022. More than 700 people are working on translating official EU documents into the Irish language.
- Google detailed how they processed 11,038 novels through their neural networks in an attempt to improve the fluency of their Google app. Many authors were outraged that Google did not ask for permission to use their works. Google stated it got them from the University of Toronto, where they were available online.
- In Germany, Swabians are increasingly trying to get rid of their often ridiculed regional accent. Ariane Willikonsky is one language instructor offering executives training units to drill the correct German pronunciation.
- A linguistic study by Cornell University indicates that more than two-thirds of of the world’s languages use the same sounds for the same basic words (common objects). According to researchers, this could disprove the idea that language is arbitrary and that there is no relationship between the sound of a word and its meaning.
- The sci-fi thriller ‘Arrival’, with a female linguist figuring prominently in the plot, has raised the profile of the field and is helping people to understand better what it is that translators do. It also builds on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to reignite the fascinating debate on how language and communication affect cognition.
These were the updates. Happy New Year!