Lost in Translation: Kids as Translators Have So Much to Lose

If you aren’t fluent in a language, relying on your kids’ English speaking interpreters too much puts far too much responsibility and weight on them.

If you happen to visit a clinic, a bank, or a grocery store in California, it’s quite common to see kids translate for their parents who don’t speak English. Even though in a hospital setting for instance, a patient is entitled to the services of an interpreter a child often steps in. The child may even be in the position of taking responsibility for transmitting life and death information to his or her parents. This is not entirely fair on the child or the parent just because the spoken English by kids is the only possible remedy for parents who have limited knowledge of English.

Children are often given the responsibility of translating immigration, financial and medical documents. This exposes them to all sorts of aspects of life that they have no real understanding of. This can affect the child’s social interactions at school and with persons in authority. There is also a sense of role reversal when a child ends up playing the adult role on behalf of his/her parents. Because a child doesn’t have the same understanding of life as an adult his or her knowledge could be lost in translation when explanations are given on situations that require an accumulation of knowledge.

There are solutions available and that’s providing interpreting and translation services administered by government agencies. Others would say the parents should make more effort to learn English, but this isn’t always an option for people who have only recently arrived in a country where their native language is not spoken. Immigrants’ children tend to learn English quite quickly, which allows faster assimilation into the culture and they become burdened playing the role of interpreter and translator. 

Perhaps the service providers involved in government agencies, health care and financial services should make more effort to reach out to immigrant populations. This in the first place means making available materials in appropriate languages, providing interpreters who are just a phone call away and releasing children of the burden of providing interpretative skills on what are often seen as sensitive matters that children have little knowledge about but are given the burden of trying to translate sensitive information about topics which they possess little knowledge due to their worldly knowledge and experience.

5 Arabic Poets You Should Recognise For International Women’s Day

English Translation

There is no better way to celebrate International Women’s Day than appraise the work and lives of poets who don’t write in English but have had their poems translated into English. This article is about 5 female poets who write in Arabic but their short poems have appeared in Banipal and Words Without Borders with an English Translation. 

Rasha Omran

When Longing Tormented Me

This poem’s English Translation was provided by Camilo Gomez-Rivas and was subsequently published in Banipal in Spring 200. Rasha Omran was born in 1964 and has become known as a acclaimed Syrian poet. She is a political activist and has spoken on behalf of civilians in Syria and is also against the Syrian regime. In 2012 she fled Damascus, her home city, for Cairo. She has a particular view of poetry by saying it’s not always about happiness but reveals the darkest corners of the subconscious which often dwells on losses and not gains in the poet’s world. 

Rana Al-Tonsi

A Rose for the Last Days

A Rose for the Last Days was translated by Sinan Antoon, and was subsequently published in Banipal in Spring 2006.  Rana al-Tonsi was born in 1981 in Cairo and now lives in Doha, Qatar.  Between 2005 and 2015 she has published 8 poetry books and is a well known poet in the Arab world.  The style of her poetry is described as both rebellious and intimate.

Nujoom Al-Ghanem

A Night Heavy on the Night – Two Poems

Khaled al-Masri translated these poems in 2011 in Banipal. Nujoom al-Ghanem was born in 1962 and classifies herself as a full-time poet. She is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and between 1989 and 2008 has published 6 poetry collections. It took a while to become recognised as women were not permitted to publish their names alongside poetry they had written if it was to be published in the media.

Reem Ghanayem

Mag, fi Sirat al-Manafi – Selected poems

Reem Ghanayem created the English Translation of her own poems which were published in 2012 in Banipal. She was born in 1982 and lives in Western Baqa which lies in Palestine within the Green Line. She has managed to publish 2 poetry collections.

Soukaina Babiballah

Anatomy of the Rose

The English Translation of Anatomy of the Rose was done by Kareem James Abu-Zaid, and subsequently published in 2016 in Words Without Borders. Soukaina Babiballah was born in 1989 and she is from Casablanca in Morocco. She has up to this date published 2 poetry collections and she has also been awarded an Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). This enabled her creating her 1st novel grant for the organization’s novel-writing Bait Alqashlah which was published in 2016 by the Arabic Scientific Publishing in 2016.

So on March 8th on International Women’s Day there are 5 female poets of Arabic origin who represent the struggle of women in the Arabic world to create equality for all.

10 Commonly Used Aussie Slang Words and Expressions

Every language has its slang and the English used by Australians is no exception. Because of a number of Australian soap operas, short films and actors, Aussie slang has reached the ears of the world. Yet the words and expressions that Australians use today is not the same as it was a hundred or even thirty years ago. Like all other languages, expressions go out of fashion and new ones emerge. 

Aussie slang has been influenced by an all pervading American culture, so some expressions commonly heard in Australia these days may very well be more American than Australian. Other expressions are from the English of England, especially the rarely heard these days rhyming slang which was common at one time in Cockney London.

So what are some common Aussie slang words and expressions? Here are 10 of them.

#1 Ending a word with ‘ie’ or ‘y’, such as ‘Brizzie’ for Brisbane, ‘barbi’ for barbecue, ‘tinny’ for a dinghy and ‘Aussie’ (of course!) for Australian. Don’t try improvising this yourself or you may get a few strange looks!

#2 G’day is the very common Aussie greeting and another example of an abbreviation of the ‘Good Day’ used elsewhere in the English speaking world.

#3 A bloke is a man, just as it is in England and New Zealand, although these days, the American ‘guy’ may be heard just as much, especially by younger Australians. Guy, of course, is non gender specific, while ‘bloke’ definitely refers to a man! The old term for a female, ‘sheila’ has almost completely died out except amongst older Australians.

#4 A dunny is the term for a toilet, although many people may use the more English ‘loo’. Americans find this a bit tricky, as a ‘dunny’ in Australia is a ‘long drop’ in the U.S.!

#5 A cobber is a friend, also a bit old-fashioned these days and usually replaced by the word ‘mate’, which although usually used for males in the past tends to be more gender non-specific these days and is equivalent to the American ‘pal’.

#6 A snag is a sausage, not a fallen down tree, as it in U.S. English! Snags are usually destined for the barbie!

#7 A stubby is a short bottle of beer, around 330 ml or 375 ml and is not the correct term for a can of beer of the same volume. Stubbies are usually placed in a ‘cooler,’ which is a beer cooler which snugly fits the bottle (or can). 

#8 The term ‘No worries, mate’  is authentically Australian, usually uttered after some calamity such as  a car crash, losing one’s job or after one’s spouse has run off with the neighbour.

#9 An arvo is an afternoon and may be a useful time for a bit of down time, maybe for a cold stubby!

#10 There are many old Aussie slang terms that you may still hear from time to time like ‘drongo’ and ‘galah’ for people who are either scatty minded or stupid; ‘Bonza’ is rarely heard these days and means ‘great’.

What Languages Are Spoken In Australia?

The Australian national language is English and it is this language which is spoken freely as a first language by the majority of the country’s inhabitants and is the official language of government and education. There is no need to translate English to Australian as there is no significant difference between the English of Australia and that of England. English started to take over from aboriginal languages after the country was systematically colonized by the British from the1780s. Today, English still dominates but there are some aboriginal languages that still exist, albeit only in small isolated pockets in more remote parts of the country.

How Many Different Languages are Spoken in Australia?

Different Languages are Spoken in Australia

There are several other languages spoken in Australia apart from English. The way that government authorities determine what main languages are spoken in the country is from census information provided by those living in the country at the time of the census, which takes place every 5 years. Over the last 15 years there has been some change in what languages are spoken in Australian homes. In 2001, 80 percent of the population indicated that the main language they spoke at home was Australian English. By 2006, which was the next census, this had dropped to 79 percent, while by 2011 the English speaking number had decreased further to 76.8 percent. 

By 2016, the census showed that 72.7 percent of Australia’s population spoke English as their main or native language. This trend is due to immigration changes into the country. Previously most immigrants came from New Zealand and the United Kingdom but this trend is starting to change. Out of the 6,163,667 people in the country who were born overseas, almost one in five, or 18 per cent, had entered the country since the beginning of 2012. The 2016 Census revealed that 67 per cent of Australians were born in the country. Almost half, 49 percent, had been either born abroad, or 1 or both of their parents had been born abroad. 

Languages are Spoken in Australia

The immigration trend has now changed to the extent that English is slowly losing its importance and other languages are replacing it. This doesn’t mean that immigrants don’t speak English, as they have to pass English tests before they are allowed to migrate into Australia. In the early stages of the life of an immigrant their native language would accompany them and would continue to be used in the family environment until children have passed through the Australian education system, where the only language used is English. Unless a language is actively maintained by the family and the country they live in the native language will start to lose its importance, but that can take several decades.

The other languages spoken in the country depend on which countries in Australia people come from. The top countries are Arabic speaking countries, China, Italy, Vietnam and Greece.  Second to English is Mandarin with 2.5 percent of Australia’s population speaking the language, followed by Arabic with 1.4 percent speakers; thirdly Cantonese with 1.2 percent of speakers and Italian and Vietnamese attracting 1.2 percent. Greek is also spoken too, but Greeks were early migrants to Australia and the language does not have so much importance today. Added to this percentage is the 1 percent of the population that speak indigenous languages, of which there are at least 50 languages spoken today. 

Top Languages Spoken in Australia 

Languages Spoken In Australia

The Other Top Languages Spoken in Australia Include:

● Nepali

● Malay

● German

● Spanish

● Hindi

● Filipino

● Spanish

● Korean

● Punjabi

● Afrikaans

● Malayalam

● Fiji

● Dutch

● Min Nan

● Sinhalese

● Tagalog

● German

● Indonesian

● Afrikaans

● Japanese

● Polish

● French

● Thai

● Urdu

What Does Diversity of Language Mean to Australia?

Diversity of Language

In 2016, more than 300 languages were identified as being spoken in Australian homes. More than 21 per cent of Australians spoke at home a language that’s not English Tasmania had the greatest number of people who only spoke English in the home, with 88 per cent, and Northern Territory had 58 per cent, which was the lowest. Language is something you can’t remove from people as it allows for effective communication of the beliefs and values of a particular culture. 

This diversity of language is an asset to Australia as it helps to foster international ties and trigger cultural exchanges. It’s useful to have people living in a country who naturally speak another language apart from the national language of the host country. They can act in bilingual situations when their skills may be needed to facilitate trade agreements or to engage in communication between countries which have diplomatic ties with Australia. They can act as interpreters or translators in court cases or in medical situations where those involved don’t have a full command of Australian English.

Australian Aboriginal languages

Australian Aboriginal languages

 In the later part of the 18th century, there were 250 Aboriginal social groups and they shared around the same number of aboriginal languages. By the 21st century, there were fewer than 150 Aboriginal languages still used on a daily basis. Most are today likely to disappear completely, except 13, which are still taught to children and are only found in the most isolated areas. Out of the 5 which are least endangered, four belong to the Ngaanyatjarra grouping in Western Australia who are found in the Central and Great Victoria Desert. North East Arnhem land in the Northern Territory still teaches Yolŋu languages to children as part of bilingual education programmes. Tiwi, Warlpiri, and Murrinh-patha, also in the Northern Territory, have from 1,000 to 3,000 speakers.

For the time being English is still the dominant language in Australia and embedded in it is Australian English, which even though is clearly recognizable as English today, it has absorbed words, phrases and idioms from North America. In fact, there are many ways that Australia resembles America, particularly in the design of its towns and cities which both follow post colonial lines and lack historical buildings and quaint villages and towns you find in England. Some Australians are quick to mimic American English they hear on mass media and words like ‘truck’ and ‘guys’ are embedded in Australian English. Australian English also has a whole vocabulary which has developed in isolation and is recognisably ‘Australian.’ While it would be pushing it too far to say that Australians speak Australian, they certainly can be recognised by their accent, which is recognisably distinctive.

 

Translating In the Field Of Sport

The translation of documents has increased in leaps and bounds over the decades so that means there are more and more openings for good translators. 

Translation plays a key role in sport because sports players and athletes follow the sports events around the world. There is always a need for communication and sport is no exception. Some teams recruit new team members to come to their country to play but they still need to follow immigration rules which could mean translating supporting documents into English. Rules and regulations of a sport need to be made freely available to all team players, whatever their native language, when they come to play in a country that doesn’t speak their language.

Recently, following a baseball game in the United States, some specific events finally persuaded their industry of the real need for qualified translators. The main reason for this was the players weren’t fully fluent in English and needed a helping hand to stay involved in the sport. There was a recent case of a Dominican player who had to be expelled because of his use of pine tar, which the league disallowed. He was unable to respond when bombarded with questions by the media in relation to the incident because of his language deficiency. The various authorities in charge of the league are trying to seek a solution to the limited number of translators who are currently available to ensure every team member has sufficient language back up.

There are too many examples in soccer to count, but in baseball, more than 200 Latin American players are in the baseball league. They of course can’t all speak English so they will need help when visiting an English speaking country.

The fact of the matter is that the translation industry has spread its wings so it is able to handle all the new arenas that are emerging in the sporting world. More and more overseas visitors attend major sporting events around the world often in countries where their language is not spoken. There is a need for clear translations at these sporting events of important information that visitors need to know.

What is Gendered Language and Which Languages are Gendered?

There is very little gendered language in English, apart from pronouns like “she”, “he” and possessives like “his” and “hers”. Of course, gender has crept into colloquial English to some extent. Funnily enough, some objects are often colloquially referred to as “she” rather than “he” or “it” (gender neutral), such as ships and other vehicles, but that’s about all.

In many other languages what are regarded as gender neutral things in English are classed as female, male or even neuter (neither female nor male). Amongst many, but not all, European languages, inanimate and animate objects are classified as either feminine or masculine. The difference between a female cow and a male bull is pretty obvious, but why is a bridge masculine and a highway or road feminine? It’s no point asking the native speakers why the labelling ever developed, as they are unlikely to know. 

It can make learning gendered languages quite difficult if your own native language is not gendered or, worse still, if your own gendered language uses a different gender for exactly the same thing. Germans, for example, regard bridges as feminine, while just across the border (or just across the bridge!) the French regard it as masculine. It can make translating from one gendered language to another or to or from a non gendered language quite challenging.

Just to make things even more complicated are languages like Russian or Norwegian that have three “genders”: masculine, feminine and neuter. Again, the curious linguist or translator from a non gendered language background might wonder just what prompted the ancestors of today’s Russian population to label the sea as neuter (мoре – pronounced morye), as do the Germans (das meer), but the French regard as feminine (la mer) and the Spanish masculine (el mar)?

There seems to be no simple way that any person can guess what an inanimate object’s gender might be in any other language. Do the French feel that their part of the Mediterranean is any more female in character than the Spanish?

There are some languages, particularly in Africa, where there are even more classes of nouns, although they may not be actual genders. In Kiswahili, for example, a Bantu language spoken originally by a small number of people on the coast of East Africa, now the national language of at least two East African nations, there at least eight  noun classes. Just like many gendered languages, adjectives, pronouns and verbs must be modified to correlate with each particular class of noun. Just to make it even more fun for the Kiswahili learner, singular and plural forms must also be taken into account!

Fortunately, for the native English speaker, learning Indonesian, Japanese or Fijian means that they don’t have to worry about gender. There isn’t any!

How Attempts at Translation Have Changed Language

The demand for translation and good translators is probably at an all-time high today, but the need for translation has been around ever since the first people left home and encountered others who spoke another language. These days, languages have become standardised and translation has become a lot easier. It hasn’t always been like that. Imagine what it was like when the first Vikings arrived on the shores of North America and had to communicate with native Americans who spoke a number of very different languages. 

Attempts at translation have often led to the evolution of a new language, which may become a lingua franca, a language of convenience that allows those whose original languages are mutually unintelligible to converse.

This is often why many languages have absorbed words from other languages. The evolution of the English language, for example, demonstrates past attempts at translation which have resulted in a more diverse linguistic combination. It’s easy to see why there are so many words of French origin in the English language (and vice versa) as England and France are so close together and yet separated linguistically and geographically. The evolution of the English language demonstrates past colonial arrangements, too. The two words “bungalow” and “pajama” have become part of the English language but originally were Hindi words. A cup of “char” most probably comes from “chai”, the Hindi word for tea. “Safari” is a Kiswahili word. “Taboo” comes from a Polynesian word for “forbidden” or “sacred”.

Completely new languages may develop from past attempts at translation. These are pidgin languages like Papua New Guinea’s Tok Pisin or Vanuatu’s Bislama. They may be mainly English words in origin, but have also evolved from the original languages of the people who use them, as well as any other colonial influences. Tok Pisin, for example, has words from several different New Guinea languages as well as a few German words and even a few Portuguese ones!

Generally, pidgin languages are only second languages and their speakers still speak their own native language amongst themselves. The evolution of pidginised languages may sometimes develop further, so that a genuinely new language, a Creole language, becomes the language learned from birth. An example would be Papamiento, a language with Spanish, Dutch and West African origins now spoken by the inhabitants of the ABC islands in the Caribbean.

5 Writing Tricks to Master the Written Form of a Foreign Language

Get Yourself in the Right Frame of Mind

Achieving mastery of a second language is no easy task but it can happen if you are set on achieving this skill. One of the best starting points is setting your goals and being committed to trying to reach each one as you proceed.

Organisation is the Key to Steady Learning

At Saint Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, a team of researchers discovered that organizational skills had a significant effect on a student’s capability to finish set tasks and achieve high grades. This applies to learning a new language too. You need to have a plan and stick to it.

Reading Enhances your Language Skill

Look around for both fiction and non-fiction texts that you want to read as this will give you the required motivation to read in your targeted language. If you are not sure where to start you could try making a list of books of authors you have liked in your own language. Look around for translated copies and use this as a way of improving your skills in understanding the new language. There are plenty of online newspapers you can read to improve your understanding as well. 

Ask for Feedback

Once you start to put together some of your own writing ask a native speaker of your chosen language to read it through and make corrections if they are required.  If what you are writing is something crucial for a career move or getting a job in the country of the language you are learning it’s sensible to pay a professional editor to go through your work so it matches the quality required for your targeted audience. 

Emphasise your Usage of Grammar

If you are using writing as your main form of communication you must get the grammar right otherwise you face the chance that your targeted reader won’t bother to continue reading. Poor grammar without a doubt gives a negative impression of how good you are at the language. Grammar learning is not an easy task and mastering it is a long and slow process. 

If you are intending on applying for a job with an international company and you say you are competent in certain languages you will be asked to sit a written test to prove your ability.

Overall, determination and dedication will take you a long way in mastering both the written and spoken form of your targeted language.

Why Understanding a Culture helps to Unlock a Language

Is it really possible to become fluent in a language without having a basic understanding of its culture? Some people say you can communicate quite accurately without considering the cultural context of the words, phrases and sentences while others say you are missing out the truth of a language if you don’t have some understanding of the cultural setting of the language. 

Culture and Language are Interwoven

Understanding a language involves understanding its culture and many say language is essentially culture. That goes for language translation as well. Culture language translation is just as important as the bare nuts and bolts of the language by itself.

How a group behaves and interacts is essentially learned and becomes part of the group’s culture. 

There is a definition of culture that states it’s the collective programming of a particular mindset which sets out to differentiate one group of people from another. 

The basis of a culture isn’t just its artefacts and tools, but it’s how the group members interpret, perceive and use them. It’s the symbols, values, interpretations, and the group’s perspectives that set one group of people apart from one another in a modernized society. It’s not the material objects in human societies. People who share a culture typically interpret symbols and behaviour in a similar or same way.  They will probably share food, values, art, mythology and etiquette. These have an effect on language because they are the subjects of discussion in a group

Idioms and the Way a Speaker Speaks Showcases a Language and Culture

Understanding a culture and its language can be fast tracked just by learning idioms. 

● A common saying such as ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’ shows how important money is in the English speaking world. The language itself is portraying the culture in this example.

● A language is usually spoken and the way the words are emitted is sometimes part of the culture, as with Koreans who use the front of their mouth in a very direct way. It seems that when a Korean utters a sentence it resembles the action of throwing a dart and that’s quick and pointed. 

● U.S. English is sometimes described as a drawl as the words sit back in the throat and the lips barely come together when engaged in a conversation.

● Spanish comes out in various ways and sometimes it appears spicy and fiery while other times it seems mellow and easy going. 

Do You Change Personality When You Switch Language?

Can your personality really change if you switch languages? Some social psychologists think that it can, but only if you have a reasonably sufficient grounding in the culture in which the language is spoken.

The theory is that language and culture are indivisible so that the dominant personality traits of the culture override and permeate the language associated with that culture. 

It’s notoriously hard to prove much human behaviour and the evidence for the link between language and personality is certainly not totally persuasive. Anecdotal evidence is available which backs up the theory, and some language research, for example in Mexico has been done which also supports the link. Language experts elsewhere are more circumspect about the personality changes and suggest it is more likely to be a reflection of one’s experiences living in the environment where the language is spoken.

Anecdotal evidence shows something that most of us can relate to. When we speak in our language, we are much more likely to be animated and confident than if we speak in a language we don’t really know very well, especially if we are speaking to first language speakers of that language.

Some other anecdotal evidence from people who have migrated from their own original home to another country where they have become fluent in the language of the new country suggests that a switch from one language to another is accompanied by a recognisable personality change. One Russian immigrant in the U.S. says that when she speaks in Russian she feels uncomfortably guarded and reserved, while when she speaks in English, she feels more open, relaxed and curious.

Another man, bilingual in French and English, says that when he speaks in French he feels more elegant and sophisticated than he does when he speaks in English.

Social psychologists in Mexico, who have studied the link between language and personality reported a significant difference between the personality exhibited by bilingual Mexican students they studied depending on whether they were speaking in English or Spanish. They measured the personality exhibited by ranking five different but specific traits, including openness, agreeableness, extroversion, neuroticism and conscientiousness. The study concluded that their study group became more assertive, extrovert and open when they spoke in English compared to when they spoke in Spanish. They theorised that this was due to the cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico.

University based language experts say that the personality differences do not arise when a language is learned out of context of the culture in which it is spoken, which supports the idea that the bilingual or multilingual personality switcher is merely adapting to how they “remember” they should react in the culture in which they have learned each language.